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Can I get a drumroll, please? (Ba da Ba da Ba da Ba da Ba da…Shiing!) I have finally finished spinning all of the roving John gave me with my first spindle! Which means…it’s time to dye again.

I was so excited to start dying that I forgot to take a picture of the skeins before starting the process.

I was so excited to start dying that I forgot to take a picture of the skeins before starting the process.

It’s been a while since I did my first dye job, and I’m finding the online tutorials to be a bit murky for my purposes. I’m going to try to break the process down for you according to what seems to be the common threads between them all.

N.B. This process is for animal fibers only and is aimed towards using food-safe dyes like Kool-Aid and icing tints.

Step 1: Skein Up!

Wrap your yarn  into a skein using a niddy noddy (or the backs of a chair). Tie your skein. I’d recommend a cotton thread that won’t take the dye so you can see the ties easily later. More ties = fewer tangles.

Step 2: Pre-Soak

Soak your yarn in water overnight. White vinegar in the water will make the yarn take up the color more quickly, which might be not so helpful in dip-dyeing but can lead to some seriously vibrant color.

Step 3: Heat

Swapping your yarn too quickly between temperatures can cause it to felt, so find a method to apply heat to your yarn and water gradually, such as a slow cooker or microwave.

Using the slow cooker to set the dye.

Using the slow cooker to set the dye.

Step 4: Acid

White vinegar is a cheap, food-safe acid that will open the yarn up to accept the color without ruining your cookware. It also softens the yarn quite a bit, which might not be a great thing if your yarn is fragile. Use your best judgment.

Step 5: Dye

I’ve used Kool-Aid once, McCormick’s food colorings get mentioned a lot, and this time I’m going to play with Wilton’s icing colorings (for which this color chart might be useful). Mix the color in water the same temp as your dye bath in a separate container and test the color on a paper towel before adding it to the yarn!

The counter is covered in plastic to protect the tiles from the dye as I pull it out in batches to get varied colors.

The counter is covered in plastic to protect the tiles from the dye as I pull it out in batches to get varied colors.

Step 6: Time

The longer the yarn sits, the more concentrated the color. If the water runs clear before the yarn has reached the color you want, add more dye. Take notes on your dye proportions if you’re doing a mixed color.

Step 7: Cool Down

Letting the yarn cool its heels until it gets close to room temp will make it easier to handle and easier to not shock the yarn when you wash it. “Shocking” yarn is apparently somewhere in between “fulling” and “felting” and is probably best avoided.

After the yarn cooled, I soaked it gentle in a water and vinegar bath to set the color.

After the yarn cooled, I soaked it gentle in a water and vinegar bath to set the color.

Step 8: Hang & Dry

Wash the yarn with wool wash in water that is not colder than the yarn. Wring it out very gently. Hang it to dry. If it’s curling back on itself, you might want to weight it down lightly by hanging a towel over the bottom loop of the skein. Be careful not to overstretch the yarn if you do this, though, or it will lose its spring.

My clothes drying rack works nicely for hanging the yarn.

My clothes drying rack works nicely for hanging the yarn.

Step 9: Hank & Store

Wind your skein into a hank and store in a place where the moths can’t get to your lovely work. I like to store my yarns in freezer bags in a big plastic bin, but you can repel moths with cedar as well.

Raspberry Sorbet Yarn, ready to be knitted up into a shawl.

Raspberry Sorbet Yarn, ready to be knitted up into a shawl.

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