Recently I decided that I needed to learn yet another skill (because apparently I needed more hobbies in my life), and signed up for a yarn dyeing class at my local yarn shop. There were really a few reasons for this. First, I thought it would be a fun and interesting skill to learn. Second, I thought if I liked it, it might be a way to save some money on sock yarn (I seem to always be drawn to the more expensive sock yarns – what can I say, I like nice yarns!).
I’m happy to report that I loved the class. I really felt like I got my moneys worth from this class as well – it was a full afternoon and you walked away with two skeins of yarn that you dyed yourself, plus a ton of skills. I’d been considering learning the art of dyeing wool yarn and cotton fabrics for a few years but I guess I just put it off because I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of teaching myself something that seemed kind of complicated. As soon as I saw this class was being offered, I signed up right away. I feel like if I hadn’t taken the class, I probably would have continued putting off learning how to do it myself. I feel like now that I’ve taken this class I could jump in and learn other dyeing processes on my own (I am planning to try some dyeing with natural plant materials at some point, as well as trying shibori indigo dyeing).
I’d like to talk about the acid dyeing process a bit, but this is not a step-by-step instruction guide because I feel like this is something better learned from an experienced person at your local yarn shop. But if you’re just interested in what it takes to acid dye or if you’re considering learning how to do it yourself, my experience may be a starting off point. It’s also just a really neat process! Also, I should mention that some of the dyes can be very harmful if not used correctly or if you breath them in, so always make sure you know what you’re working with, the proper way to handle those dyes, and what the risks are. Another important thing is to have a separate set of tools specifically for your dyeing projects – never use your kitchen utensils or pots if you’re planning on using them for food. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on dyeing utensils – dollar store items will definitely do the trick.
The first thing is to prep your fiber. We used two different wool yarns in the class, but in the future I will be dyeing primarily with a merino wool and nylon blend sock yarn. Prepping the fiber consists basically of washing it in a wool soak to remove any residual lanolin (kind of like the natural water repellant in sheep’s wool) and then soaking it in a bath of pre-treatment solution for the dye to better adhere to the fiber.
Next is prepping your dye and mixing colors (if you desire). We used Jacquard brand dyes, which already came in an amazing palette of colors, so my first skein was dyed with unmixed colors, but I did use a mixed dye on my second skein. Some of the colors people mixed were unbelievable – and the Jacquard dyes were so vibrant, even after being mixed.
This beauty was from one of my classmates – aren’t the colors just amazing?!
Once all the wool and dye prep was finished, we starting dyeing. Once the coloring was finished, we had to set it with heat (which, by the way, I’ll need to buy a microwave if I want to do this at home in the future). If you’ve set the dye properly, you will not get any color runoff from your skein, even when it is squeezed. My first skein was perfect, but the second one had a ton of color runoff. I ended up having to rinse in water until no more dye was being released. The colors in the rinsed skein were still very vibrant, but I definitely went wrong somewhere along the line (I’m thinking either way too much dye or I just didn’t heat process it long enough – or a combination of the two).
The final step is to set the dyed wool in a wool wash bath and then let it dry. Easy as pie? Yes!
Unbelievable colors and combinations from people – no two skeins were the same!
I loved learning yarn dyeing! And I am kind of obsessed with it now. I’ve already got a list of some of the color combinations I want to try next. Plus, I have quite a significant staycation coming up, so there is going to be a bit of yarn dyeing in my future this summer. I’ll definitely share some more finished yarn dyeing projects on my blog in the future (and hopefully some of the projects I knit with the yarn). I’d also love to hear about your experiences with yarn or fabric dyeing if you have any – and what sort of advice you have for this new yarn dyer!
These two are my finished products – I really couldn’t get enough of that fuchsia!