A Beginner’s Yarn Dyeing Overview
I was recently sent a naked, undyed skein of King Cole merino yarn. (Disclosure: I am a King Cole ambassador; I got the yarn for free but this is not a sponsored post). Receiving the yarn was all the persuasion I needed to have a brief dalliance with yarn dyeing. And I do mean brief. My first time was dyeing with avocado skins a few weeks ago, which I found interesting but getting the right colour was tricky. The second time was with little pots of powdery acid dyes (thanks Sherrie of Ollie & Bella for recommending the dyes). Acid dyeing yarn is a messy affair and I don’t suggest you try it unless you’re willing to destroy your kitchen, clothes, and anything else within a fifteen foot radius. My kitchen is old and tatty, therefore I don’t care about the fact that it now has a rainbow of colours forever tainting my work tops. Bit dodgy for food prep though.
What I’ve done is put together a couple of videos for YouTube. The first was published a couple of weeks ago. You can watch it HERE. It’s the dyeing yarn with avocado video, not “dying”, which is what I’ve accidentally titled the episode. It’s actually a relatively safe process. I pretended it was homeschooling science and got the kids involved. Well, the youngest one helped, the eldest just came into the kitchen in search of the Flap Jacks that were being baked in the oven whilst we did the dyeing. Apart from using high temperatures in the dyeing process, it’s a pretty good project for getting the kids involved.
Recently uploaded is the acid dyeing vid, HERE. It’s a bit longer as the first section of the video is a “show and tell” of the yarn colours that were created. Then the shoddy demo of my attempts follows after. This one is not be so great for the kids (although one of mine watched from a reasonable distance).
The colours that you can achieve with the acid dyes are far more intense. I have a distinct lack of knowledge about the chemistry of colour work and it shows. I didn’t try to experiment with mixing or diluting, just jumped straight into bright primary-ish shades. The results aren’t too bad. They’re not exactly “my” colours but that’s OK. The dye is Landscapes Dyes from Wingham Wool Work, a great recommendation from Sherrie. I wasn’t scared of using it but hard core professionals use loads of safety gear during dye sessions. Gloves and breathing apparatus are strongly recommended. Please do be careful! The particles of the powders can get inside your lungs and the powders also contain other elements that you don’t want to end up in your dinner.
After a quick shout out for advice on my crochet podcast, Becca from Totnes Yarns got in touch and offered some invaluable advice, thank you so much Becca! She Recommended using an old pot for dyeing the yarn, don’t use your best pans. Some of the acid dyes contain chemicals you don’t want to consume. But also, Becca pointed me in the direction of ChemKnits on YouTube. This is a rabbit hole I do not want to go down. This is just a quick fling, not a new hobby!! But if you did want to commit, check it out.
Research was a quick glance at Google, finding blog posts about avocado experiments. For more information about dyeing with avocado I found Woods and Wool to be really thorough. And also Thoresby Cottage. Deffo worth a look. I didn’t google much about acid dyes, I had the advice from Becca, and the Landscapes dyes came with a leaflet full of excellent instructions for both simmering on the hob or blasting in a microwave. You can download guidance on safety from Wingham Wool Work too.
Michelle from Dora Explored also has a blog post about dyeing with every day household stuff. Lots of helpful explanations about processes in that blog post, including info on why you might need to give your wool a bath in vinegar before you dye, and what a mordant is. But I confess to only skim reading certain bits so missed where it said to heat the yarn again after I added speckles onto the already dyed yarn. Might be why I didn’t end up with as many speckles as I hoped. I do realize that the heat is how the yarn fixes the colour, it was just a brief moment of stupidity. The fact that I have no patience is also a reason why the speckles washed out, which you’ll see from the finished results.
Wool yarn will take on dyes really well. Different fibres react in different ways, which is worth bearing in mind. As well as having the King Cole merino dk to play with, I decided to purchase a few skeins of Regia 4ply merino, another yarn specifically for hand dyeing. It worked a treat with the microwave acid dyeing. I also went digging through my own stash and came up with a mystery mini skein of a sheepy wool, and two silky looking skeins of Teeswater/Wensleydale yarn that were purchased on a holiday in Lancashire a few years ago. Please do read the blog post about that, it’s HERE. It was really quite a treat for a fan of yarn. On a personal level, reading about that holiday demonstrates that I know much more about yarn now than I did then. But judging by my tinkerings with the dyes, I’ve got a long way to go! Still very much an amateur…
Anyway, that’s it really. It’s a vast subject and this experience is barely a toe dipped in avocado blush waters. So much to explore. Have you tried yarn dyeing? What do you think? I bet you’re better at it than me!