Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Dyeing Sock Yarn

Another productive day today!
I placed a fairly large order with World of Wool at the beginning of the week. They have a great selection of wool and at excellent prices. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to build up the selection of acid dyes I have. Lately, I have been knitting a lot of socks so it would only make sense to experiment with dyeing sock yarn. Here is a wee step by step for hand painting your own sock yarn:

 You will need:

  • White/natural sock yarn (as many skeins as you wish to dye)
  • Acid dyes (I have used Eurolana)
  • White vinegar
  • Empty glass jars
  • A brush
  • Plastic sheeting/newspaper
  • Cling film
  • A steamer or a large pot


Your skeins will need a good soaking to allow the dye to penetrate the yarn. Soak the yarn in warm water with a little bit of wool wash and leave for about 20 minutes.

I have chosen a sock yarn that is 75% Blue Faced Leicester and 25% nylon. Most commercial sock yarns will have a small percentage of man made fibres blended in to make the yarn more durable. Tears would certainly be induced after spending hours dyeing and knitting your socks only for them to withstand a few weeks of wear.

 Set up your work area/dye solution:

Make sure your work area is covered with a plastic sheet or layers of newspaper...or both! Your glass jars should be clean and it is helpful if you have lids for them. This way you can save any mixed up dye solutions in a dark place until your next dyeing adventure.
The acid dyes are in powder form so you can mix a few of them together to achieve the colours you desire or keep them as flat bold tones. You will only need a small amount of powder so be sparing! It is quite difficult to tell how the colour will look on your yarn, so it is handy to keep a piece of white paper nearby to paint a little bit of solution onto, therefore you can gauge if you need to add more dye.

Add your dye into the jar, mix with roughly 100mls of cold water and add two spoonfuls of vinegar to help fix the dye. Mix up all of the colours you need.
Lay out some cling film and place your skein on the surface, making sure you have squeezed out as much water so the yarn is only damp.

 Let's get painting!

Here comes the creative part. You can simply paint the yarn in stripes, contrasting colours, half and half, etc. A water colour brush (like the one I am using) is probably not the best idea because it takes forever to paint the yarn. A foam brush would be a better option.

The first yarn I painted is a mixture of a dull browny red, purple and navy. The second had a lime green base colour with darker olive tones and some more purple and navy dotted out in the middle section. It is exciting to think about how these will both knit up!

Take care in thoroughly covering all of the yarn with dye by turning it over and checking for hidden white parts.

Once it is all painted, wrap the yarn up in the cling film so it is all sealed and ready to be steamed.


Place your wrapped up skeins into the steamer. If you only have a large pot, you can make a shelf for steaming out of some tin foil with some holes punched into it as long as the yarn isn't touching the water. You can also use a microwave for setting the dye in yarn. Roughly around 6 minutes should work although you shouldn't use the same microwave for food and dyeing. Similarly with the steamer pot, it should only be used for dyeing. 
Put the lid on and let it steam for 30 mins. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, then unwrap and rinse out any excess dye under some cold water. I normally hang yarn in the shower to dry with a small weight. Once your yarn is dry...

Ta da!

Now your beautiful freshly dyed yarn is ready to knit with/sell/give to a friend.
I can hardly wait to knit these into socks!

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Basics: Making Yarn

I found it rather difficult trying to teach myself to make yarn. There are so many options, quite a selection of tools you can use and an endless variety of fibres. The terminology that comes with yarn design is a whole other thing. So I've decided to write this post about my preferences in materials and equipment, along with some new images of my latest yarn. After all, I did find reading tips and hints from other blogs extremely helpful while I was learning the basics.

This post is mainly to show the whole process from fibre to finished yarn. I will be posting some more detailed tutorials on the individual sections soon.

Here is a rough idea of the process:

Select your fibres. 
Personally, I find that merino is a good choice purely for the vast selection of colours available and it is soft and easy to spin with. In this blend I have used 70% red corriedale and 15% each of purple and green merino. Corriedale tends to be a little bit rougher than merino, but the fibres are a bit longer too.

It is important to prepare your fibres properly. You can do this by either using a hand carder (as shown in the middle image below) or with a drum carder. Hand carders are often a better option because they are transportable, small, and they are easy to use for blending smaller amounts of fibres together. A drum carder is much more suitable for preparing larger amounts of fibre in one go (up to 50 grams or 100 grams depending on the model). You can find out how to use carders HERE. The reason for hand carding is to produce rolags (as shown in the right image below) which are then used for spinning.

Now we are ready for spinning!

It is very easy to be lazy and only create singles when spinning yarn (instead of plying two singles together to make a plied yarn). Plied yarns are stronger and the twist on the yarn is an attractive feature. The left image below shows singles on the bobbin and the middle shows a full bobbin of 2 ply yarn. To work the yarn into a skein you can use a niddy noddy

Setting the twist.
Now the yarn is tied at a few points to prevent it from getting tangled. The twist in the yarn is set by placing it in a basin of warm water and a small amount of wool wash (not too hot - you don't want the heat to felt it!). After letting it soak for 10 minutes, excess water is removed by gently squeezing the yarn and wrapping it in a dry towel. I hang my drying yarn over part of my shower and normally add a small weight (I use a shower gel bottle with a big hook) to keep it straight so the yarn isn't crinkly. Once your yarn is completely dry you can twist it into a skein.

And that's it! You can add your new yarn to your stash or unwind it to begin knitting. 

Monday, 10 October 2011


Today, I've been having a bit of eco-fun. We all have unwanted or unworn clothes in our wardrobes and due to the lack of space in my studio/room I thought I'd make some use out of the extra clothes taking up space.

I started with two tops, cutting the pink vest into strips for creating a cotton jersey yarn suitable for knitting on a larger gauge. The other part of the white tshirt will take a bit longer to finish because I have cast on through the material ready for knitting. With the remainder of both tops, I simply stitched them together to create a two toned vest and managed to knit up a matching bracelet from the jersey yarn. Here's a closer look:

By the end of the week, I may have upcycled most of my clothes.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


It's that time of year again where hats and jumpers are allowed a few months of fresh (and icy) air, instead of festering in the bottom of the wardrobe. Thank goodness! Every knitter loves winter.
I thought I would begin this blog with the pleasant results from handpainting some handspun corriedale yarn. Just a few inches of cuff to go:

Hand dyed mittens

I used an old picture frame with a few screws as pegs to re-skein the yarn into sections ready for dyeing. It was my first time using any kind of dye for yarn. I had some navy and purple Ashford acid dyes, although the purple looks more like magenta. Perhaps I mixed the dye solution with a bit too much water, but I can see myself using dyes rather often once I've built up a small collection of colours to play with. Next time I will take some photos.