I took the plunge and joined Dye-O-Rama, and over the last few days, I've made my first attempts at dyeing my own yarn. The whole experience is reminding me a lot of when I was first learning to knit. I was often frustrated by patterns and instructions that didn't contain enough information. It seems like I'm prone to falling into every single trap, at least when it comes to crafty endeavors. As far as I'm concerned, there is no such thing as too much information and when I get around to writing my very own yarn dyeing tutorial, I will assume that the reader knows absolutely nothing. I'm getting ahead of myself...my adventures in dyeing started on Friday with Koolaid.
My first skein (KnitPicks Color Your Own) was a total disaster. While soaking my yarn in warm water as directed (I used a combination of instructions all of which can be found on the Dye-o-Rama blog), I mixed up my "dyes" (Koolaid packets, no sugar, and water). I also laid a couple of garbage bags down on my kitchen floor (a.k.a. my workspace) and laid out plastic wrap on top of that for wrapping the yarn after applying the dye. When I took the yarn out of the water, I made my first mistake. I didn't wring it out nearly enough. For those of you out there who are trying this for the first time, I would recommend gently sqeezing out as much watter as possible before applying the dye. Maybe this is common sense, but for some reason it didn't occur to me. Anyhow, I tried to apply the Koolaid dye to yarn which was way too wet and all of the colors ran together and it was a huge mess. There are no photographs of this skein because it was too upsetting and frankly, too ugly to document.
After doing a little more research online, I tried the Koolaid dyeing again and the results were better, but I think my yarn was still a little too wet. The colors bled a little bit in the microwave. You can see how the red (tropical punch) and purple (grape) bled onto the orange (orange) in the picture. At first, I was discouraged by my finished product, but it looks much better in the skein and it's really not that all knit up. I added an arrow to show the spots where the purple bled onto the orange (as with all pictures on this blog, click it for a larger view). I would never send this skein off to my Dye-O-Rama swap partner, but for my first attempt, it's not terrible.
I put a post with my novice questions on the Dye-O-Rama site and I got a lot of very nice, helpful replies. A number of people suggested that I try using Wilton cake icing dye instead of Koolaid. The most detailed response came from Laura who emailed me directly with instructions for using this dye in the microwave. I bought a box containing eight colors of this dye gel for only $9.99 at Michael's yesterday, and gave it a whirl last night. My technique was definitely much improved. I had no problems with the colors bleeding and no problem with the yarn being too wet. The dye, on the other hand, didn't work as well as I'd hoped.
My inspiration for this skein was a ball of Noro Silk Garden Light I'd seen at one of my LYS. I thought I'd do a self striping skein using pink, brown, and purple. The pink (they call it Rose) didn't really cooperate, and the result is more of a peachy orange. The violet turned out blue with purple spots. The brown color is nice and even, but it's lighter than what I was going for. When I first unwrapped this skein, I was disappointed and again, I wouldn't send this off to anyone, but after knitting up some of the Koolaid yarn, I think there's hope for this yarn. It might not be that bad all knit together. I emailed Laura with a few questions about the Wilton dye and she told me that the violet and rose colors often behave badly. When I use the Wilton dye again, I will definitely mix it better, use very, very, hot water, and allow more time for the gel to dissolve.
I was considering venturing into the world of acid dyes, but I think I'm going to wait on that. I don't like the fact that you can't use any of your utensils for food after you've used them with the acid dyes. I don't have enough space for more stuff, especially stuff like big pots and pans. Most of the acid dye websites also suggest that you wear a dust mask and that too, kind of freaks me out. I now understand why hand painted yarns are so expensive. It's not an easy process.