Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Joy of Dyeing Yarn/Roving

I've been having so much fun dyeing my own yarn, and just recently, my roving.  It seems like a complicated process, but really, if you have the time and a few easy to find materials, it's easy.  There are so many different methods to do, and so far, I have only done microwave and crockpot dyeing using non-toxic dyes.  My plan is to write up more detailed descriptions of what I have dyed so far, but wanted to post a bit of a teaser for now.  

Why do I love dyeing my own fiber?  Because I can do whatever I want to do!  Always keeping in mind, though, that it may come out different than planned, and it will not be perfect.  However, I'm not striving for perfection at this point.  I just want to have fun, make colorful yarn, and enjoy the process.  

I've been choosing non-toxic dyes because (a) I am dyeing in my kitchen and dining room so I don't want toxic chemicals in my house, (b) they are easy to obtain and relatively inexpensive, (c) I'm just more of a non-toxic kind of girl.  The dyes of choice so far have been Kool Aid packets, Wilton's food coloring gel, and 
Greener Shades Dyes.  I find the Kool Aid packets at Kroger grocery store, the Wilton's at JoAnn's fabric store (they sell them in store, not online), and Greener Shades Dyes through Knit Picks.  Eventually, I would like to experiment more with natural dyes using food items and plants.
The bare yarn I dye comes from either my local yarn store, 
Fiberworks, or Knit Picks.  The roving comes from Fiberworks.  Keep in mind when looking for yarns to dye, that animal fibers absorb color better than plant fibers (like cotton or bamboo).  However, I have dyed blended yarns without problem, and as have my friends (bamboo with wool, superwash wool with nylon as just a few examples).

Tools for Dying:  As I said, the tools for dyeing are easy to find and fairly inexpensive.  **NOTE:  What you use for dying will ONLY be used for dying in the future.  Do not use something that you want to cook in later.  Keep your dye tools separate from your kitchen tools!**

Here's what I have been using (in no particular order):  
1.  Crockpot- I had an old crockpot that was my Grandma's that I use.  You can find used crockpots at the local Goodwill sometimes or thrift stores.  You could purchase one at Wal-mart or just about anywhere.  Doesn't have to be fancy...just something that has high and low temp on it.

2.  Plastic Sheet- You always want to cover your workspace (be it your counter or table) with plastic.  I found some recyclable plastic sheet at Lowe's for $5.00 or so.  I just cut it to fit my table and it works very well to protect things from the dye.  I also feel good about it because when I'm done with it (which I don't foresee that being anytime soon), I'll just toss it and know that it will biodegrade instead of taking up space in the landfill.

3. Microwave- You can dye in a crockpot, or you can use a microwave.  I've done both, but it's up to you what you want to do and what you have.  If you don't want to buy a crockpot, and you already have a microwave, then use it and save yourself some money.

4.  Dyes- Whatever dyes you choose.  See my list above for what I've been using.

5.  Plastic wrap- Seran wrap is OK, but for some reason, I find it gets hotter than the brand I typically buy at the grocery.  I prefer 
Environment Friendly Products If You Care plastic wrap.  I can buy it at my local Earth Fare grocery store.  If you are doing the crockpot method, you won't need this item.  I use plastic wrap when I'm handpainting and using the microwave as a heat source.

6.  Plastic gloves- Buy some heavy duty plastic gloves that have the long sleeves to protect your hands.

7.  Apron- Just common sense.  Don't want to get dye stuff on your clothes!  I usually wear old clothes when I'm dyeing anyways, but an apron is just added protection.

8.  Applicators- You can handpaint using 
sponge brushes **NOTE:  I like using Amazon to link products to show you what I'm talking about, but you don't have to buy these items from Amazon.  I buy my brushes from Lowe's.**, syringes (can ask for them from your local pharmacy), or small jars (I save jam/jelly jars and Ball jars) to dip into.

9.  If doing the microwave method, I recommend getting a microwave save bowl that is big enough for your plastic wrapped yarn.  I found an inexpensive glass Pyrex knock-off at Home Goods Store.

10.  Some other items that are helpful....old towels, clothing rack, tongs.

11. Vinegar!  Very important to have vinegar for dyeing.

12.  Face mask- I have 
this respirator that I purchased from Lowe's.  I only wear it when working with the Greener Shades Dyes.

Wow, a lot more things than I thought I was going to list here!  Don't feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff on this list.  Some of it is necessary, some of it are suggested items.  Just depends on what effect you are going for and what method of dyeing you want to do.  When I write out my detailed processes later, you'll have a better sense for what items you need for different projects.  Stay tuned for my next post on Microwave Dyeing!  :)


  1. Be sure to post progress pictures as you knit with this. I love these colors.

    1. Elizabeth: I will! I just started knitting with this yarn the other day. It will become my Metamorph cowl. :)