hmmm nothing beats the smell of warm wool and vinegar

Yep, if you’ve dyed yarn at home yourself you’ll know just what I’m talking about.

Al M and I had Fibrefest over at her place yesterday. My idea was a little dyeing of sock weight yarn and a little felting. Yeah, yeah, I can hear the sniggers over the internet wires. Umm well first off, we were a little scattered yesterday and the crafting gods weren’t working with us. After a slow start at 2pm we managed to dye 2 skeins of yarn (800metres each) by 6.30pm!

First up was a delish lunch prepared by Al, a yummmy chorizo (I think), chickpea, tomato, zucchini, red onion thingy with fresh bread. Oh yeah.


We knew we had to rewind the hanks into longer hanks so we could lay the yarn out and "paint" it with the dye. Well, this is where things went a little squiffy. You’d think two grown women would manage to do this task fairly easily, nope the craft gods must have been pissing their pants watching us! At one point we got the giggles with me saying "stop it, I’ll pee my pants" and there were some other bodily noises that we won’t talk about here. Let’s just say we’ve known each other for nearly 17 years so we’re pretty comfortable with each other!

So after we’d managed to wind a hank and realise it would be easier to wind a cake and then make the long hank….it was time for tea and angel cake (sorry, I didn’t bake, I bought). What you see pictured here is the baking Al did, divine Chai Tea cupcakes, recipe from Chockylit. She gave me a couple to take home, hmmm guilty Monday night pleasure.


I’d done various research on the internets about dyeing yarn at home. There’s a plethora of stuff people, a plethora, and lot’s of conflicting information….So at the end of the day we did a mish-mash of what we thought would work.

We soaked the hanks for about 30mins each in lukewarm water with a good glug of vinegar (helps set the dye). Then we carefully wrung out the yarn and layed it onto a table liberally covered with glad wrap. Backup a bit, whilst the yarn was soaking, we mixed our dye colours. We decided to use food dye (actually powdered pigment, not liquid or gel). Pigment was mixed with water and vinegar (6 ounces water 2 ounces vinegar).

I’d purchased a couple of 60ml syringes from a vet (I was questioned about what I was going to do with them) and these were used to suck the dye from our cups and then squirt over the yarn. This was the fun bit, FINALLY. We quickly discovered that the colour travels along the yarn and to leave a gap between the colours that will eventually be covered in dye, otherwise you could end up with a dirty brown or similar colour if two strong colours mix together.


Once the painting was finished we closed up the glad wrap and rolled up to make a nice bundle. The whole lot went into pyrex and then microwaved for 2mins with 2min intervals in between nuking. The idea being the heat will help the yarn take up the dye and you should end up with clear liquid, that’s the theory.

We didn’t do too badly. We learnt some quick lessons about depth of colour and that we’d need to be heavier handed with mixing the dye than originally thought. Saying all that we both ended up with one lighter colour and the second skein much more vibrant. Overall we’re both pretty happy with our results and as I said to Al, once they’re wound back into hanks they’ll look pretty (that’s important, isn’t it?!). Oh and my hands were dyed a pretty shade of brown, noice, bicarb managed to get most of it off and then Monday morning I discovered my face had a nice splattering of little blue dots.

Would I do it again, yes I have more yarn already purchased to paint, would I continue to do it, I don’t know. It was fun, but I think I’ll stick with my favourites like Socks that Rock, Lorna’s and Cherry Tree Hill.

Yes, a pictorial demonstration might have been nice, but we were having fun and I got distracted and maybe next time when I’m feeling a little more comfortable with the process.



16 thoughts on “hmmm nothing beats the smell of warm wool and vinegar

  1. Alison says:

    Look at those ‘cakes’ of yarn – puurrrty Miss N! We’ll have to arrange Fibrefest II soon 🙂
    AND look at that Chai cake – good choice of photo 😉


  2. kelly says:

    so funny… i get so frustrated when i do a bit of web research only to find that everyone disagrees with everyone else. how are we supposed to get anything done around here?!?
    anyway, i think the end results look fantastic – really beautiful colors!


  3. sooz says:

    That’s great! Fantastic colours! I’ve never seen powdered food dye, only the liquid or gel kind. Was there a reason you decided against using regular commercial dye? Where did you get your undyed yarn? And how the hell did you wind it into the cake? Have I overwhelmed you with questions? Should I sneak in one more?


  4. Simmyb says:

    Sounds like you had lots of fun and the results look lovely. A friend and I are having a natural dyeing day on Thursday and I’ve bought undyed wool to dye too. Luckily I had a Niddy Noddy so I could put it into skeins easily. We’re going to try indigo, fustic, weld (both yellow) and madder. We’re going to do them seperately and then mix the colours to get green, purple etc. I’m really excited. Don’t think we’ll have time to space dye like you – maybe next time. Definately next time.


  5. Paula says:

    wow! nice colours… and great tip about the food dye… I did my own experiment using powdered soft drink (in Chile we don’t have Kool Aid)… and it came pretty good.
    I totally agree with you about the smell… and the fun… and not to do it for ever 😉


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