Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dyeing Yarn: Hand Painting and Microwave Heat

C&L Yarn Dyed by Kathryn

Yarn:  Universal Yarn Ready to Dye Collection Superwash Merino, Angora, Nylon Sock Weight. Purchased at Fiberworks in Beavercreek, OH

Dyes:  Kool Aid packets- Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade, Orange, Cherry, and Grape.

Heat Source:  Microwave

Applicator:  Sponge brush (you can see it in the lower, right hand corner of my pic to the left)

Tools Needed:  Yarn, Kool Aid packets (at least 2 per color of your choosing), microwave, gloves, plastic wrap, jars or cups to put the dye mixture into (one for each color), sponge brush (I used one and cleaned it between colors), apron, microwave safe bowl, vinegar, dish soap (I use PLANET unscented).

Thoughts and Process:  The yarn you see above was my very first Kool Aid dye experiment.  The day I made this yarn was my estimated due date for my twin sons, so needless to say, it was a very rough day for me.  Playing with dyeing yarn on that afternoon brought some much needed joy to my sad day.  I named it "C&L Yarn" after my boys, Colin and Liam.  

I started off with preparing the yarn.  To do this, just take your undyed yarn, and put it into a bowl.  Cover it with lukewarm water and a glug or two of vinegar.  Let soak for 30 minutes.  I usually prepare my dye space while my yarn soaks.

Get your cups/glasses/or jars (I use old jam/jelly jars or Ball jars for this...I'm going to use the word "jar" from here on for consistency), and place at least 2 Kool Aid packets of each color in each jar.  

Add water to the jars of Kool Aid.  NOT TOO MUCH!  You don't want to water down your color.  Maybe start with 100-150 ml first and then go from there.  I wasn't super precise when I made this yarn.  

If you want darker colors- Use more Kool Aid and less water.
If you want lighter colors- Use less Kool Aid and more water.

Be sure to stir the packets and water together well!

Once the yarn has properly soaked, empty the water and GENTLY squeeze out some of the excess water.  You don't want it dry, but not sopping wet either.

Arrange the yarn on the plastic in a big circle.  

Then the fun begins!  PAINT YOUR YARN!  :)  You can do this however you like.  I went for a different way by putting blocks of color, randomly, all over the yarn.  You can do strips, polka dots, half one color and half the other, whatever you want!  I used a sponge brush and just block colored as I went.  The trick is getting it to soak all the way through to the back side.  I did turn mine over and redid the back, but that can lead to smudging of colors.  I've since learned that if you put the color on, and press with your gloved fingers, it will go through to the backside easier without having to turn it all over.

My husband helped a little by mixing the ice blue and orange together (if I remember correctly...don't quote me on that!) to get a moss greenish color.  The grape looks more blackish in the pic, but when it dried, it looked like your classic purple color.  

Once you are finished painting, cover the top with plastic wrap, and roll it into a jelly roll shape.  Be careful as excess water and dye can run out at this point and make a mess.  Place the jelly roll into the microwave safe bowl, and put it into the microwave.

As far as heating in the microwave, I didn't do this the typical way as most people do.  I microwaved it on for 2 minutes and off for 2 minutes for about 2-3 rounds.  By doing such a low amount of heat, I do hope that my yarn will maintain the color over time.  If I had done it longer, it may have made the colors deeper.  

I would recommend doing a total of 14 minutes in the microwave.  Microwave for 2 minutes, then let it rest for 2 minutes, heat for 2, rest for 2, until you have 14 total minutes of heat.  If you heat too much, you run the risk of cooking your yarn.  Watch your time, and be patient with the process.  Be careful not to burn yourself too!  That plastic wrap gets hot!  

Once you have finished cooking your yarn (and man your house will smell funky after that!), sit it out somewhere to cool.  Don't be tempted to unroll it just yet...again it's HOT!

Once cooked, unwrap the plastic wrap and put it back into a bowl.  Rinse it with lukewarm water and a couple of glugs of vinegar.  Don't agitate it (move it around) too much.  Depending on the yarn you are using, you risk felting it if it's moved too much.  Just gently rinse and notice if your colors are running.  They shouldn't run at this point.  If the rinse water is free of color, you did well!  If you have a little bit of color coming out, that's OK.  The vinegar will help it set more and some colors are just harder to set completely than others.  

Then rinse your yarn with more water and a couple of drops of dish soap.  I use unscented dish soap since I hate fragrance, but use what you like.  Rinse well, but again, not too much agitation or squeezing.  Be gentle.

Press out as much water as possible and then place it onto an old towel.  Gentle roll the towel up around it and press to get any excess water out.  Take your gorgeous yarn and hang it up to dry.  I use a clothing rack in my living room with a bucket underneath to catch dripping water.  You can hang yours in the bathtub if you wish.  Let your yarn dry for about 24 hours.  

That's it!  You now have your very own unique, hand-painted yarn that, if you are like me, you'll be so excited to knit up into something!  

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know.  


  1. How do you get the skein wound so perfectly?

    1. Hi Yael, I have a skein winder and a swift to make my yarn cakes (as shown above). You can find pictures of these items here and here

  2. I can't wait to see what you knit from this yarn!