Hand painting or hand dyeing yarn is great fun and really easy and WOOLganic organic merino hand dyers hanks are perfect for hand dyeing!
You don’t need to use expensive dyes to get vibrant colours and lasting results. Food dye and food colouring can be bought in any supermarket and makes a great yarn dye.
Food dye and food colouring are acid dyes and will only work on protein fibres like wool and silk. They are non-toxic, biodegradable and cheap which makes them a great alternative to expensive and toxic chemical dyes.
Below are simple instructions for hand dyeing yarn into solid single colours and hand painting yarn with more than one colour.
If you have never done any dyeing before it might be best to start with the first tutorial so that you can grasp the basics and see how the wool yarn behaves with the dye, then try the second tutorial.
You will need:
Decide on what colours you want to use, a bit of colour theory comes in handy here. You might want to start by using colours straight from the bottle or take the plunge and begin mixing primary colours together. Here are some suggestions for mixing colours, but experiment and keep records of your colour recipes!
Orange: 1 part red and 2 parts yellow
Purple: 3 parts red and 1 part blue
Dark Green: 1 part red, 1 part yellow and 4 parts blue
Lime Green: 3 parts yellow and 1 part green
Aqua: 2 parts green and 4 parts blue
Flesh: 2 parts red and 5 parts yellow
Brown: 6 parts red, 6 parts yellow and 4 parts blue
The food dye needs to be mixed with water and depending on the depth of colour you want, the ratio of food dye to water will vary greatly. For very deep colours you may want to try one part food dye to 25 parts water, for lighter shades you may use 1 part food dye to 200 parts water etc. Amounts used will also vary depending on the brand of dye you use.
You will need to use about 500mls of water per 50g ball of wool.
To dye one 50gm ball of wool purple for example you use the purple colour recipe: 4 parts red to 1 part blue.
The colour should be mixed in with 500mls of water, and to achieve differing depths of purple you use more or less amounts of colouring eg. a deep purple is achieved by using the following recipe: 500mls of water to 20mls of red (4 parts) and 5mls of blue (1 part), whereas lavender can be achieved by using 500mls of water to 5 mls of purple (10 parts) and about 1.5mls of blue (1 part).
This may sound a little complex but once it clicks you will find it easy.
Lay out your skein and secure in a couple of places by tying wool around it.
Soak skein in tepid water with 25mls of vinegar per 500mls of water for an hour before dyeing.
Mix up your colours then add the water and the dyeing solution to the pot. Add the yarn and heat until it is just below boiling point – steam will be coming off the surface of the dyebath.
Continue to simmer and stir gently until all the colour in the pot has been absorbed by the wool and the remaining water is clear. This will take less than 10 minutes.
Trouble shooting tip: If your yarn will not take the dye you may be using wool that is too coarse. Coarse wools only absorb small amounts of color. The best wool for dying is fine and superfine classes of wool. WOOLganic is perfect for hand dying.
Allow to cool then pour yarn into colander and rinse with tap water until all residue colour has run out.
Hang the skein in the shade for a day or two or until completely dry.
I have found these yarns to be colorfast providing they are hand washed and dried out of direct sunlight. Please note also that it is important to avoid excessive agitation in the hot dyebath as well as sudden temperature changes – this will help prevent felting of the yarn whilst dyeing.
You will need:
Refer to Creating Colours in tutorial one for information about how to mix food colouring and food dye.
Lay out a sheet of cling wrap long enough for your skein to lay entirely over the top. Lay your skein out over the cling wrap.
You can hand paint your colour directly onto the yarn for very accurate results.
You can also syringe it on. I prefer the pour and soak method. You pour small quantities at a time of dye onto the yearn and let the yarn soak up the dye. Turn the yarn over to make sure the colour has soaked right through.
You can paint on as many colours as you like. Here I’ve used blue, with two different dilutions of water, and undiluted red. Remember though that the more colours you use the greater the chances of ending up with muddy colours!
Once you have finished painting the yarn you need to wrap in cling wrap.
Tie up the ends of the roll and roll up like a scroll, then tie something around it to hold it together.
Add the yarn to a couple of litres of water in a heavy based pot and bring to a weak simmer for about 40 minutes, turn over with tongs after 20 minutes.
Remove from pot and allow to cool. Remove plastic wrap. Place in colander and rinse with tap water until residual colour runs out.
Hang skein in the shade for a day or two or until completely dry.