Creating your own hand dyed yarn isn’t difficult and can be fun. With a little practice, you’ll making yarn that is beautiful and unique. Here’s a recipe using grape juice. With wool get a dusty-rose color, on cotton you’ll get soft lavender.
The following yarn dye is made from frozen juice which you can buy at your local supermarket. You’ll also need some salt.
First off you should select your yarn that is to be hand dyed. Different fibers take dye differently. All-wool yarn, like Lion Wool, takes on color much more easily than other fibers. Cotton takes on very subtle, pastel shades when hand dyed. In fact, you’ll find that using the same dye on a wool fiber and a cotton fiber can produce fibers of differing colors.
All the equipment you need to dye yarn is in the kitchen. Until quite recently hand dyeing yarn was a quite common activity in most kitchens. The following items are what you’ll need.
1. One good knife and chopping board.
2. Stainless steel or enamel pots. Don’t use those coated with anti-stick materials.
3. A stove – of course.
4. A timer – not an egg timer but something that lasts a period of time; a clock will suffice.
5. You need tongs or spoons to handle the yarn. If you doing more than one color at a time you should use different utensils.
6. You need a clothes horse or somewhere else to allow your yarn to dry.
7. Takes notes. If you make a color you like you’ll want to repeat it; detailed notes about quantities and timing will help you to repeat the process.
Making the grape juice dye
This quantity is enough to make 2 skeins of wool or cotton: 2 large cans of frozen grape juice; you can use fresh grape; 4 tbsp salt; 4 cans water.
Bring the above to the boil, stirring occasionally.
Bundle the yarn for dying into a hank. It should be looped loosely so that the dye will be able to circulate freely but also needs to be secured so it does not tangle; you don’t want to be spending a lot of time untangling it when it’s wet. Bundling is particularly important for wool yarn, which will felt together if allowed to move during dying. Here is how to make the bundles:
Wind the yarn into a large loop. You can do this on a swift; by wrapping it around the back of a chair; by wrapping it around your forearm from your fingers; under your elbow and back up again.
Secure the wound yarn by tying it loosely in two places using short sections.
If your pot is small, double the loop, twisting it into a smaller circle and securing it with two more short pieces of yarn.
You help to spread the dye evenly but first dampening the yarn.
Carefully put the yarn in to the dye bath.
Cook the yarn for 1 hour. If the liquid evaporates below the height of the yarn you can add more water.
Test the color by taking a small section and rinsing it. If you like the color you can remove the yarn or else leave it longer to take on more color.
After one hour, remove the yarn from the bath and rinse it in cool water. Rinse the yarn until the water runs clear. Do NOT throw away the dye bath until the yarn has dried completely and you know you are satisfied with the color. Find out whether your yarn is color-fast by rinsing with soap as well as water. It’s better to find out now before you’ve made the yarn into something.
Wring out the yarn.
Cut the second set of ties on the yarn, but leave the first ones in so that the yarn is in a big loop.
When dying wool, put it back on the swift or chair or whatever you used when you first wound it. Rewind the yarn into a ball and then rewind it back into its loop. This will help to unfelt some of the strands that may have felted together slightly. It’s much easier to unfelt yarn when it’s damp.
Hang up the yarn to dry naturally.