Knitting Blog: Dying for Yarn Edition

Parents are always happy when their kids end up liking what they like. One of the joys of 2009 for me is that my daughter has taken up knitting. In her case, she is focusing most of her efforts on the art of the sock.

A. has always been a person to dive into a pursuit completely, so she probably already understands sock patterns better than I do. I recently gave her some patterns. I look at them and say "ohhhh, pretty", she looks at them and says "this one creates a men's size with a cheat, this one needs to be resized...". After 25 years of knitting, I am learning from my daughter.

A. is interested in how sock yarns are dyed. While sock yarns do come in solid colors, there are lots of multicolored yarns out there as well, some of which create patterns as they are knit. Because she wants to take control of as many aspects of a pursuit as possible, and loves finding a cheaper way to acquire materials, she became interested in the idea of dying her own sock yarn. She asked us to give her a selection of Jacquard acid dyes and as much undyed "bare" wool sock yarn as her main Christmas present as we could afford. We were happy to oblige. She got one box with 11 jars of dye, and another with 8 100-gram skeins of sock yarn - 100% merino, 75% superwash merino with 25% nylon, and 70% merino with 30% silk.

And somehow Santa saw fit to put three skeins of bare sock yarn in a box under the tree for me, as well!

On the day after Christmas, the dying began. Our basic tools: freezer paper, plastic wrap, sponge brushes, mason jars, aluminum pie plates, latex gloves, white vinegar, and a large kettle.

A. calculated how much dye to mix for each batch of yarn. First, we soaked the yarn in water with some vinegar added. When the saturated yarn was taken out of the soaking water, it was placed in a colander set in a large bowl. A. measured how much water dripped out of the yarn as it drained and changed from soaking wet to damp. This amount of water is the amount of dye liquid that the yarn will be able to absorb.

First step in the process: lay out freezer paper where you will be mixing and applying the dyes. I also laid sheets of plastic wrap on the freezer paper where we would be laying out the yarn.

We then decided on our colorways, and A. mixed the dye in the mason jars. We used foam brushes to apply the dye to the yarn, squeezing it with our gloved hands to spread the color.




After we applied the color, we sprayed the yarn with a heavy dose of white vinegar. We folded the plastic wrap around the yarn and rolled each hank up into a spiral. The dyed yarn was then steamed for 30 minutes in a large kettle.


After steaming, we rinsed the yarn, spun it out in the washing machine, and hung it up to dry. And gloried in our results.


A.'s masterpiece is a hank of rainbow yarn. Here it is, from dying to dry to winding into a ball. My guess is that this yarn will knit up in narrow stripes of color, 1 to 2 rows per color.





My masterpiece is in tones of black, vermilion, and sky blue. It's the third hank of yarn above, where I show us applying color.



Will we dye yarn again? Most certainly. It was fun, and we love the finished product. Do I NEED to dye any yarn in the immediate future? NO! My stash of sock yarn officially overfloweth. I need to get some serious knitting done, and put these yarns where they belong, on some feet.

p.s. A signed copy of the book Teach Yourself Visually Hand-Dyeing by Barbara Parry was also under the Christmas tree for A. Another goodie that I picked up at Rhinebeck.


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