Dying Yarn

Sick and Dyeing

Sorry for the radio silence, I have been hit with a crazy bad flu – sickest I’ve been in years.

I think I’m finally on the mend though, but alas there is very little to show for the time I was sick except for one dyeing experiment and the progress I’ve made on the lace shawl (which I am now naming ‘Sandy’ after my mom, because this is totally moms colour and mom loves shiny, feminine things).

I present the skein of ‘That looks just like all your other sh$@t':

IMG_8645 IMG_8646 IMG_8649

And the progress on ‘Sandy’ which passed the halfway mark of the skein at 28 inches by 12.5 (blocked) so I’m proceeding with more confidence knowing that the final blocked size of the scarf will be a respectable 56×12.5 inches. I’m hoping to cruise to the end of the sample knit in the next 2 weeks, after which I can get the wrap size version on my needles!

IMG_8652 IMG_8654


Dyeing Roving, a Quasi-Tutorial


One of the treats that I brought home from Pearl Fibre Arts was 3 bags of luxury, roving, for me to try my hand at dyeing roving myself. That would be the ultimate for me – spinning my own hand dyed yarn and then weaving/knitting with it! If I could raise the sheep in the living room, I would.


I know that some folks have had trouble with the wool felting, or failing to fluff up when dry. I’ve had pretty good results, and here’s what I did. All three of these were dyed using Jaquard Acid Dyes.


1) Superwash Panda

I knew I could be a bit more rough with this one, so it’s the only one that made it into the microwave. I wanted to try getting a colour shift across the length of the braid.

I put the roving into a soak of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water and left it there for 30 minutes.


I filled 5 plastic cups with water and red dye, and then added 1 drop of black in the first cup, 2 in the second and so on, with 5 drops of black in the final cup.


I arranged my braid across the 5 cups, put the whole thing on a plate and popped that plate in the microwave. I kept nuking it (30 seconds at a time) until the dye bath was ‘exhausted’ (which means the water is coming out clear).


Here is my result, drying in the balcony.


… And back in a braid.


The colour is pretty, but the gradient effect is not really there. I might overdye it at one end just to get more contrast.

2) Camel/Silk

This was my first non-superwash braid, and I was really worried I’d ruin it so I did what I could to minimize handling.

First, I put it in the vinegar soak for 30 minutes. I placed a sieve over my crock pot and poured the yarn, and the soak, gently into the sieve.


With the yarn in the sieve, and the vinegar soak in the pot, I topped off the vinegar soak with enough water and vinegar that it could cover my roving, and then added dye directly to the crock pot.


When I had a colour I liked, I gently poured the yarn from the sieve into the crock pot.


To get a very slight variegation, I filled a plastic syringe with more dye and injected it directly into the wool in different areas.


I left the crock pot on until the dye bath was exhausted, and then turned it off. I let the yarn cool down on its own, and didn’t touch it.

When it was cool, I poured the entire crock pot into the sieve again, and let the yarn drain in the sink for a while (if your dye bath was exhausted, no rinsing should be needed here).

Finally, I lay it out on my balcony to finish drying.


Here is the final, dried piece, back in a braid.


3) Merino Silk

This one was done exactly as above, except that I was a little more confident with injecting extra dyes into the pot, so I was able to create a much more variegated colour. Here it is drying out:


And here it is back in a braid.


In all three cases, I lay the yarn flat to dry on my sunny, slightly windy balcony. I think this almost certainly helped it to dry faster and ‘fluff up’ a bit, rather than, say, hanging it in my bathroom.

With the 2 non-superwash braids I did my best to handle the yarn as little as possible (when I needed to turn the yarn in the dye bath I would use a silicone spatula and limit my movement to one flip of the fibre) and, just as importantly, I did not subject the yarn to any dramatic changes in temperature.

I’m very happy with the results, can’t wait to try this again! Even more… I can’t wait to actually spin one up :)

A Good Dye Job


I’ve taken up dyeing my own wool for my projects. I don’t pretend to be super talented at this, but there is something satisfying about being in control over every step of your creative process, to complete your vision exactly as you imagine it. These are all in the same colour-space (no surprise there!) but I’m looking to expand my colour palette, do longer runs and bigger batches soon.

My work is very much geared towards my work as a weaver so far. All the skeins pictured here are either palindrome or painted warps, can’t wait to weave one up and see how I did!





