19 May 2014

Dyeing in the kitchen

There was a story in one of the textile magazines when I was first spinning: the lady who was writing the piece said that the postman had come running into the kitchen looking most distressed. The children had answered the front door and when he asked where their mummy was, they had dutifully replied that she was "dyeing in the kitchen". 

Of course, he found the lady busily stirring a batch of colourful dyepots and not lying on the floor gripped by a heart attack! I have no idea if the story is apocryphal or not but it still makes me laugh. I suppose I am easily amused.

Anyway, it set me thinking about further ideas for the summer. I started last week by outlining a Guide for the Summer Knitter and I intend to continue for the whole of this month to suggest ways in which we can get our textile 'fix' while still enjoying all the other pleasures this season brings.

So here's an idea for a project where the kiddies can get involved too — dyeing your own yarn! I know, your first reaction is to think of dye splashes all over their best outfits and a mess on the floor that will take weeks to clean off. However, it can be done. 

Our two girls always had a great time 'helping' me with dyeing. They gladly fetched and carried water, pre-washed skeins of yarn while standing on a small stool at the kitchen sink, weighed out batches of fleece ready for the dyepot and giggled helplessly every time I splashed dye on the walls or all over myself.

You need very little equipment to start dyeing and it is immensely satisfying to see something change colour right before your eyes. All you need is a good-sized stainless steel saucepan with a well-fitting lid, a couple of slotted spoons and/or metal tongs, a Pyrex measuring jug, a few small plastic bottles to store your dye stock solutions and a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands. 

Of course there are more items you can add if you really get into this in a big way, but this will get you started. 

Then the only other items you will need are a bottle of white vinegar and some dye. I use Cushings acid dyes which come in small packets ready to prepare your stock solution. Or your can explore the contents of your kitchen cupboards for Easter Egg dyeing kits or Kool-Aid drink mixes, which also do a great job of dyeing wool.

So here's an easy dye project that will be immensely fun both for you and the kiddies: kettle-dyeing some yarn ready for a pair of socks. Kettle-dyed yarns are ones that have been dyed unevenly to give a wonderfully subtle effect. There are many of these yarns available from Indie dyers in places such as Etsy, but they are also super-easy to do for yourself. 

Have a look at this great video from Rebecca at ChemKnits: 'How to make a tonal kettle-dyed yarn'. You'll want to get your own dyepot running the minute this video finishes! 

The only problem with kettle-dyed yarns is that they are, well, a bit variable! That is after all one of their most endearing features. However, sometimes one skein can vary enormously from another so you need to plan your knitting project carefully to take full advantage on the lovely tonal effects of the yarns. 

For example, take a look at the Mentmore Socks knitting pattern which has a method for combining several skeins of yarn to give some wonderfully tonal socks. I also chatted about this in a couple of previous blogposts here and here, so check those out too.

Then have a think what you might need to get started on this — and how to get your kids dyeing in the kitchen too!

Happy Knitting!



  1. Your yarns are beautiful! You have me itching to start a new pair of socks.... :)


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