Dye Today, Knit Tomorrow

Dying Small Amounts Of Yarn

Finished yarn for mittens, black, red and grey

Finished yarn for mittens, black, red and grey

I was breezing through an old issue of Spin-Off magazine and came across an article that Judith Mackenzie McCuin wrote.  It was about spinning Gutefar wool into yarn and knitting a pair of mittens.  I loved the mittens, they look nice and would be perfect for working outside when it’s cold.  I purchased an Icelandic Lambs Fleece a while back.  Not sure what I would do with it then, it seemed perfect for this project.  I want to replicate the type yarn she made, so I spun this yarn according to her direction.  I hand-carded the wool into rolags, but spun strong fine singles in a short draw worsted method, then I plied three strands together into a three-ply yarn.  This made a yarn somewhere in the neighborhood of a DK weight.  The wool is a lovely grey, with grey, black, white and silver through it.  I like the natural yarn color, but I need some black and red for the mittens.  I’ll need to dye small amounts of yarn to fill the bill.

Making the dye stock.

Making the dye stock.

Normally, when I dye yarn (admittedly not often), I dye whole large skeins or several skeins the same color.   Usually, I immerse them into a large dye pot with a packet of dye and use enough yarn to exhaust the pot.  However, I only need small amounts dyed.  I decided to try what I had seen others do with roving.  So I applied a dye stock to the yarn, wrapped  it in plastic wrap then steam it.  I have some red dye stock prepared from a year ago, so we’ll see if it lasts that long.  I will need to mix some black.  I’m using Cushing’s Perfection Acid dye, I’m using 1/2 teaspoon dye powder to 1 cup of hot water (I think this is a 2% stock)  I use a mask to protect me from the fine powder (I have enough problems breathing) then remove it when the powder is put away, the stock is mixed and the utensils are washed.  The gloves I keep on for the most part, although I always seem to walk away from the dye pot with colored fingers 😉  I use newspaper to protect the surface of my work area and wear a heavy denim apron and safety glasses over my Rx glasses.

Yarn bundled and placed on steam rack in dye pot to be steam set

Yarn bundled and placed on steam rack in dye pot to be steam set

 I soak the yarn in warm water and Synthrapol (a surfactant), at the end I add some vinegar for the dye. Squeeze the excess water out of the yarn and place it over some plastic wrap.  I squirted some dye stock onto the yarn and nudged it around to be sure every bit is wet with stock.  I wrapped the yarn into bundles inside the plastic wrap and placed it on a steam rack in my dye pot with water in the bottom.  I brought the water to a boil and when there was sufficient steam and I knew the fiber would be hot I started a timer for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, I turned off the burner and allowed it to sit undisturbed until it was completely cool.  I unwrapped the bundles one at a time and rinsed them in a pan of tepid water with vinegar.  The dye was exhausted from both the red and black. When I set them out, the red looked great, the black had obvious areas where the color was lighter and darker.

Yarn re-dyed in microwave in a micro steam bag

Yarn re-dyed in microwave in a micro steam bag

I decided to re-dye the black, I just didn’t like the look of it.  I found some microwave vegetable steam bags and decided to use those, with some vinegar water and more dye stock.  I microwaved for two minutes, rest for two minutes and did this three times for a total of six minutes cooking time.  I let it cool, rinsed again and it looked great.  Once the red dried, I could see the same variations in color and decided to re-dye it the same way.  It also finished great.  The grey yarn produced a nice heather effect.  I believe this plastic wrap technique works better on roving or top than finished yarn, or I didn’t use enough dye stock, however it was absolutely sopping wet with it. The last time I steam set dye, I used a slow cooker liner on my steam rack, then placed the yarn, vinegar water, then dye stock and had no problems.  Next time I dye small amounts of yarn, I’ll turn to these microwave steam bags and the microwave, it’s quick and they’re re-usable.  Now I have my red, black and grey yarn for my knitting project.  I’ll place it in my project queue.    

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A website devoted to learning, sharing and teaching a wide range of fiber arts. Inkle, Tablet and Navajo style weaving, Spinning, Knitting, Crochet, Sewing and Lace Making. Silver Work, Beading and Tool Making grace my bench as well.

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