While children are dyeing eggs for Easter, yarn crafters can use the same supplies to dye yarn for future projects. Here are the guidelines on how to dye your own yarn..
Supplies needed: a microwave-safe baking dish, an egg dye kit, distilled vinegar, a measuring cup, a measuring spoon, four or five plastic cups (the dye can stain), rubber gloves, a fork, plenty of water, a microwave, clear cling wrap, and of course, natural yarn in a skein. The yarn used in the demonstration is Universal Yarn’s Wool/Nylon Sock Weight from their Ready to Dye collection.
First, the yarn needs to pre-soak. Use a 4:1 ratio of water and vinegar (or two cups of water to a half-cup of vinegar) in the baking dish, and place the yarn in the bath. Make sure your yarn skein is in one big loop, and that it is tied so it does not tangle in the water. After using your hands to squish the yarn, you can drain excess water when there are no more dry spots.
Then, prepare your dyes in the plastic cups by placing a tablet in each cup, followed by a tablespoon of vinegar. After one minute, add half a cup of water to each cup and verify that the tablets are completely dissolved. Between three and four tablets is enough to dye a skein of 100g sock yarn; other weights and quantities will need different amounts of dye. Keep in mind that the colors will combine the way we learned in elementary school: red dye mixed with yellow will make orange, for example. If you want precise color changes, the yarn will either need to be dipped in the cups, or it will need to be syringed or painted onto the yarn.
The easiest way to spread the dye is to pour it directly onto the yarn in the baking dish. Use a fork to spread the yarn and ensure the color gets to the bottom of the dish, and saturates every strand. Leave all excess water in the dish this time, and cover and seal the dish with cling wrap; the contained steam in the bowl will prevent the yarn from drying out and burning.
Microwave on high for three to four minutes, or until the cling wrap puffs above the dish. Let the dish sit in the microwave for five to seven minutes, and then heat for another two minutes on high. After letting the yarn rest for another five minutes, lift the cling wrap, being careful to not hurt yourself with the steam. If the water in the bottom of the dish is completely clear, take the dish out to cool. If not, continue to heat for two minutes and cool for five minutes until it is clear. Two cycles should be enough, however.
After the dish has cooled to the point where you can comfortably hold the sides of the dish without a pot holder, place the yarn in a large sink or bathtub and run cool water over it until the vinegar is rinsed out, or about ten minutes. Gently squeeze excess water out of the skein and then hang it to dry as a loop, so the air can get to every strand. If you have any white spots, all is not lost; you can just spot-dye the yarn.
The dye, of course, is food color, so it is permanent. Be careful the first time you wash your knitted garment with your egg-dye-kit yarn; to minimize the chance of dyeing any other clothes, wash the item for the first time with an old towel or pair of dark jeans to ensure all of they dye is removed in the first washing.
In the week after Easter, the egg dye kits get marked down at most major retailers to move their seasonal inventory quickly. The tablets for the dye will hold all year, and since dyeing is not an exact science and every yarn dyes differently, stocking up during post-Easter sales can keep you dyeing yarn all year for only a few pennies.
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Dyeing yarn with Easter egg dye
Make sure you have all of your tools and supplies ready before you begin dyeing your yarn with egg dye, including rubber gloves to protect the hands from becoming stained.
Pre-soak your yarn.
When you soak your yarn in water and vinegar, turn it over and squeeze it several times to ensure all strands are saturated with liquid. Leaving dry spots will cause the dye to absorb inconsistently.
Prepare your dye.
Prepare your dye in plastic cups so your everyday cups do not stain. The dyes are non-toxic, however, so this is a perfectly safe process even for children.
Pour the dye on the yarn.
The dye can be poured directly on the yarn. Use a fork or your gloved fingers to ensure all of the yarn catches the dye. Remember that the colors will mix as they would with paint: red, yellow, and blue all combined will create a brown color and diminish the brightness of the yarn.
Cover the yarn and place in the microwave.
Use the cling wrap as a seal to hold in the steam and keep your yarn moist while it heats in the microwave. Two to three heating and cooling cycles should be enough for the dye to set.
Cook until the water is clear.
Use your fork to check the middle bottom of the bowl. Is the water clear? This means that all of the dye has been absorbed and the yarn is ready to be rinsed.
Rinse the yarn in cool water.
Rinse the yarn for several minutes to remove all of the vinegar from the yarn. Do not shock the yarn with ice water, as this may weaken the fibers. You will also want to wash the finished item alone or with dark denim for the first post-knit wash.
Hang the yarn to dry.
Hang the yarn, still tied, on a hanger or pole until it dries completely. Keep the yarn away from direct heat, and watch for non-clear drips so you do not stain your tub. Once it is dried it can be re-twisted into a skein.
This is the “bad” skein; it is perfectly fine if you like the tie-dyed effect, but not if you want consistent color. This shows pink and yellow dyes mixing, blue and yellow dyes mixing, and several white spots because the dye was not saturated and spread with the aid of a fork or fingers.
Finished skein dyed with Easter egg color.
This skein shows all of the yarn absorbing the dye, color changes along the order of the color wheel spectrum, and the skein staying tied so there are no tangles to fix during the process.