Indie dyed variegated yarns and rovings are all the rage now and they are easier to create at home than you might think. Create your own bright or subtle variegated yarns and rovings with this easy technique. You will soon have unique one-of-a-kind colorways for all your projects.
- Dharma Acid Dyes and Jaquard Acid Dyes - we used DAD - 425 Amethyst, 455 Royal Purple, 416 Peacock Blue, 413 True Black
- Dyeable Wool Yarn or Roving- we used #YARN 65
- Citric Acid or Vinegar
- Plastic Wrap
- Squeeze Bottles- we used 8 oz, 16 oz are good if you are dyeing more skeins
- Large pot and spoon - stainless is best
- Veggie steamer or bamboo steamers
- Spoons and cups for mixing
- Nitrile gloves
- Synthrapol or Professional Textile Detergent
- Eucalan Wool Wash (optional)
- Cotton Twine
- Salad spinner or Spin Dryer (great when drying multiple skeins at once)
- Measuring Spoons or Scale depending on how you measure your dye for repeatable results
- Bucket or dishtub
- Written and Photographed by Elizabeth Holdmann for Dharma Trading Co.
Let's get started!
Let's Get Started!
Using the cotton twine, tie your skein loosely in a few more places; you want at least 4 ties around the skein to help keep it organized and untangled.
Fill the bucket or dish tub with warm tap water, a drop or two of Synthrapol and Citric Acid/Vinegar. Use 1 TBS of Citric Acid per quart of water or if you are using vinegar use 50/50 water to vinegar in the soak as vinegar is more dilute. (Ex: 1 cup water to 1 cup Vinegar) Lower the skein into the water by one of the ties and gently push it down under the water with the large spoon. Let it soak at least 1 hour, but overnight is ideal, especially for finer fibers like alpaca and silk. You want the fibers to be completely soaked.
Use the salad spinner or the dryer to spin out excess soak water until the yarn is just damp to the touch.
Cover your work space with plastic wrap; be sure to overlap a couple pieces as you are going to wrap the yarn in it and you don't want dye to leak out. Lay out the yarn on the plastic wrap.
Lay your yarn out flat over the plastic wrap.
Mix your dyes with hot tap water, making sure they are fully dissolved, and pour them into the squeeze bottles. Snip the tip of the bottles so the dye flows out easily but not too fast.
Pro-tip: test this with water if you are using a new bottle before using it to dye.
Wait! How Much Dye Do I Use?
The amount of dye depends on how dark you want your colors. The yarn we used comes in an approximately 150 gram skein. Normally we would want to use 1.5% weight of goods for a solid color, about 2.25 grams of dye. Since we are using four colors we want to divide that to about a ½ gram of dye per color. If you are using black, then use 1 gram of black. This roughly works out to about ¾ tsp per color for a medium shade, in most colors, and 1.5 tsp for black. Use more or less dye for different shades.
Pro-tip: if unsure of how much dye to use, call Dharma! Let us help.
Start applying the dye. Using the squeeze bottles, apply the first color to different areas of the yarn. Only use about half the dye and then go on to the next color.
Once you have coated one side of the skein, carefully flip the skein over and apply the same colors in the same pattern on the back of the skein. Check to make sure the dye is getting into the center of the skein. You can gently push the yarn around a bit to help the dye penetrate.
Fold the plastic wrap over your yarn/roving length-wise then fold in the ends. If you can, fold the skein in a couple times to make a packet that will fit in your pot for steaming.
In your steaming pot put a couple inches of water and the steamer basket. Make sure the steamer is going to hold the yarn/roving out of the water. Heat it up to a simmer on high and then turn the heat down. You don't want it to boil away too quickly but you need plenty of steam.
Place the yarn onto the steaming basket in the steamer and put on the lid. Let it steam for about 45-60 min. You can steam multiple skeins at once, as many as your steamer will hold without stacking them.
Let the yarn cool a bit before you unwrap it and let it cool further before rinsing. You don't want to shock the yarn by rinsing it too soon as it can result in felting. Once it is mostly cool, soak it in cool water with a bit of Synthrapol. Do a couple rinse soaks with just plain water. In the last soak you can use some Eucalan Wool Wash to smooth the yarn and make it soft again.
Spin the water out one last time to help the yarn dry faster. Once it is dry you can wind it into a ball and start knitting, crocheting or weaving the project of your dreams. Dye up some more skeins and arrange them in a nice basket in your craft room for inspiration!