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!