Have you ever fancied dyeing your own yarn???
My name is Sarah, and I am a self confessed yarn-a-holic. I absolutely love knitting & it occupies a lot of my spare time. Those of you who have met me at retreats and events with the shop may well have caught a glimpse of me knitting away on some socks or such like.
More recently, I really wanted to learn how to dye my own wool so that I had the ability to create the colour of yarn I wanted without having to accumulate a huge stash of varying colours “just in case” (that didn’t really work so well – I still have a sizeable stash!!) and now I want to share my knowledge with you all. We are also now stocking dyes, yarns and citric acid in the shop.
I will preface this by warning you that I am no expert – most of my knowledge is from hours of trawling the internet, YouTube and reading books on the subject. There has been trial and error involved and there are lots of methods for dyeing. This is one of mine.
You will need some basic equipment:
• A pan to dye your wool in – this must not be used for food once it has been used for dyeing
• Acid dyes in varying colours of your choice
• A utensil to stir/pick up the wool from the hot water (again cannot be used for food once it has been used for dyeing)
• Citric acid (this is your dye fixative)
• Dust mask (the dye made up of very fine dust particles so you are advised to wear a mask when using it)
• Undyed wool
• Washing up bowl or similar to soak your wool in
• Jam jar or similar to mix your dye powder in
• Spoon to measure your dye and your citric acid (cannot be used for food once it has been used for dyeing)
And now you’re all set to go!
Firstly, fill your washing up bowl with enough room temperature water to allow the wool you are dyeing to soak – I fill mine around 1/3 full if just dyeing one 100g skein of wool – and add approximately 10ml (a dessert spoon) of citric acid per 100g of wool. Mix well to dissolve the citric acid.
Unwind your skein of yarn and at this point I tie through it loosely with a scrap piece of wool in different colour or a piece of ribbon or string. This acts as a handle to move your yarn about with and makes it easier to keep separate so that it doesn’t get in too much of a tangle.
Soak your skein in the citric acid water for around 15 minutes until well saturated. You may need to push the wool down into the water to aid this.
In the meantime, prepare your dye. Put some hot water in the receptacle you are using (jar or such like) and then with your mask over your mouth, open the colours you intend to use and add some to the hot water. The Jacquard Dyes we stock mix beautifully. I wanted to make a nice forest green so mixed more or less equal parts of navy blue and yellow sun. The spoon I am using is approximately ¼ teaspoon size for scale. Either use a stick or spoon to mix the dye well or swirl it around in the jar to mix.
You will see I keep the tubs of dye on a damp paper towel. This helps catch any spills or fine particles of the dye flying around has you add it to the hot water in your jar.
To give you an indication of the colour your yarn will become, dip a paper towel into the dye mix. The colour on the paper towel will give you a good idea
Prepare your pan for dyeing by filling it with enough water for the yarn to swim freely so that the dye you will add can easily reach all parts of the skein. You will see from the picture, I fill mine about 1/4 full. It’s a 5 litre pan I bought specifically for dyeing from IKEA for around £10. At this point I add approximately another 10ml of citric acid to the pan and stir it to dissolve. The citric acid acts as the mordant and binds the dye to your yarn.
Next, add the jar of prepared dye to your pan of water and stir.
Once the yarn has soaked for at least 15 minutes, you are ready to remove it from the washing up bowl of water and into the dye pan.
Turn the heat on under your pan at a low-medium temperature.
You want to bring the wool up to just below simmering slowly to avoid felting. This takes me around 15 – 30 minutes. The dye starts adhering to the wool almost immediately. Feel free to remove it to inspect the colour and as the dye starts exhausting (all being soaked up by the wool) decide if you are happy with the colour. If you want to, you can add more to the pan. Just follow the same steps, dissolving it in hot water before lifting the wool out, adding the dye solution to the pan then adding the wool back in again
Once you start to see bubbles breaking the surface of the water, turn the heat down to just below simmering. The heat will set the dye. Once you can see that the dye has exhausted (the water surrounding the yarn is clear) you can turn either finish the dyeing process at this point or add speckles.
If you want to end here, turn the heat off and leave the wool to cool in the water it is sitting in. You do not want to take the wool out until the water reaches room temperature as any sudden changes can cause felting.
If you want to speckle your dye, read on!
Put your dust mask back on over your mouth and nose and take your chosen dye powder on the tip of your spoon (I chose Russet at this point to add red speckles to the green skein – inspired by holly & berries).
You will want to work relatively quickly at this point as the dye will cake together in the steam if you are not careful, causing large clumps of dye making speckles not quite so “speckled” more streaks in your wool, which can be nice but not what we are looking for here. You will see that the skein of wool will be sitting towards the surface of the water, pushed up by the simmering water. Sprinkle the dye over your skein and if you have a lid to your pan, turn the heat off & pop the lid on.
The steam will heat set the speckles. If you don’t have a lid, leave the pan at just below simmer for 5 minutes then gently push the yarn down into the pan for the hot water to ensure that the speckles have properly set. You can then continue as before, turning off the heat and leaving the wool in the water it’s sitting in until it reaches room temperature.
Once the wool is at room temperature (patience is a virtue here – this can take time!!) you need to rinse it thoroughly in cool water (not cold – we’re aiming for room temperature again).
I use Soak wool wash for this as it makes the yarn smell beautiful. Rinse away any excess dye until the water runs clear (there may not be any excess dye).
Hang your skein up to dry & admire your handiwork. Your yarn is now ready for you to knit up into whatever your heart desires. My garment of choice, in general, has to be socks!
I really hope you found this informative and that some of you might give this a go. As I mentioned at the beginning, I am no expert. There are hundreds of YouTube videos and blog tutorials on the subject. Feel free to do your own research and experiments and find a style to suit you!