Some years ago, I took a great book out of the library. I wanted to learn how to dye my own yarn to capture my passion for color! I poured over it's pages, renewed it and was sad to give it back. A year later I found it and eagerly purchased it. And this weekend I put it to good use!
The book I speak of is
Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece: Custom-Color Your Favorite Fibers with Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing, and Other Creative Techniques by Gail Callahan. (I've linked to it on Amazon and if you're even remotely interested in dyeing fiber I strongly suggest getting yourself a copy!)
I opted to try out the instructions for dying miniskeins in a colorwheel in mason jars. With some simple supplies, about an hour of real work, and a few hours drying time I had some cute little skeins of bright happy colors!
All I needed was:
*Some white yarn, animal fiber is suggested and I heartily back this. I used a nylon blend and you can see that the nylon didn't take it as lovely as the wool content did.
*A run-of-the-mill box of food coloring. (Mine was $1.50 at Target)
*12 Mason Jars (the half-pint size will work but I used the pint)
*3 Containers that will hold 2 Cups of Fluid (I used large drinking glasses)
*White Vinegar (About two cups)
*A large mixing bowl/bucket/pot
*A large mixing bowl/bucket/pot
*Newsprint and (optional) freezer/wax paper
And I think that's about it
I started by winding my miniskeins. I used the back of a kitchen chair and wrapped the yarn 12 times, making 12 skeins. I tied my skeins in 3 places, including the ends, using figure eights to secure them. It worked exceptionally well for me.
See? Nothing too fancy.. As I wound I plopped them into my jars as my way of counting... I'm a bit odd like that though. This is also a great way to entertain your daughter who would rather watch you than Finding Nemo on this particular afternoon.
After this I pulled out a large bowl (a pot or clean bucket would work nicely as well) and made a 3-part-water 1-part-vinegar solution. I used 6 Cups of Water, and 2 Cups of White Vinegar. I then took my skeins and submerged them in the solution making sure they were entirely saturated. I let them soak for 15 minutes. While they soaked I prepared my dye!
Into each of the 3 drinking glasses I poured 2 cups of water. In the first glass I added 1 tsp of yellow food color. In the second I added 1/2 tsp of red food color. And in the third I added 1/4 tsp of food color. I mixed them well with a spoon, being careful not to mix dyes and rinsing my spoons between each glass.
This is where I laid out my newspaper on the table too! I laid it out in a thick layer and then put freezer paper over it wax-side down. This allowed me to make notes next to each jar AND protect my table. I also secured the corners with tape so it wouldn't shift around on me.
Next I laid out my mason jars and jotted down identifying numbers next to each!! I found it easier to track my steps right on the paper so I didn't make a mistake on account of forgetfulness. Then I added the color-water to the jars.
For your primary colors place 12 tsps of your dye into the jar. For your secondary 6 tsp + 6 tsp of your primaries. For your tertiary colors (examples: Blue-green, Yellow-green, etc.) a 9 to 3 ratio will accomplish this. The complete breakdown and step-by-step per jar is in the book if you're unclear or would like a precise recipe to follow. I would jot down each quantity next to the jar immediately after adding it to the jar. For example a simple 12R. Or 6B. then when I followed with the next color I would add it. This way I didn't have to wash my teaspoons after every jar, I could do a straight shot of each primary instead.
Now all of your jars should have 12 tsps in them. Now here's where you can learn from my stupidity. I immediately dumped my excess dye down the drain and washed out my glasses. Don't rush to do that!!! Set them to the side where they won't be spilled or knocked. We'll come back to them later.
How is your yarn doing in it's bath? Has it been 10-15 minutes yet? (If you're like me it's been closer to 20) Go and get it! Drain out as much of the excess vinegar water into your sink as you can without agitating your yarn or losing a skein down the drain. Now move over to your dye jars! Gingerly squeezing out each miniskein in your hand, go ahead and place one in each jar. Make sure the skein is completely covered in dye with no white spots. I used a crochet hook and rinsed and/or/wiped it down between each jar.
Now let them sit for 30 minutes. Read a few blogs, mess around on Pinterest, Instagram your project (I did!) just find a way to kill a half hour. This next part is a round robin activity so make sure the area around your microwave is pretty clear.
One by one microwave each mason jar for 1 minute. When you remove it (It will be HOT, but I'm sure you know that) tilt the jar and look at the water with light behind it. Is it pretty much clear? Awesome! Set that jar down for a moment and place the next in the microwave. Is there still some color? Pop it in for another 30 sec. (I found the reds to be the worst culprit).
After your clear-water jar has cooled off a little, drain the water out so the yarn cools faster. You can even GENTLY move your yarn to a plate or something so more air surrounds it. When you have 3 empty jars, rinse them out and you now have lidded containers to store your primary color dyes!! **When I was done I couldn't wait to take what I'd learn and do a larger skein and I kicked myself for wasting my dye. Not so much because of cost, but effort.**
Now all of your jars been heated? Water clear? Drained? Remove your skeins from them if you haven't already. Lay them out to cool to room-temperature.
Now, remember that bowl/pot/bucket from your vinegar solution? Rinse it out and fill it with room-temperature water. when the yarn has cooled (not dried, that's not important, they just can't be hot) take it and gently rinse it in the water. Rinsing entails squeezing out any leftover moisture (vinegar/dye) into the sink then allowing it to soak up the room-temp water. Then gently squeeze out the excess water and lay it out to dry much like you did before. Do this for each skein!
When it dries you can lay it out and make a rainbow, like this one!
You can also make adorable little wound min-skeins and make little tags identifying color as well as dye ratio you used!
I'm going to use them with a contrast black yarn to do some fun rainbow fair-isle! You should give it a shot too! And once again this book is FANTASTIC. It makes dyeing approachable for everyone, and any crafter can find excellent reasons for dyeing their own fibers, even in small quantities. A must-have!