Another Adventure in Messiness Begins ………..Hand Painting Yarn

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

The above yarn was dyed by Fleece Artist in their Sugar Plum color way. I love the way Fleece Artist dyes yarns.  I bought several skeins which you can see here: newyarn1 I bought Hibiscus in Handmaiden Casbah sock yarn as well as Fleece Artist BFL sock, thinking they were going to be really different in color because of the base yarn. They are in a way – you can see this on the bottom left which is the Handmaiden Casbah and the next one going clockwise which is the Fleece Artist.

I have also perused thousands hundreds of websites run by individuals who dye and paint yarn bases and sell them to sock knitters. Some of these are pretty bad dye jobs. I’ve seen where most of the base yarn is left white – which is great if you’re going for a white/color type finish.  To me, the yarn looks like they don’t know what they’re doing or else they are rushing to get lots of product out there. The yarn is easy to find in undyed bases. is an excellent resource and they have so many yarns I want to try that I will never run out of ideas. The prices are very reasonable. If you take into consideration that a yarn commercially dyed in multiple colors will cost $20 to $30 per skein, then paying up to $11 per skein and doing it yourself makes great sense.

I have dyed fabric for years. The first quilt I sold (for $1500 – whoot!) was an Amish Center Diamond pattern in sapphire, fuchsia and purple, hand dyed and hand quilted. What a gorgeous quilt that was. It ended up in a fancy Grosse Pointe Shores mansion hanging on a wall above the foyer. The ceilings were two stories high and the quilt was king-sized. It was an enormous focal point when you walked into the home.

Anyway, dyeing yarn is no harder than dyeing fabric. The only caveat is that you cannot let wool get shocked by temperature and you can’t stir it around. Since I’m going to paint it and steam it, it will be wrapped in plastic wrap and will not tumble around in the pot. I use Dharma Trading Company’s acid dyes for painting. The only fixative required is vinegar or citric acid powder. Since I run out of the citric acid powder a lot …….. I use vinegar since I can grab it at the grocery store.

It’s important to pre-soak the yarn. I do this with a teensy bit of synthrapol in the water. This is the soap used to remove oils and any other thing that might affect the colors of the dye. Then I prepare my powder dyes with warm water and a splash of vinegar.

I lay out the yarn on a very long piece of plastic wrap. I use squeeze bottles to get the color onto the yarn. Now I will not be leaving the yarn white in odd places. I will apply color where I want it – making sure to saturate the yarn top and bottom.

Then I turn the plastic wrap over the yarn in the middle and then start rolling it up from the bottom. Once that is done I place it in my canning kettle with the steamer basket inside – you can also use any large pot you don’t want to cook in ever again. I will not even start the heating process until the yarn is in the water. This way the water and the yarn come up to almost boiling together. This will not shock the yarn into felting. You do not want a mess of felted yarn!

I let it simmer for a half an hour and then I turn the heat off and let the yarn and water cool down to room temperature. This way the wool isn’t shocked again by getting cooler all at once. After it is cool, I unwrap the yarn and stick it in a bowl of water to allow the dye to come out – there shouldn’t be much because it should have exhausted into the yarn. I will swish it with a little synthrapol and let it sit. Then I change the rinse water, roll the yarn in a towel to get water out of it and hang it to dry – voila! I have a $30 skein of yarn for around $7 to $10. A good day’s work for me!

Note***** I need to add that you should always wear a mask when mixing the dye with water. Once you open that dye jar – it can get airborne and you don’t want that in your lungs.

Also – unless you need navy blue hands – wear gloves! Any old plastic gloves will do.

Never use anything you use to dye with to cook with ever again. I have a measuring cup, measuring spoons and a stainless steel bowl used only for dyeing. Also I use a stainless steel spoon if I’m going to solid color dye. These are kept in a separate cupboard.

The acid dyes won’t hurt your drain or sewer system. You can neutralize the dye bath if you want but most of the dye will be in the dyed product so it won’t go down the drain. Acid means the pH of the solution – so it is acidic rather than alkaline. That’s all. You can keep mixed dye solution in the fridge if you want. I don’t. I don’t mix up more than I’ll use because I will forget about it and I might eat it.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jennifer says:

    🙂 I did a lot of solid color dyeing of fleece and wool when I decided to spin ….. now it’s going to be yarn!


  2. suth2 says:

    Ignore my comment on your later post about dying yarn. Now I have read this post I see where you get all your skill from. I have missed reading posts for a few days so have been working my way through them but obviously in the wrong order- most recent to oldest.


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