A few days ago, Ruth had the courtesy of sending me an email reminder about my upcoming blog post (this one). I mentioned I was sparse on ideas, so she suggested I talk about my dyeing process.
This ended up being serendipitous, as yesterday I received a custom order request for a new colourway I launched as part of my new collection. Voilá, I’ve got a blog post!
Now, this isn’t meant as a How To on yarn dyeing, so I shan’t go into too much detail (although, if you’re interested, I’d be happy to write a more in-depth post in the future – let me know in the comments). I will, however, mention a few basic things you definitely need to dye yarn/fibre safely if, like me, you’re using acid dyes:
- The hardware you use shall be for dyeing only. So don’t use that fancy pot if you’re even thinking of making Sunday roast in it ever again.
- Always, always wear a respirator mask when handling dyes, especially when in powder form. Dye particles travel far – I’m all for fluorescent green wool but not in one’s lungs.
- Gloves are a must. You don’t want bright pink fingers for a week (ask me how I know), and you also want to avoid absorbing pigment through your skin.
- No food or drink near the dyeing station, and you’ll need to clean everything before and after if dyeing in the kitchen.
Ok, so let’s get to the good stuff.
This is the yarn I need to reproduce. It’s called Mossy Moggy (moggies being what we call non-breed specific cats in the UK, do you call them the same in the US?). I needed 3 skeins.
If you want to be able to reproduce colourways in the future, you need good note taking habits. I have a dedicated folder where I keep all my cauldron inventions. If you think you’ll remember how you created something months later, trust me, you won’t.
This is my dye sheet. I leave the space on the upper left corner blank so I can attach a photo of the finished item to jog my memory.
Now on to the dyeing itself. Since I mentioned how important it is to wear a mask, allow me to show you myself in my best Breaking Bad impersonation.
You’ve no idea how hard it was to procure this mask and filters. I needed a new one during the pandemic and everything was sold out. For the life of me, I never thought particulates masks would sell out, but I guess some people want to be extra careful.
There’s plenty of ways to hand dye fibre, and endless techniques. Each will yield different results, and it’s a lot of fun to play around. In this particular case, I’m doing low immersion dyeing: this means I’ll be using just enough water to cover the fibre, on a stovetop.
I’m using a Gastronorm pan, which might look familiar to you if you’ve ever been to a buffet in a restaurant. These are super handy, large enough for up to 6 skeins, sturdy, and fit my electric stove perfectly (over two hobs). There’s several standardised sizes to choose from, this being the largest one.
Mossy Moggy is created by dyeing part of the yarn first, without pre-soaking it first. As it sinks, the first colour gets absorbed gradually and allows for differences in depth. Then I add another colour to the top that has remained undyed, and after it’s all exhausted (meaning all the dye has been taken in by the fibre), it’s time to add sprinkles.
Sprinkling yarn is a favourite activity of mine. Wearing gloves (and donning my respirator), I scatter some dye powder over the yarn here and there. Less is more. The water here is fairly acidic (I use citric acid, you can also use vinegar to get the dye molecules to bind with the fibre) so the sprinkles stay relatively put. I love seeing those little dots of colour.
As I write this, the yarn is cooling down in the pan. I always let the water get cool before I remove the fibre, it allows for more vibrant colours. If I manage to remember to come back to this post before it’s scheduled to publish, I’ll add a photo of the drying skeins.
One interesting thing to remember if you’ve never dyed: colours always look one to two shades deeper whilst wet. If you’re trying to reproduce a certain colour and think it’s spot on in the pot, it’s probably too light.
Once these beauties are done they’ll be heading over to California. I’ll be very excited to see them reach their destination and even more if my client tags me on social media once she starts knitting with them!
Let me know if you have any questions, and if you’d like a more in-depth post on dyeing in the future (and what you’d like to read about the subject). Have a great week.