East Coast Trail

East Coast Trail

East Coast Trail

East Coast Trail

Grand Turk

Grand Turk

Grand Turk

Grand Turk

Ombre Dyed Yarn DIY

Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014

I love the idea of ombre yarns, and since I got weaving I’ve been dreaming of a beautiful ombre scarf, plain weave, with a neutral warp, transitioning over the course of a long, fine fabric.

Laurie from The Black Lamb had given me 2 skeins of a beautiful, natural merino silk sock yarn when I bought the loom, so last night I decided to experiment with my own ombre dye job. Here are the details of how I did it, and I’ll definitely be trying to do it again (with better photos) in the near future!

*Before you start – I’m using a silk merino superwash blend. If you’re not using a superwash, then be super gentle, because this process can be hard on your yarn and you don’t want it to felt!

Divide your yarn into mini-skeins. There is no real easy or fast way to do this–I recommend putting the skein on a swift if you’ve got one, and unwinding it onto a niddy noddy, chair, or even your arm. I was not very scientific about mine – I wrapped it around my arm 40 times, tied off my mini skein and then, without cutting the yarn, began another 40 wrap skein. This gave me 10, more or less equal mini-skeins that were all still attached to each other by a length of yarn.

Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014

Fill a bowl with a water-vinegar mix. I’m using 3 parts water to one part vinegar. I found that 6 cups of water and 2 cups of vinegar were enough, in my case, to cover my yarn completely. I put my 10 mini-skeins in the mix and let it soak for about 30 minutes.

On my dining table I laid out a few strips of wax paper (to protect my table) and then covered it in plastic cling-wrap.

While the yarn was soaking, I prepared my dyes. I set up 10 plastic cups (because I’ve got 10 mini-skeins, you might need a different number) and put about 1/3 cup of water into each one. I’m using a combination of food dye and Jaquard Acid dye to create my colours.

Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014

To graduate the colours, here’s what I did:

  • Cup 1: 3 parts Jaquard Turquoise
  • Cup 2: 2 parts Jaquard Turquoise to 1 part Jaquard Blue
  • Cup 3: 1 part Jaquard Turquoise to 2 parts Jaquard Blue
  • Cup 4: 3 parts Jaquard Blue
  • Cup 5: 3 parts Jaquard Blue with 1 drop of red food colouring
  • Cup 6: 3 parts Jaquard Blue with 2 drops of red food colouring
  • Cup 7: 2 parts Jaquard Blue with 3 drop of red food colouring
  • Cup 8: 1 part Jaquard Blue with 4 drop of red food colouring
  • Cup 9: 1 part Jaquard Blue with 5 drop of red food colouring
  • Cup 10: 1 part Jaquard Blue with 6 drop of red food colouring

The practical upshot of this is that you change your colour mix gradually over however many cups you’ve got. You can control the degree of change and the number of steps as needed to get the colour shift you’re looking for. To test whether my colours were shifting the way I wanted them to, I dipped a small piece of paper towel in each cup and laid the paper towels out in a row to see how the colour change looked. This is a good time to tweak your colour mixes if you need to.

After the requisite 30 minutes, I took my yarn out of the vinegar bath and laid it out on the plastic wrap, gently separating the mini skeins from one another.

Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014

I placed a cup in front of every skein, and put on rubber gloves to protect my hands. Very gently, and starting with a very small amount, I poured the dye from each cup onto the skein in front of it, ‘squishing’ the yarn gently as I did so to make sure the inner fibers were receiving dye as well.

Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014

I continued up the line until all the yarn was treated and then started back at the beginning again, adding dye until the yarn was fully saturated, being careful not to allow the little pools of dye to mix with each other more than I could help. Having said that, you do want to make sure the little lengths of yarn that connect one skein to another are receiving dye as well!

Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014

Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014

Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014

When the yarn had absorbed as much dye as it could, I pulled up the sides of my cling wrap and used it to wrap the yarn, as one whole package, and I put that package in a microwave safe bowl to keep it from leaking everywhere.

Place the bowl in the microwave and nuke it, one minute at a time, checking in between to see if your dye bath is ‘exhausted’ (that is, if the water is coming out clear, or if it’s still full of dye). Once you’re getting clear water, take it out of the microwave and put it in your sink to cool off.

