More dyeing shenanigans (with a twist)

More dyeing shenanigans (with a twist)

The last time I wrote, I talked about dyeing yarn. As an indie dyer, my job is to create colourful yarn that someone else will turn into something beautiful. That’s pretty much the norm.

Now, what if I turned that regular idea around and dyed the finished item instead? What would happen? Let’s find out!

I had some very lovely 4-ply yarn at hand, plus some mohair lace that was just coarse enough to be uncomfortable if used alone. Paired together they would make the perfect DK weight yarn for a cardigan I wanted to knit.


Fast forward 2 or 3 days, and here’s the finished cardigan, minus the buttons.

Let the experiment begin! I wanted a red base. I had to add that to the dye bath first. It looks very much like a murder scene, so let me tone it down by inserting a cute photo of my cat Marshmallow next to it.








Since I wanted the red to be soaked up slowly and evenly, I started with cool water and no acid for binding. This will ensure the colour is seeped up gradually and has time to get to the whole garment. I then added the wet cardigan, turned on the heat to medium-low and kept an eye on it.

After 15 minutes, the water was warm and I could see that the red was all over the cardigan. Time to add citric acid gradually. Then turn up the heat, simmer for 10 more minutes, turn it off and wait for the water to clear up and cool completely.

A good sign that you’ve used the right amount of dye and acid is that the water clears up completely once cooled. This is also a great sign of minimal bleeding in future washes, the bane of any dyer.
(If your water isn’t clear, try adding more acid and simmering for another 15 minutes. Let the water cool completely and see if things aren’t better.)

I really liked this colour, but a rule of thumb is, if it looks perfect under water, it’s too light when dry. I also wanted a bit more dimension to the red, so some dark grey was needed.
I didn’t want this new colour to soak up evenly, so I didn’t remove the cardigan from the bath water as I added the new dye, and I kept the same acidic, fast-absorption water from before.

And here she is afterwards in all her glory!

I know the “scruffy look” might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. It looks like a long-worn cardi, something my nan might have passed on to me. The vintage buttons complete the look.

Now, the important question: is the end result the same as dyeing the yarn in the skein? The answer is a resounding No. Depending on how tight you knit, you might end up with a lot of areas that the dye won’t get to because the stitches act as a resist. You can see lighter areas in the photo below, something I fully expected, even though I’m a fairly lose knitter. I actually like this feature because it’s very different from what you normally see.

I had never done anything like this before, and you might be horrified to know that after this, I’ve knit a shawl and now have a second cardigan on the needles, and both will receive the same after-completion dye treatment…

I wore it for the first time yesterday (at the time of writing) and it kept me warm all afternoon indoors.

I hope you enjoyed this experiment. Let me know if you’ve ever tried anything like this before, and what the outcome was! If not, what dyeing shenanigans have you been up to or would like to try?

Stay safe and enjoy the rest of your day.


22 thoughts on “More dyeing shenanigans (with a twist)

  1. I like a distressed look Leonor and loving your cardigan! I’ve done very little dyeing so it was interesting to learn about how you controlled the take up of the colour. I have recently bought several silk scarves with the intention of dyeing those….just hope, when I get around to it, that my experiment is as successful as yours!

    1. Thanks, Karen! When you get around to dye those scarves, keep them in water for several hours (silk takes a loooong time to soak) with a few drops of dishwasher detergent… Silk dyes beautifully, you’ll create something fantastic!

  2. The cardigan is fabulous! It’s also unique – bonus. Love the quirky way some stitches act as resists.
    Loose knitting is warmer than tight knitting because air is easily trapped.

    Would love to see the shawl and cardigan, currently in progress, in your next post.

    1. Thanks! I like the uniqueness of the whole thing 🙂

      I’m not 100% sure how tight you knit has much bearing on how warm the garment becomes – the most important thing is how the wool is spun (in my opinion), woollen spinning traps air and keeps us cosy and pills more easily, worsted spinning is sturdier but not quite as warm. The sock yarn was worsted spun, but the mohair might have helped with the warmth factor!

      I can show the other ones, sure 🙂

  3. I love the colour and the whole experimentation idea. But I am most impressed by the fact that you knitted it up in a few days and now you have another one and a shawl on the go!😄

    1. Thank you, Marion! It was a fun experiment for sure.

      Ha, not so impressive if you know I knit for stress relief, and there’s been a bit of it lately (you know, pandemic!) 😀
      I’m almost done with cardi number 2, took a little break to hand sew a petticoat! I’m a weird crafter…

  4. Very impressive! It would take me years to knit a cardigan so 2-3 days is fantastic. (I don’t knit.) Thanks for the dye information. I have felted items and dyed afterwards. It gives a similar mottled effect. But I didn’t try no acid to start so I will have to try that next time. The results are wonderful and I really like that it isn’t solid color.

    1. Haha, thanks! I knit for stress relief, so this is a sign I had a bit of that going on 🙂

      The “no acid” thing works fabulously with non-superwash fibres, because first it tints the fibre instead of dyeing it, which means it’s still wandering about in the water and travelling to every nook and cranny – great for a more even colour! If you do try it, let me know how it went, I’d love to know 🙂

  5. Love the cardigan colour – both the slightly uneven red and how you’ve enhanced that effect with the grey. So much more interesting than a red-yarn knitted cardi. I’d also be interested to see your upcoming garments so yes, please do share.

    1. Thanks, Lindsay! That’s the beauty of hand dyed yarns, the variegated effect (“variegated” sounds much more posh that “uneven,” doesn’t it? The wonders of marketing :D)

      Seems like I’ve got my next post sorted, haha!

  6. Well if Stress produces such beautiful results with more to come….you can be stressed down here please! ‘You’ don’t need any more cardies, but I know someone who does 🤪🤪

    Love the colour & pattern on the raglan sleeve. I’m like Ruth….I don’t knit, crochet yes, but not knitting.

    Decades ago I used to paint silk scarves but have never ‘dyed’ fibres, so I’ll have to take notes from this interesting post & file it ‘for future use’.

    1. At least there’s a positive outcome from stress, huh? 😀
      (Ha, I do need more cardies – I’m in need of more warm clothes! But I could definitely knit you one, so let me know if you’d like that :p)

      I couldn’t crochet to save my life, so we’re in balance!

      Remember you have access to the flawed brain that created this, so feel free to ask away in the future when you try this 😉

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