in which I custom- dye the first yarn

(Warning: this post includes pictures of my kitchen, which is desperately in need of updating. There will be Formica. There will be paneling. There will be a 1940’s oven! Not for the weak of heart.)

The first yarn is in the oven!

I started with the simplest colorway- the pinks and greens of Heather’s images. Heather posted three images; I was able to get permission from two of the image owners to reprint them here. Here are the two images I’m using from Heather’s selections!


(An image by Diana Hobart, used with permission.)


(An image by moknits, used with permission.)

Because these were both images of someone else’s yarn, I wanted to be careful to use these as inspiration- I didn’t want to lift anyone else’s work. I sat down and experimented with some pinks and greens.

Last night, I did some test colorways on Falkland roving. Silk and wool
take up dye differently, but I wanted to do a more technical
experiment. At times, when you mix dyes, unexpected things happen. I’m
glad I tested it out- my first attempt at a pink and green colorway
without a barrier of white between the dyes came out very…
interesting. Interesting being a euphemism in this case for ugly- as- sin, as well as not- at- all– what- I- was- going- for.

We live, we learn.

After the tests, I got ready to dye. First, I soaked the silk yarn in superhot water and dishsoap for 24 hours.


When the yarn was ready, I did the most important thing to this entire process: I made tea.


I cannot overestimate the importance of the tea.

After tea, I laid the yarn out in a roasting pan. (Note: all of the kitchen- type equipment I use for dyeing is dedicated to dyeing only! I don’t have hard evidence of how toxic acid dyes may or may not be, but I’m not about to find out. Once you use a piece for dyeing, please don’t use it to cook food!)


I padded the silk yarn with pre- soaked Falkland wool in order to make sure the dye in the pot didn’t travel anywhere. I wanted to do several grades of color in the same bunch and I wanted to minimalize the strange purples and browns that happen when pinks and green mix, so the roving was necessary.

I used Mason jars to mix concentrates for the green and the pink- the deep version of the color I’d wanted.


I added the pinks first, putting a dark pink in the far corner.


I used my fingers to squish the dye it into the yarn and fiber, lifting and separating it a little to make sure the dyes went all the way to the bottom layers, then pushing it down towards the center to get more muted colors.

Then I went to the other end of the pan and started adding my green- a deep, concentrated color.


If you look on the right there, you can see how some of the pink got away from me on the side, there. (See that purpling I was talking about, too?) I used a piece of unsoaked wool to soak up excess dye to try to prevent any more of that. That piece of fiber gets kept to the side, to be wet down and then warmed up in the microwave later. It’ll turn into play yarn or get added to a batt later.

I repeated the process with my fingers, separating the layers, squishing the yarn and fiber about very gently to work the dye in. I add dye in very small amounts and I try to get it absorbed as much as I can before adding any more.

At this point, I had something I almost liked. I blended the lightest its of the colors together in the center of the pan by adding small amounts of very diluted dye and then carefully massaging it in, then I darkened the green on the far end again. Still, it wasn’t quite what I wanted. I went back and looked at the pictures again, and decided to deepen the dark end of the pinks- that splash of dark pink was my favorite part of the Handmaiden yarn. I took some diluted pink and added a hint of burgundy to it, then put it at the very top of the pinks.


(Sorry for the blur, there- I was trying to catch the process as it happened.)

Finally, I thought it was about ready. Before I cooked in the color, this is what it looked like.


I turned the oven to 250 degrees, put the cover on the roasting pan, and put it in the oven. That’s where it is right now, actually! I have high hopes. More pictures when this has cooled and is rinsed. Heather, I hope this is something like you had in mind!

Thursday I expect to be doing the second yarn- tomorrow is no good, as it is Happy Hour. I’ll do my best to document that one, too- I’m really looking forward to the challenge of all those oranges and purples!

(Edited to add: I did get permission to post Heather’s third image- here it is!)


(Reprinted here with permission; this image came from memake, who also has a lovely Etsy shop full of bags and fun accessories.)

  One thought on “in which I custom- dye the first yarn

  1. March 25, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Wow. That looks amazing! I am so jealous. What a cool skill to have. Starting to feel like I should really figure out how to dye. I can’t imagine being able to just dye up any colorway I wanted! Inspiring.

  2. nicole
    March 26, 2008 at 4:49 am

    This is totally amazing. I would never have thought to use roving as a kind of sponge to soak up the extra dye!
    Does the roving stay ok to spin like that or do you re card it after dyeing? I dyed roving before and we can safely say it was a huge mess :-/ so, I’m trying to learn how to do it before messing up again 😉

  3. March 26, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Hi – you have permission to use my image too. I did contact you via flickr mail

  4. March 26, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Yes! Yes! yes! I think I just had a yarn-gasm!!! hehehe

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