Dyeing yarn has become a huge part of my life now, but when I started out I was not sure what I was doing. I taught myself through experimentation, reading blogs and forums and watching podcasts.
I thought I would share a little of what I do – especially for those of you out there who see it as a mysterious and complicated thing. This is certainly not a comprehensive guide or the only way to dye, it is just a little of what I have taught myself.
1. Start with undyed/bare yarn – I have some yarn that comes in pre-measured skeins, like the ones in the top left, but I also buy yarn in larger hanks and on cones, that I wind off into skeins myself. I add additional ties to each skein to stop it from tangling.
2. I use Jacquard acid dyes – these are a powder dye, activated by acid (vinegar or citric acid). I currently have 12 different colours. I use a dust mask to protect myself while mixing the powdered dyes and make a stock of each colour (a mix of the powder and water) that I keep in squeeze bottles. Then when creating colourways, I mix the stock dyes together to create unique colours. I write down each of my recipes in a note book, with steps for each layer of dye.
3. To prepare the yarn for dyeing, I soak it in slightly warm water and a little bit of wool soap.
4. Most of the time when I dye I have an end result colour in mind, the example above is my Fuchsia colourway. I took a photo of the flower from my garden and mixed the dyes with the end result in mind.
5. I measure out the dye, writing down my recipe as I go, and add it to the pot, along with vinegar and turn on the heat. I then add the wet skeins of yarn to the pot and allow the dye to absorb, keeping the water at a steady heat just below a simmer. Once the water is clear (or close to it) I remove the yarn and add another dye mixture. I usually then unravel, or re-twist the yarn, to expose different sections to the dye and place it back into the pot. Depending on the colour I could repeat this part of the process a number of times.
6. Once the final layer of colour has been applied I keep the heat on for a little longer and then put the lid on and turn off the heat. I leave the yarn in the pot and leave it to cool. This stage allows any remaining dye to be taken up by the yarn and provides residual heat to set the colour.
7. When the yarn is cool, I drain off the water and rinse, before leaving it to soak in slightly warm water and a wool soap. This removes any excess dye and washes away any vinegar.
8. Next is to get the yarn dry. For my superwash wool I give it a little spin in the washing machine (in a delicates bag) and then hang it over a drying racks to get plenty of airflow. I rotate the skeins to help them dry evenly.
9. Final stage once the yarn is dry is to rewind the yarn back into a neat skein. I cut all of the ties and wind it into a skein. This realigns the colours and tidies up the skein after going through the dyeing process.
As I mentioned earlier, this is just one way that I use and I am mostly self taught. There are so many ways to dye, you can be very scientific or very relaxed and organic.