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Hobbies to Dye For!

Updated: May 2

Last blog post we talked about creating goals for the New Year and shifting our mindset away from 'resolutions' that can feel burdensome and focus on re-aligning our daily actions to reflect the lifestyle we desire.

We also talked about ways to unwind, relax, and practice mindfulness. Perhaps it is down time, less screens, or enjoying a new hobby. Well, it wouldn't be The Autumn Acorn if the second blog of the year talked about anything other than yarn!

So for those of you patiently awaiting the return of crafting blogs and fiber art topics...this one is for you! So blanket up and let's talk about hand dyeing yarn!

Picture a warm Spring day, sitting on your porch sipping a cup of coffee, admiring the beautiful spring colors, and itching to do something crafty (honestly, I just described my Tuesdays). This is the origin story to my love of hand dyeing yarn. I began my hobby with citric acid and colored food gel!

Sometime after experiencing the exhilarating magic of pulling yarn out of an exhausted dye bath and somewhere between cooking ingredients and plant extract natural dyes, I dove into the depths of researching dye techniques.

I cannot recommend a resource more than The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen, and Cotton at Home. Not only are there gorgeous photos and step by step guides, there are free knitting patterns!!! (That's three exclamation points of awesome!). Not to mention that it comes with shade cards to provide a visual reference for all the colors you could ever achieve!

Seriously, this book has it all! Not to mention it looks great on your coffee table.

There are tons of resources available from step by step guides to color theory conversations, tales of dyes gone wrong, and resources for what to do with those "terrible colors". I'd recommend podcasts by Sweet Georgia or Knit Picks. Not to mention, sites like Ravelry have forums open for community members looking to trade or sell mis-pours and accidental dyes. This way you never have to feel like your dye experiments are wasted.

For those of you new to the world of hand dyeing, don't be afraid to try your hand (literally, you will definitely need gloves and a clean space) at the art. Honestly, we could hold countless seminars on everything about hand dyeing yarn, so let's cover some fundamentals.

Know your yarn's fiber content. Are you using wool, plant based, or synthetic? This is crucial to know as different dyes will react differently to the type of fiber. For example, plant based yarns require a fiber reactive dye while animal based yarns need acid dyes.

Choose your method of dye for the colorway you want. There are techniques from hand painting, kettle dye, or submersion.

Although I love the experience and process of learning to color and dye my own skeins, there is absolutely a learning curve that comes with the experimentation process. You can take a very scientific approach to dyeing and measure every gram with acute accuracy, but I just dove right in and went for it. I’ve always said, if I have to do math equations in order to dye yarn, then I don’t want anything to do with it!

Honestly, my main focus is getting a color that brings me joy - the journey to get there is always an experiment. That’s why I don’t typically take custom orders for specific colors or have repeatable colorways - that sounds too technical and mathematical to me and I’m just over here trying to be creative.

I must confess, I have spent hours unraveling knotted skeins and felt heartbreak over hideous colors...although the worst was leaving a hot plate (used to set yarn colors) and coming back to silky wool ashes. Yikes! Don't worry though, this is all normal! The risk to reward ratio of dying is so much better than say....felting. Worst comes to worst, you've lost a couple bucks on a skein and maybe your cat has some blue splotches.

I wish that someone had given me more advice prior to finding The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen, and Cotton at Home.

So that's what I want to do for you!

Here are a few tips, tricks, and lessons:

  • Don't be afraid to mix colors or patterns

  • If you use Jacquard, try to mix in more than one dye to get different shades or hues...unless you love stock colors.

    • Try different acids (vinegar vs apple cider vinegar vs citric acid)

    • Don't forget you can always have a dye-over if your colors come out too can always add or darken...but it's much harder to take out dye

    • Do practice safe and clean dyeing! (Make sure you know what chemicals you are working with and make sure to do this away from anything...and I mean anything you care about not changing colors)

    • Don't leave your hot plates unattended....seriously....just don't

I've been dyeing yarn for almost two years now and I can honestly say, I'm still learning, I'm still surprised by some combinations, and I still really enjoy it. Once you get a feel for the methods you enjoy, don't be afraid to go wild experimenting! There's so many dye patterns to choose from and limitless colorways!

Types of Yarn Dyeing Patterns:

  • Solid Color.

  • Semi Solid or Tonal.

  • Gradated or Ombre.

  • Variegated or Multi Color.

  • Speckled or Sprinkle Dyed.

  • Self Striping Yarn.

Have I sold you on hand dyeing yarn yet? I sure hope so! As I said earlier, there is a whole world of yarn dyeing and we are just grazing the surface. If you're hooked, then check back for our next blog on in depth yarn dyeing techniques because we will be exploring the depths of dye agents, color theory, and pattern techniques.

I can't wait to share the magic of color with you.

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