Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tie-dying adventure

A while back I posted about wanting to dye my own yarn.  At the time, I wasn't sure what method I'd use, or what yarn I had on hand that would work.  After reading lots of threads from the What a Kool Way to Dye group, I learned that only wool can be dyed using Easter egg dye, Jell-O, Koolaid or Wilton's.  And wouldn't you know that all I had in my stash was cotton??  The solution?  Tie-dye.

Much like tie-dying a cotton t-shirt, the process was fairly simple.  I got to work unwinding my skeins of KnitPicks Simply Organic Cotton (is it weird that I tie-dyed organic cotton? lol) and rewound them into hanks, tying them off with acrylic yarn at various places to keep the hank from getting tangled.  I bought my tie-dye kit from Hobby Lobby and got to work. 
I had 2 hanks of yarn to dye, so I opted to use 2 different color schemes.  One using cool colors, and the other, warm colors.  The whole process took longer than I expected, but the rewards were worth it. 

I wound the yarn on my quilt rack since I didn't have any chair backs that would work.  This actually ended up working quite well.  I just had to remember to wind the yarn loose enough I could pull it off the rack. 
After it was wound and tied (only to prevent tangling, not to get any funky designs in the yarn!), I soaked the yarn in a bath of warm water and a couple drops of Dawn dishsoap (helps remove the oils and such from the yarn).
I let that sit for 30 minutes or so and then gently squeezed as much water out as possible before wrapping the yarn in a towel and smashing it to remove as much moisture as possible.
Next, I laid out some cardboard on my counter to lay the yarn on top of (this helped me transport the dyed yarn off my counter and to a safe location to soak when I was finished), topped with a plastic trash bag to contain the dyes and not color my kitchen countertops.  I laid out the yarn in an oval shape, and got to work.
The dyes in the kit came in powder form - just add water.  Be sure to wear gloves!!  Because that powder easily gets everywhere.  It's probably not a bad idea to wear glasses or goggles to prevent dust getting in your eyes.  I didn't have any particular plan as to how I wanted to color the yarn so I just starting squirting the dye on a section of the yarn. I ended up with somewhat intentional coloring. 
Once I felt the yarn was sufficiently covered in dye, I wrapped it up in the plastic bag, taped it shut, and moved it out of the way to soak for a day or so.  I read on the blog, Yarngear, that the longer the dye sits, the better color saturation you achieve.
A couple days later I opened up the plastic bags, and while using rubber gloves, I rinsed my yarn in the sink.  Let me tell you....I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed.  Then I squeezed out the water and rinsed some more.  I finally ended up putting my yarn in the shower and rinsing out the extra dye with the shower head.  This worked REALLY well, and it was much easier to tell when the water started to run clear.  Then I squeezed out the remaining water by hand, and again wrapped it in a towel and stepped on it to remove whatever water possible. 

After drying, my yarn was a bit tangled in the hank, but nothing horrible. I rewound the yarn into hanks and sat back to observe my handiwork. 
Overall, it was a lot of fun dying my own yarn. I can't wait to try it with wool and Koolaid, or Wilton's, or Jell-O.  So many more options than cotton.

**Items to note for future reference:
  • Save the bottles the dye came in.  The next time I dye, I may want to mix colors, having these extra squirt bottles on hand will be extra helpful!
  • Have plenty of yarn on hand to dye.  Although you may know how to preserve the dye, I have no idea and the box says the intensity starts to wear off after 48 hours.  I could have dyed 2 more skeins of cotton!
  • Adding water to the dye solution will change the color intensity.  It helps to dye the dark portions first, followed by the light portions.  For example, I started with deep red, but had a light red/pink by the time I was finished.  It gives the yarn a nice blended appearance.
  • The towel you use for squeezing out remaining water post-dye should be one you don't mind getting colored.  Even though I had rinsed out the extra dye, if the yarn sat on the towel while wet, some of the dye bled. Another option for removing excess water would be to put the yarn in the washer on spin cycle.  The tie-dye directions said to wash the dyed object, but I just rinsed. 
  • You can hang dry your yarn, or put it in the dryer.  Since it's cotton, it doesn't felt.  And my yarn came out nice and fluffly. :)
  • The finished colors were lighter when all was said in done, but the colors are still saturated and beautiful. 


  1. Those turned out great! And it sounds like you had fun doing it. Excited to see what you'll knit with it.

  2. I love how these look all skeined up. I've been thinking a lot about whether I want to start dying. It looks like a lot of fun and I love how the colours turned out. I think though, at this point, I have enough on my plate. I'd want to really commit to dying and I don't think I can yet. Let me know when you are doing more dying with wool and maybe I can buy some of the hanks you make!

  3. Thanks. :) It was fun. I'll definately be doing more in the future. I just got a package of Cascade superwash wool yesterday - so maybe soon! I'll be sure to let you know when I do more! :)