Tuesday, April 2, 2013

dyeing yarn with easter egg dyes

I thought March was going to turn out to be a bust for the third month of my love your library challenge ... but then this weekend I found myself staring a lot a whole lot of extra Easter egg dyes and I remembered Pumpkin's little dyeing experiment. Dyeing is something I've want to try for a long time now ... and I have the books and skeins of Knit Picks "Bare" to prove it! So I busted out my two dyeing books and managed to squeak in a finished love your library project for March.

Now for the low-down on the books--they are both excellent and I highly recommend both. But for newbies like me, Gail Callahan's book is sooo much more approachable. She even has a chapter titled "If you can cook potatoes you can dye yarn." Talk about confidence booster! She has a nice set of beginner projects to get you started that includes one working with food coloring, so I based this project off those instructions. The "Teach Yourself Visually" book had better step-by-step photos, and instructions that were more detailed in many areas. So I'm glad I have both books, honestly. But the "Teach Yourself Visually" book assumes you have a full complement of the typical acid-dye process chemicals--which just added to the intimidation factor. Gail Callahan's book, on the other hand, only required that you have vinegar, some form of food coloring, and yarn/fiber to dye. Stuff that pretty much anyone would have in their kitchen!

This process is surprisingly easy:
  1. Wash your yarn/fiber (if necessary).
  2. Prepare your yarn/fiber by soaking in vinegar/water solution for 30 minutes prior to dyeing (1 part vinegar to 3 parts water).
  3. Apply your dye.
  4. Microwave (covered) for 2 minutes on high, let rest for 2 minutes, then microwave for 2 minutes on high again. (this "sets" your dye)
  5. Let yarn/fiber cool.
  6. Rinse yarn/fiber, and hang to dry.

This was my first attempt, which I like to call "franken-rainbow." Honestly, I didn't have a good plan when I started ... I had just finished dyeing Easter eggs with my daughter, and started with the leftovers. So you could argue that I didn't have full strength dye, since the eggs had used up some of it. I started by using an icing pen like a turkey baster and carefully applying blue, orange, and green in four-inch long segments. Then I didn't know what to do next, as I had used up all I had of those colors and had a lot more yarn to dye! So then I played around with dumping the red, orange, and yellow on in longer lateral stripes. It looked god-awful ugly at that point. So I set it aside, frustrated, and decided to be more purposeful with my color choices on my next skein.

For this skein, I opened up a new package of PAAS Easter egg dyes. This one was a Wal-Mart jumbo pack that came with more than the standard six tablets (red/pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple), giving you an extra blue, orange, and yellow. What I've learned from this project is that a single tablet of PAAS dye doesn't really go that far, honestly. You can see this above--the light purple is a single tablet. The blue is two tablets. And the darker purple? Kroger brand "neon" food coloring! In contrast, the food coloring was so much easier to work with in terms of making more saturated color. I was bad and didn't scientifically measure how many drops it took to mix this purple. I just squirted maybe half a teaspoon or so of food coloring and added approximately 10 oz. of water to a cup and poured onto the yarn until I had good coverage (no white spots). Since I had a bunch of leftover PAAS dye tablets, I mixed them up and went back to the Franken-Rainbow skein and touched up the colors where the saturation was lacking. I think that really made the difference--it took that skein from ugly to something I really love now! So if you plan to attempt this, be sure to get multiple PAAS boxes. It looks like having two dye tablets is a minimum for bright, happy colors (and that's for a single skein of Knit Picks Bare Stroll!).

Here you can see some white spots that still remain in my second attempt. I decided to leave them, since I didn't have a second purple dye tablet and I didn't want to mess with a colorway I really like despite the light coverage.

And here's a tiny bit of muddling that happened in my Franken Rainbow skein. Not as much muddling as I feared, given the haphazard way I was applying dye to this skein!

And a better, more color-accurate shot in better light. I am so thrilled with the results--now I have to decide what to attempt knitting with them! I'm very curious to see how they knit up ....

Was March a successful month for your personal love your library challenge?


  1. That is really cool... Never occurred to me that you could due yarn that way.
    My March Love Your Library was fairly successful... Finally an FO. Photo will be up soon.

  2. Oh how sweet of you to mention my post, I think you did a much better job of outlining the process than I did, your yarns turned out way more gorgeous too! I hope you dye more, I have a feeling you have even more creativity in store, I can only imagine what you may come up with! I really want to see the "franken-rainbow" (love it) knitted up, it is going to be fun!

  3. oh my gosh! i did that this week too! your yarn turned out fabulous! it is so much fun. :)

  4. So much fun! I have only used Kool-aid dyes with wool yarn. I used to quilt and we did the full acid dyes with cotton fabric. A lot more labor intensive!