DIY Yarn Dyeing

Or how to stain your fingers blue.

I’ve dyed yarn a few times using food colourings and natural fixatives (like vinegar and citric acid) and find it an enjoyable (if staining) process (top tip – always put plastic gloves on before going anywhere near the dyes!).

Anyway, I’d spotted the absolutely stunning Celestarium shawl on Ravelry and knew that I wanted to knit it at some point. I was lucky enough to get a big batch (over 3000 yds) of Colourmart Angora / Merino fingering weight at the p/Hop swap at The Yarn Cake back in December. Only problem was that it wasn’t really the right colour for the shawl – pale gray rather than something more nighttime-ish.

No problem I thought. I can dye that. There were three cone-like balls of the yarn. The largest of the three cones was just shy of 1200 yds which coincidently is the yardage specified for the shawl.  Perfect. I re-skeined the cone, divided it into five mini-skeins of approximately 25-30g each and got them all tied off in a careful manner to avoid tangles. 

These got soaked in a bowl of water and vinegar while I sorted out the dyes. Remember the top tip from before? About putting gloves on before approaching the dye. Guess what I didn’t do. I wanted a nighttime colour range, so raided the Kool Aid packets and found the Grape flavor (dark purple). From the Wilton’s food dyes I picked out Black, Royal Blue and Violet. I’m sure I chucked in another Kool Aid but cannot remember which it was, nevertheless I think I can safely say it was in the dark blue-purple colour range. All these got dumped in a large pan of cold water (I use a pan with a white lining as it is easier to see when the dye is exhausted). I added extra citric acid too. Mum’s comment at this point was that it looked as though I was just dyeing everything black. Apart from my fingers, which were blue.

The soaked yarn was rung out and popped in the pan. Heat was turned on and a not inconsiderable amount of time was spent staring at the pan waiting for the dye to exhaust. When that was done, heat was turned off and the water and yarn left to cool. Once cool it was given a quick wash with some soak and left to dry. It became clear at this point that I hadn’t just dyed it black. The yarn took up the dye differently over the skeins, some sections are dark, some light, some have more of one colour than another.

When dry though, the end result was rather stunning. And perfect for that shawl.


P.S. The dye came off my fingers eventually….

Useful Links on Food Colouring Dyeing

Knit Purl Gurl on her first attempt at dyeing yarn with food colouring.‘s Dyed in the Wool.

It’s a Stitch Up on Dyeing with Kool Aid – immersion method.

DT Craft and Design for dyeing supplies, including Kool Aid.

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