ONCE THE YARN IS COOL and not before (you’d be surprised how hot it gets) gently open the plastic wrap and give your yarn a cool water rinse with a little mild detergent. Don’t let the water run directly on the yarn if you’re not using superwash – even this can cause felting.

Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014

Crappy cellphone shot of my finished work

Admire your handiwork. You should be feeling pretty rockstar at this point.

Gently press out the excess water with a towel (that you don’t care about) and hang it to dry. Once dry, undo your little ties and re-wind the mini skeins into one big skein. You’re done!

Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014

Dying Ombre Yarn ©Shireen Nadir 2014


The Perils of Online Yarn

I saw this yarn on Etsy a few weeks ago that I absolutely had to have. Sure, it looked just like all my other s@!t, but it was coming from Europe and it was pure silk (and therefore it shouldn’t count against my moratorium on turquoise yarn) and I was dreaming of a beaded wedding shawl, so I bought it.

I won’t name off the designer here, because that’s not cool (and they might have a fit with what I did to their dye job) but when the yarn arrived, it looked nothing like the photo. I was so disappointed. I had expected a deep, ocean blue…

My Little Pony, anyone?

My Little Pony, anyone?

And gotten this instead. I decided to overdye the skein using Jaquard acid dye for wool and silk. I prepared a dye bath (and managed to omit the vinegar despite having done this a million times before, thank Rayna for catching that) and after a deep breath wherein I thought ‘what if I ruin it?’ in she went.

©Shireen Nadir 2014

She cooked until the dye bath was totally exhausted. What was my formula? Sorry, a dollop of sapphire blue and a dollop of turquoise… that’s all I got.

©Shireen Nadir 2014

Huzzah! This was the result after drying. Much more my speed.

©Shireen Nadir 2014

Now it basically looks like the photo on Etsy. Maybe a titch greener. I think it’s significantly different from all my other s@!t in that it’s much more blue, but all I got for this statement was a look that suggested I needed to get my eyes checked (incidentally, I’ve got absolutely perfect colour vision, according to this test so there).

©Shireen Nadir 2014

In love at last, time to go find some beads!

I don’t want to dye alone….

©Shireen Nadir 2013

Last Sunday, myself and my favourite likeminded nerdy girls held the much-anticipated ‘dying party’ at our (subsequently trashed) condo.

©Shireen Nadir 2013

Rayna and Leslie came over bearing bearing armfuls of fibre and edibles, (Tito retreated to the bedroom with the computer and headphones), and we did our best to make the apartment look like a herd of unicorns had thrown a rambunctious party, drank to excess, and thrown up all over it.

©Shireen Nadir 2013

We had 3 skeins of yarn each to play with – the Cascade 220 sport was only 164 yards, and we used it to get our feet wet by hand painting with Kool-aid.

Our technique, for those interested, was very basic:

  • Lay down plastic
  • Lay pre-soaked yarn on top of plastic
  • Mix different colours of Kool-aid with about 1/3 cup of water each
  • Pour/paint/smear Kool-aid on top of yarn
  • Wrap plastic around yarn
  • Punch holes in the plastic so it doesn’t explode (I forgot this bit once; it was messy)
  • Put the entire plastic package in a microwaveable bowl, to catch drippy dye
  • Microwave it a minute at a time (letting it rest between for about a minute) up to 5 minutes or until all the Kool-aid has been absorbed.
  • Carefully remove it, let it cool, remove the plastic and wash it gently in the sink.
  • Parade yarn around the living room like a boss

Here are our Kool-aid creations:

Leslie’s colourway “Hematoma

©Shireen Nadir 2013

Rayna’s as-yet-unnamed colourway

©Shireen Nadir 2013

My colourway, which Tito named “Wow, this looks just like all your other s!@t.”

©Shireen Nadir 2013

You’d think I was predictable….

Next up was the worsted. I purchased huge skeins (271 yards) of wool worsted weight for the RIT dying experiment. The technique was the same as the above, but sub out Kool Aid for RIT and soak the yarn in water with vinegar before starting. The RIT bleeds like heck, so washing it up took a bit longer, but the results are lovely.

Leslie’s colourway, which was given a name so rude I cannot repeat it here.

©Shireen Nadir 2013

Rayna’s colourway, which also was given a name so rude I cannot repeat it here.

