A couple of weeks ago, Austen and I zipped across town after work for a yarn dyeing class at The Workroom. I'd been hoarding some naked fingering weight and a bunch of dye pots at home, waiting till I was ready to face them. And a live tutorial sounded like just the thing to get me started. For this class, we used simple synthetic dyes mixed with hot water and dish detergent. Yes, that's right – el cheapo dollar store dish detergent. It acts as a surfactant, which lowers the surface tension of the water and allows the wool to accept the dye more readily. We laid out our hanks of naked fingering-weight yarn on long pieces of plastic wrap, then went to work massaging in whatever colours caught our fancy. Here's Austen working with some beautiful blues, purples and fuchsia: When we were satisfied with our colours, we wrapped the yarn in the plastic wrap like a burrito and microwaved it for six minutes to set the colour. (You can steam your yarn in a steamer, too, but it takes around 45 minutes, and we knitters can be an impatient lot.) Then we gave the yarn a good long rinse in cool water to remove the excess dye and were rewarded with vibrant colours like these: Beth Casey of Lorna's Laces led the class and shared a ton of wisdom she's learned over years of hand-dyeing yarn. A few of her gems I managed to remember:
- Yellow doesn't play nicely with other colours.
- Little accidental splotches of the wrong colour are No Big Deal (they don't show in your knitting).
- Keep your eyes peeled for beautiful colour combinations in your everyday life.
- Never wrap your yarn burrito too tight (it'll explode).
- You can never use a container (or a microwave) that's been used for dyeing for food, ever again. On the bright side, everyone needs a rescued thrift store microwave for setting dye (and other crafting tasks).
- Take the big gambles, because they're worth it – both in crafting and in life.