More than a year ago I had a notion that I’d like to give yarn dyeing a go. You know how it is, you have enough yarn to last you two lifetimes but what is some more between friends and why not spice up your already busy life with a little dye?! ; )
I follow Devon Sun Yarns online and in addition to their own hand-dyed yarn they sell yarn dyeing kits and undyed bases so I bought everything from there. I didn't want to complicate it by buying individual bits from different suppliers, that was for sure! Of course, once it arrived, it ended up in my stash because I was a bit nervous because if there is one thing about dyeing that makes me nervous, it’s the dyeing … not the dyeing of the yarn but of all the other things, like kitchen worktops, floors, even other fluffy house residents that may accidentally occur!
Gloves, thank goodness!
Then, fast forward a year to owning a yarn shop, and it was time to see what happened when a complete novice creates their own hand-dyed yarn. People sometimes ask why hand-dyed yarn is more expensive than commercially dyed yarn and I think the outcome illustrates that even at twice the price, hand-dyed by experts is definitely worth it!
So I dug out the kit and discovered that in my wisdom (hhmm!) I had bought not one or two sock skeins but 5 (FIVE!!) skeins of double knitting. We wouldn’t be knitters / crafty folk if we didn’t have those ‘Go hard or go home, good idea at the time’ situations!
Yep, 5 skeins of Double Knitting ... 5!!
After discovering my zealous yarn purchase, I read the instructions that came with the kit, very very carefully – back to that ‘dye all the things’ nervousness!
Then, after all the very careful reading, it was time to buy the necessary bits. This is a mark of how I am, at least a little, older and wiser than I was in my 20s. Back then, I’d have thrown caution into the wind, dug things out as I discovered I needed them, and wreaked the place! I didn’t need a lot, just a cheap washing up bowl and a large (massive) roll of kitchen paper. I already had cling film and jam jars, which seem to breed in our house. Everything else I needed was in the kit.
A random assortment of jam jars, a must for every home!
A note if you are trying this: Something that took me a while to work out was a heat source. I found it quite tricky to figure out how immersion dying went or steaming with a sauce pan. I also didn’t want to use the micro so eventually settled on an old electric steamer. If you are doing this yourself, do a bit of research to see what will work best for you.
Once everything was ready, it was time to do as I was told! I popped the yarn in to soak and then put cling film just about everywhere, mixed up the colours, quite randomly, to make red, blue, green, purple and yellow … all in varying strengths and with no science … just a primary colour wheel I found on Google.
I knew I would find a use for all the kebab skewers I bought last Summer!
After the yarn was fully soaked through, I spread all 5 skeins out on the cling film, not overlapping them but quite close together. I used the brush and the dropper that came with the kit and I must say, using the dropper to apply dye has to be in the top five most fun things you can do on your own. As I wanted the skeins to match, I put each colour onto the same part of each skein in the same amounts (the final skeins would reveal that I managed ‘kind of the same amounts’ rather than ‘exactly the same amounts’)!
Almost matching ... almost!
Following that, I wrapped them in the cling, popped them into the streamer and turned it on. Half way through I rearranged them as they tried to escape from the steamer (5 skeins of DK is the absolute yarn capacity of a three tier electric steamer apparently (some manufacturers may vary! ; )).
Once the time was up, I tested one skein but the water didn’t run clear so I put my patience hat on, rewrapped the skein and put them on for more time.
The skeins having a little bath
After that, I hung the skeins to dry … and I nearly had to glue my patience hat to my head. We live in an old 30s house, the weather was miserable so the skeins only had a few hours outisde and inside the temperature never reaches a level that would dry very dry things, let alone wet wool.
Next time, it'll be a hot Summers day!
4 long days later it was ready to cast on!
This is the result! 500g of DK knit into a Lush Cardigan from Tin Can Knits. The damp skeins looked far more vibrant than the final colours which are quite faded. I do like the way the colours have pooled in the sleeves and while it’s gaudy, this cardigan makes me grin a bit every time I see it. It’s wonky but it really is entirely unique (some would say ‘thank goodness’!).
My wonky but unique Lush Cardigan
Will I dye my own yarn again? Yes!!! It was amazing. I can’t wait to do it again to be honest. Would I recommend it? Absolutely!! It is great fun and there is something about it being your own yarn that makes you want to knit it up quickly so it shouldn’t remain a WIP for long!
Is there a possibility of some own-hand-dyed for The Loveliest Yarn Company? It’s hard to say no as a small yarn business because hand-dyed yarn is very popular and, with work, can become a signature part of a business. Perhaps some seasonal yarns, such as Christmas sock yarns, as fun colours rather than repeatability are more important. I always say I want ‘Peace and Quiet’ for Christmas, so I may just dye a batch of that!
At full scale though, where I think committing to consistency of availability and repeatability of colourways are really key, and something I see from the best hand-dyers, I feel that hand-dying is best left to the experts!
When I get a skein of Garden Party from Life In the Long Grass or a colour wheel from The Knitting Goddess, I know that I am getting a beautiful, consistent experience created by people whose lives are about colour and it’s application to natural fibres. When I see my cardigan, I know it for the home experiment that it is. Those differences are why hand-dyed yarn is often a little more expensive than commercially dyed yarns, because someone with great skill created something very beautiful by hand that you can then go on and turn into something very beautiful by hand.
Definitely not a professional!
And that is not to mention all the work that needs to be done before any dye is even applied but for that I would encourage you to visit the studios of hand dyers where possible and see the work being done and you’ll marvel that we don’t pay a lot more for hand-dyed yarns! : )
If you fancy a go, you can buy the same kit as I used from the Devon Sun Yarns website . Be aware, if this is your first time to their site, we are not responsible for any acts of yarn / yarn retreat / yarn club purchases that may occur! From what I read on their Facebook Group, addiction to their yarn club yarns can be swift and often irreversible!
Now, those #threehatsthreedays hats are not going to finish themselves!
Happy knitting (and dyeing!),