06 April 2015

Easter Egg Yarn Dying - DIY


As a knitter, how do you choose your yarn?

I am drawn to its fiber, its twist, its weight. But the first pull is always its color. The first yarn I ever fell for was kettle-dyed Manos del Uruguay, and I always fall for beautiful hand-dyed yarn over the uniformity of yarns dyed in the wool. (That said, there are times where a uniformly-dyed yarn brings out the best in a design.)

My Kids Knit-ters tried their hands at dying yarn after Easter last year, when buying Easter Egg kits was pleasantly thrifty (even at full-price the PAAS tablet kits are quite inexpensive). We created single-color mini skeins in an approximation of kettle-dying. I gleaned this approach from lots of Pinterest browsing and some make-do use of my kitchen supplies (we have gone through a lot of Bonne Maman Raspberry preserves over the years, and I always save the jars for storing buttons or vinaigrette).

Ingredients
  • undyed wool (Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool, which comes in half-pound skeins)
  • crochet cotton (or other waste yarn) for tying skeins to prevent tangles
  • PAAS Easter Egg dying kit (the big one with nine tabs, IIRC)
  • microwave-safe glass jars
  • white vinegar to lower the pH of water
  • water
  • spoons
  • oven mitts
  • oil cloth (to protect table)
  • large stainless steel bowl (or sink)
  • colander
  • microwave
  • hanging rack

Method
  1. Wind up undyed wool into mini skeins that will fit in your jars (in our case each mini skein was about 1oz, so eight minis per original skein)
    mini skeins tied to prevent tangling and twisted up
  2. Prep skeins by soaking in tepid water with some vinegar (3:1 water to vinegar) in bowl or sink for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours 
    a good soak with acidulated water
  3. Prep dye jars by placing one tab* in each jar and following directions on box for adding vinegar (or not, depending on tab), then add water to dilute dye being careful to leave room in jar for yarn 
    dissolving the tabs in water or vinegar

    follow package directions on what to dissolve tabs in
  4. Drain yarn in colander and squeeze out excess water
  5. Submerge skeins in dye jars, stirring to make sure dye is dispersed throughout (alternatively, if your lids are secure, cover and shake jars gently) 
    gently stirring the dye into the yarn
  6. Remove lids if used and place jars in microwave for one minute on full power, then let rest for one minute; repeat three more times
  7. With oven mitts carefully remove jars from microwave and allow to cool - water should be clear, since the dye has been absorbed into the yarn 
    clear water = exhausted dye bath

    nine pretties with clear water
  8. Soak cooled skeins in bowl or sink full of water to remove vinegar smell and any loose dye (optional: add a little wool wash to the water) 
    a final soak and rinse to make sure everything is clean
  9. Drain yarn in colander and squeeze out excess water
  10. Hang skeins to dry from rack 
    IKEA octopus helps with skein drying

    a bottom-up view of drying skeins
  11. Enjoy your colorful mini skeins 
    a pile of wool pretty enough to eat

*I found it difficult to determine which tab was which color in tab form, so I made a little grid of the tabs (and numbered our jars using a wax pencil), then did dip tests with strips of paper towel. You can see the wound-up skeins arranged in the grid in the last photo.

tabs in grid - which one will give which shade?

dip tests in grid - who knew that orange-y tab was apple green?

final skeins in grid - so much color!

As you can see from our finished skeins, gentle stirring makes for a more uniform yarn (in this instance, the yellow and green, especially). We also found that the purple (made up, of course, of red and blue dyes) tended to split if not stirred thoroughly. We rather liked the final effect of letting it sit.

This year I'm thinking we will try hand-dying skeins rather than kettle-dying, so after picking up a bunch of PAAS kits today, I'm going to ponder the best (read: cleanest) way to apply the dyes to sections of a skein.

Have you experimented with dye? It was lots of fun! Why not hop out and grab a dye pack today? They're probably on sale. If you do, be sure to let me know in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy knitting!
xoxo, Kathleen

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