Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dye Techniques: Space Dye in a Circle

I've decided to document the different techniques I've used dyeing yarn in my time.  Usually I don't stick to the same technique for an extended period, so I've tried many many different ways so far.  

This is the latest way I've tried space dyeing, cold dyeing with containers under the yarn to keep the colours separated and less messy.  This is a good method if you want to do repeatable colourways, because it would be easy to keep track of colour positioning and proportions.

Start with a nice soak in water with some white vinegar and squirt of washing up detergent. I like to loosely tie my skeins with a zip-tie, that way it's easy to grab the skein up out of dye, and is secure if the yarn ties snap so you don't get a tangled mess.  Make sure it is tied loose though so that it doesn't hinder the dye uptake process and leave a white stripe on your yarn.  Squeeze out the excess water before starting to dye, you want the yarn to be wet but not sopping wet.

Mix up your dyes.  I bought a bunch of small drink bottles I bought from The Reject Shop.  I like to make my dyes up a few hours at least before doing the dyeing.  This makes sure all the granules of dye have a chance to dissolve in the water.  There's nothing worse than undissolved dye granules making dots on your pretty yarns.  The reason I use the squeezy drink bottles is then I can squeeze the dye into the yarn making sure to saturate all the yarn with the dye, easier to do squirting it on.  I have a piece of paper towel on hand to check what colour I'm about to use, since I went and bought coloured drink bottles.

Lay your yarn on some divided trays.  I got this pack of three for a couple of bucks from Overflow.  make sure the yarn is evenly distributed around the circle, dipping into each section.  Squeeze your dyes into the fibres, making sure you get the dye into all the undyed sections.

It's unlikely that your first application will get all the fibres dyed, so I take a big 60ml syringe and suck up the liquid from the container and squeeze it over the rest of the yarn.  At one point when I think I have all the fibres dyed, I flip it over to see the underside.  More often than not, the underside has white patches, or unevenly dyed sections.  In order to get a good match at the beginning of your skein to the end of the skein, it's best to try to have it homogenous throughout the thickness of the skein.

A slightly tricky part of the circle is wrapping in glad wrap.  I do one container at a time, wrap it and take the container away, trying to keep colours from touching each other.  I don't want to spend a bunch of time dyeing yarn to have them bleed together during cooking.  Try to resist the urge to squeeze out too much of the excess dye, as it will absorb into the yarn during the cooking. 

All wrapped up and ready to go.

I place it on my microwave tray where it was dyed.  Again, trying very hard to keep the colours from touching.  During the cooking, the glad wrap can melt onto itself and if yarns of different colours are touching, they will bleed together.

Microwave for 2 minutes, rest for 2 minutes.  Repeat a few times.  Like 3-4 times.  If you think you are over exciting the fibres, they will felt and it's time to stop.  Try to not touch or play with them during the heating/resting process, because heat + agitation = felting.
LET THE YARN COOL COMPLETELY before unwrapping.  The dye is set upon cooling, if you rinse before it's cooled the colours will dull.

Rinse your yarn in lukewarm water, if you let your yarn cool completely, there shouldn't be very much rinse out, although blue and black might bleed and bleed and bleed.  Then you soak your yarn in some lukewarm woolwash, I suggest SOAK, it's kind on fibres and smells delish.

Hang your skein out to dry.  Another benefit of the zip-tie, it's great to hook up for drying.

Reskeining I do by hand right now.  I dream of one day having an electric skein winder, but alas that is not my current situation.  I use a swift (this one made by Julia's husband Blair, you can buy them on her blog) and a niddy noddy.  This one I made, just a few bibs and bobs from Bunnings, I'll do a post about it one day.

The reskeining process, my favourite part.  I love seeing the colours meld together.  *bliss*

And the reskeined goodness.  Just sublime.

Shan xx


  1. great tute Shan, your inspiring me to get off my bum and do some dyeing again. Cable ties, just brilliant too!