Copyright 2006 Emma Snow
Dying your own yarn is not difficult and can be fun! There are a lot of methods for dying, but the one I like best uses unsweetened drink mixes, such as Kool-Aid or Flavor-Aid and a microwave. You must use 100% wool yarn (or another protein fiber) for the color to take. I?ve used Fisherman?s Wool with good results. To prepare the wool, make bundles of about two ounces each, tied with a short string. (I use yarn to tie my bundles, and then keep the ties on index cards with details on the yarn and amounts of mix I used for future reference. I experiment a lot!)
Soak wool bundles in hot water with a squirt of liquid dish soap for ? hour. While the bundles are soaking prepare your dye. You can use plastic cups for mixing. I like to mix up a bunch in a plastic container with a lid and store it for later use. Start with one package of drink mix for each ounce fiber you intend to dye. Mix with six ounces water and two ounces distilled white vinegar.
In summary: For each ounce fiber:
1 pkg. drink mix
6 oz. water
2 oz. vinegar
Feel free to experiment. The more drink mix you use, the brighter the color will be. You can mix several colors in separate cups and spatter the yarn with a turkey baster (or paint brush, or eye dropper?) or you can combine different flavors to get a blend.
Line a Pyrex-type glass casserole dish with plastic wrap, and remove the yarn from its bath. Carefully squeeze out the excess water. If you agitate the yarn too much it will start to felt, so you want to be very gentle! Place the yarn on the plastic wrap and pour the dye over it. Make sure all the yarn gets covered by the dye mix.
Wrap the plastic tightly around the yarn. You may want to secure the ends with masking tape, but it?s not necessary. Squish the liquid around again to make sure all the yarn has been covered. Microwave the bundle in the glass dish on high for two minutes. Remove the dish from the microwave and let rest for two minutes more. Check to see if the liquid is clear. Be careful, as it will be very hot! Keep hands and face away from the bundle in case steam is released.
If the liquid is not clear, return the bundle back to the microwave for another two minutes at a time. When the liquid is colorless it is finished. Remove the plastic wrap and rinse carefully in hot water. Feel free to let the yarn cool in the air. I set mine outside on the patio. As yarn cools you may use cooler water to rinse. (The more extremes it is exposed to, the more likely it is to felt.)
When the yarn is cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess water and hang to dry. My neighbors know it has been a dying day when they see the multi-colored streamers swooping around my tree branches out front! On wet days I drape yarn on hangers and let it dry inside. Be sure to line the floor with towels or newspapers to catch the drips.
Just as few finishing notes: This microwaving method is best if you are dying a small quantity of yarn and want to achieve a mottled effect. For a more uniform effect, you can dye yarn in a large pan on the stovetop. I have also tried dying finished articles, which worked fine, although the color will settle deeper in some spots. One of the most charming results of dying with drink mixes is that the finished yarn smells something like its flavor. Yum!