Saturday, 11 July 2009

Dyeing stripey sock yarn

No blogging over the last few days has been a sure sign I've been busy doing something. Now I have got to the end of this process, I can get some decent pictures to show you just what I've been doing. Dyeing stripey sock yarn!! You'll be very proud of me, I remembered to document each stage as I went. This means though, my post will probably be rather long:-)

You may see a slight resemblance in my yarn to some Schoppel-Wolle I bought this week:-) I wanted to know how it was dyed so I analysed the yarn, measured out the stripe sections and started planning my own stripe variations. Then I started winding the yarn into sections for each colour stripe - 9 in all, with the colour reversing at 1 and 9. See, I've been working hard!

So the yarn is wound, the next step is to soak the yarn to make sure it is degreased (becoming a familiar step to me after all that fleece...). While that is soaking with some synthrapol or some soap powder - to degrease - and the acetic acid (better than white vinegar, no smell) - to prepare the fibres for the dye - I started mixing the colours I wanted. (For wool you use Acid dyes which require heat as the method of fixing. They also need the acetic acid to make the fibres accept the dye when being fixed with heat.)

There we go. Nine stripes, nine colours. 5 graded greens and 4 graded red/oranges to contrast. I painted them out to check the tones but paper was too absorbent and left the colours dull so I taped a small pieces of yarn to some card and tested the colours there. Much better. Now all that is left is to decide the order of the colours.

I wanted to make a self-striping yarn that meant I didn't have to change the yarn and get a lumpy seam but also to ensure the stripes would always have a nice contrast. So instead of a subtle gradation, I went for alternated colour grading - dark-green, yellow, green, orange, mid-green, vermillion, lime, red, light-lime, red, lime, vermillion etc.... And because of the way I wound the skeins, this should keep repeating between the dark to light greens and back again till the end of the skein. Cool, huh?

So dye ready, check. Yarn soaked long enough, check. Okay time to paint the skeins. There are lots of ways to do this - Kettle dyeing in a pot on the cooker, a slow cooker, painting by hand, dip dyeing etc. but today I want to control the colour process so I am painting by hand. To fix the colour I will steam the yarn which will be wrapped safely in clingfilm inside a re-sealable freezer bag. I have steamed yarn on the cooker and using a microwave and both work well, but since the micro is quicker and causes less condensation in my kitchen, I will be using this method for now:-)

Warning - don't totally seal the freezer bag as it will explode in the microwave :-))))) Leave about an inch gap for the steam to escape!

And there you are. Skeins ready to hang out to dry. Once they are dry, you can wind them into a ball or skein ready to knit, weave or crochet with, whatever you fancy.

Warning! - the bag will be very hot!!!! It needs to cool down first before you try to open it. If you have no patience like me, run cold water over the outside and gently prise the cling film apart under the cold tap. Wear marigold gloves to protect your hands and keep your face at a distance! The hot steam will scald if you are too close.

Okay, now you are ready to wash your yarn. There should be very little dye left in the yarn so not much washing is needed. Wash with some gentle hand wash soap powder and wash till the water runs clear. Then gently squeeze out all the excess water and spin in the washing machine. Just spin! No water to agitate the yarn at this stage, we don't want felted yarn at the last hurdle.

I found my clever winding of the stripey skein back and forwards a bit of a nightmare to unwind. I will have to work out a better method to save me time and agro! But it's all done and I've wound it like the schoppel-wolle balls to compare the two. What do you think? Pretty close?

While I had some dye left, I also painted up a few stripey solids in the orange and green. I do think winding in balls shows off the yarn well.

Well, the proof will be in the knitting and I have been knitting away today to see how these yarns knit up. I'm finding it hard to match the yarn to patterns at the moment as they are just a bit too busy for more complex designs. Some pics for you tomorrow on my progress.....

All skeins painted in order and wrapped in clingfilm. Ready for microwave blasting. I usually blast on full for 30 seconds and leave for about 30 seconds before starting again. In theory your yarn shouldn't need more than 3-5 mins but I usually find as I use more dye that I probably need that it takes a bit longer for all my excess dye to evaporate. I usually know it is ready when the clingfilm is shrinking and all stuck together:-) and most of the dye has gone from inside the bag. If you are unsure, blast it for another minute or so. I find it better to be safe than sorry. I would rather take more time now than see all my dye run down the sink because I didn't fix it enough!!!

ETA: I've found this method of winding the yarn into sections for big stripes a very complex one - and prone to getting tangled when you try to unwind it. I found the best answer is to make super long skeins and measure the length I want to paint each colour as I go. 12metres/40ft should do the trick for an average 3 or 4 colour stripe yarn. Haven't tried to duplicate the tropicana stripey using this method yet but if 12 metres isn't enough, I can just make it bigger:) Please note, thats 12 metres/40ft in the round, so if you are winding it around furniture:) then that's 6metres/20ft one way and 6mtres/20ft the other = 12mtres/40ft total. Any questions, just give me a shout!


  1. Your opening photo is very striking. And I find the way you dyed the yarn fascinating, I always wondered about the magic of stripes. Well done.

  2. Thank you, Lucette. I need a bit more practice but then I will have lots of new stripey yarn to play with!

  3. I cannot WAIT to see your stripey yarn knit up! Those colors are so gorgeous!

    I dyed yarn once...I crocheted a scarf but I'm afraid to wear it for fear it'll bleed red/orange on my neck! It was a lot of work and I'm not sure I'll do it again. Instead, I think I'll admire your hard work! :)

  4. Thanks Crystal! I've tried knitting it up as is and the stripes are very thick for socks - 9 rows each! - so I'm thinking of either breaking it up with another yarn or making something bigger like a scarf or a bag to show the stripes off better.

    While I'm thinking about it, I can play with the other new yarns:-)

  5. The colours look so wonderfully bright. Thanks for sharing your process :)

    1. Thanks! This was the first method I tried for dyeing, maybe a bit complex but fun experimenting with the stripes and colour.


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