One of my friends, Laura Hall Briedis, dyes yarn and sells it thru her website and etsy shop Olann Gra, as well as at local yarn shops and craft fairs.
Recently I bought six skeins of her navy blue worsted, but it wasn’t quite enough to knit a full sweater. I hope to knit one for each of my kids, and am starting with the youngest, Dylan. He didn’t want a plain blue sweater since he already has two (and he doesn’t have a whole lot of clothes). So I had to get creative and think outside the box.
What other colors could I add? Dylan suggested light brown or creme. I found a Madeline Tosh variegated blue as well as a “camel” tan Malabrigo Rios. But something was missing. I needed a darker brown, or variegated brown, or another color, I wasn’t sure.
I bought some undyed yarn and took it to Laura. Next thing you know, I get this gorgeous brown back that perfectly compliments my other colors.
A New Hobby
I’ve dyed fabric before, and done batik, silk painting, quilting, oil painting, fiber art, etc., all kinds of stuff. I’m interested in the whole yarn dyeing process and I’ve watched Laura in action and seen all her beautiful photos of skeins hanging to dry in the breeze. But for some reason, I find the whole process intimidating. Then one day, at a local craft faire, I end up chatting for quite some time with Rachel St. John of Squirrel Mountain Fiber Arts who encourages me to try and recommends the dyes she uses. She shows me this handy guide that breaks down the percentages of base colors to get the end result you are looking for. This bit of knowledge puts me over the edge and I go home and order the dyes and skeins online.
After watching a few YouTube videos, I realize that there are many different ways to approach dyeing yarn. Now I’m hesitant again, not sure how to get started, and afraid I’m going to tangle up all the yarn in the process.
Eventually, I decide to just use the instructions that came with the dyes I bought. It’s much more complicated than I thought and I don’t have all the supplies I’d like, such as a thermometer or a Ph tester.
But I push on. I have already decided that I want to do a “winter” color palette with dark greens, browns, tan or light grey, burnt/rust orange, and maybe a brick red. The first color I’ll start with is green. I’ve been telling my sister-in-law for a few years now that I’m going to make her a hat, and I know green is her favorite color, so I’ve got this in the back of my mind.
I put one skein of superwash worsted merino in warm water in a stainless steel pan and let it sit for fifteen minutes. I mix up the dye (50% yellow and 50% blue). Then I add that and slowly bring up the temperature of the water. It is a deep green color. I am gently stirring the yarn with a wooden spoon and using a meat thermometer to see if the temp is raising up to 180 degrees. Then I add a teaspoon (or a little more) of citric acid to the pot. Within a few minutes, the water sort of clears. Not 100% clear, but I can definitely see the bottom now. I let it sit a little longer (the directions say to bring up to 210 degrees) and then turn off the heat.
After the water has cooled down and it is almost completely clear (still has a tinge of green though), I take the pan and yarn down to the basement to rinse. It seems like it takes forever, at least ten solid rinses to get the dye out and even then the water is turning the faintest green.
I finally am ready to hang up my beautiful yarn the way Laura does and mine is all in a clump! Now I’m freaked out, thinking there’s no way I’ll be able to untangle it, even though I’m thrilled at the color green I’ve created.
I know Laura will help me, and she had recommended I use shoe laces or something, but I didn’t do what she said (I’m a pain that way). Then I check Google and see this video… which works perfectly. I find the loops and smack the yarn across my legs and the tangles fall away.
And so I’ve dyed my first skein of yarn. I know I handled the yarn too much so it’s kind of fuzzy now and I need more supplies for the next time, but I’m excited about this new hobby of mine and looking forward to dyeing again soon.