©Shireen Nadir 2013

My skein, (of which I was very proud) – was intended to give the impression of the lovely colours of an autumn forest… but apparently only succeeded in being evocative of mozzarella and tomato sauce because Tito named this one  “There are three women in my kitchen and I have to order pizza.“.

©Shireen Nadir 2013

Finally we moved on to the lace-weight merino, which we had been saving for last. Rayna opted to continue with the RIT, resulting in this most impressive skein:

©Shireen Nadir 2013

Leslie and I opted to dive into an herbal dye kit that I picked up at the KW fair a few years ago. It’s a bit more of a process, requiring that the yarn be mordanted before dyeing. We both opted for immersion dyeing in this case. Leslie produced this lovely thing:

©Shireen Nadir 2013

And I produced what certainly became my favourite skein of the day:

©Shireen Nadir 2013

After the girls joked about absconding with it I chose the name “Theft is the greatest form of flattery“.

In between yarns, we dyed some of our inexhaustible supply of fibre, mostly as experiments to learn how a dye behaved before trying it out on the yarn.

©Shireen Nadir 2013

There were lots of jokes about how ‘This is how Tanis and Indigodragonfly got started!’ and even a name for our fantasy dye company: ‘I don’t want to dye alone’. We certainly all felt daunted though, by the idea of trying to come up with a sweaters worth of a consistent colour way.  Even so, we loved it enough that we’re already planning another dye party, with acid dyes this time, and nicer yarn bases!

The Kool-Aid experiment – dying a gradient

Being a designer is tough because it makes you picky. I had experimented with Kool Aid a while back and, while it was fun, I didn’t keep up with it because I had so many ideas in my head and I couldn’t make the yarn match it. I think to really have the skill and control of someone like, say, Tanis, you really have to be a colour expert and dedicate lots of time and energy to it. It’s something I definitely aspire to be better at, but in the meantime Kool Aid is a fun way to get your feet wet!

Dying yarn with Kool Aid

So the challenge I set myself was ‘can I dye a gradient’?. The idea of dying a gradient was inspired by the Little Fair Isle Hat from the Purl Bee. They do a great job with skeins of different colours and I was intrigued by the way the lightest colour just blends into the piece. It turns out it’s very possible to dye a gradient: here’s how I did it.

  1. Get some yarn (easy, right?) and some Kool Aid packets. I used 100% Alpaca from Alpaca Acres here in Ontario – the softest and most luxurious stuff you can imagine :) Natural fibre is important because the dye won’t take on acrylic or other synthetic yarns. For Kool Aid I used 3 packets of Lemon-Lime and one package of… Blue. I think it was called Ice Berry.Dying yarn with Kool Aid
  2. Using a kitchen scale I measured my skein into 10 gram hanks, which I retied very loosely. If you don’t have a scale you can guestimate it – just divide the yarn into 5-6 equal parts.
  3. Pour all the Kool Aid into a pot filled with water, put it on the stove and put all the yarn hanks into it. Start bringing it to a slow simmer. Set a timer for 5 minutes. dying yarn with Kool Aid
  4. After 5 minutes pull out one hank – this will be your lightest one. Set the timer for 5 minutes again. As a guideline, every 5 minutes you’ll take out one more of your mini-skeins. The result was that I had a nice gradient from ones that had been in the shortest time to my last hank – which was in for a full 40 minutes.  I say a guideline only, because you really need to do a visual check to see if enough dye has been absorbed, and adjust your time accordingly.
  5. Wash each skein gently in a mild wool wash or mild soap as it comes out, to wash away excess Kool Aid. I used Soakwash – the patron saint of all my yarn projects :)

dying yarn with Kool Aid

I was very happy with my results, and set about making an adult version of the Little Fair Isle Hat. I cast on the same amount, but on 4.5 mm needles and I added quite a bit of length to it, for a slouchy hat.

dying yarn with Kool Aid

For fun I wound all the leftover yarn together.

dying yarn with Kool Aid

It’s colourfast, even though I didn’t use vinegar to help set it. Apparently Kool Aid is so acidic that you don’t need it.

dying yarn with Kool Aid

I love the results :) Especially on the hat!

dying yarn with Kool Aid

Here is a great tutorial from knitty.com if you want to read more on it, and if you take a crack at dying I’d love to see photos!





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