Dyeing yarn using a sock blank is both awesome as well as HUGELY annoying 5

20150411_190221I had some incredibly generous Ravellers donate some of their sock yarn scraps towards my sock yarn blanket which has been a tremendous help. Seriously, I went from a very lacking variety of sock yarns to now having dozens of different bits of yarn. Lovely lovely lovely people. Then, on top of that, one women even gave me sock blank! (For those who don’t know, a sock blank is a knitted panel of undyed sock yarn that you can use to easily make your own colourways and self-patterning yarn.) When I discovered the sock blank in the box of yarns she sent me I was extremely excited since I had looked into purchasing them myself in the past. I have been waiting to use this sock blank until I had a good opportunity to venture into dyeing, preferably without interruption or husband sighs while I inevitably get dye all over myself and the kitchen. He is a bit of a Tidy McCleanerson, and my inclination towards chaos and messiness can be stressful for him from time to time, and my having gotten dye EVERYWHERE (including on the front door somehow) has made him less than thrilled over the prospect of my doing any more hand dyeing of yarn.

My husband was away from the house for a full 36 hours this weekend. I seized the opportunity!

The same as last time, I didn’t go in to it with a particular plan or knowledge, I just winged it. Why I never go in to these things with a set plan is beyond me. Perhaps I secretly believe myself to be some sort of savant or natural genius when it comes to this type of thing and that I will just magically be awesome at it without trying.

Yeah… right…

Anyway, like I said I just winged this. So, what did I do?

  1. I soaked/saturated the blank in water. I don’t entirely know why, it just felt like the thing to do.
  2. I got out a 9×9 glass baking dish and created a sort of separated bowl and divider using tinfoil.
  3. I laid out the blank in the dish, putting half in the separated tinfoil bowl. Because I wanted short colour repeats I didn’t lay the blank out top half in the dish, bottom in the tinfoil bowl because that would have resulted in one long section of one colour and then one long section of another colour. To get the shorter colour repeats I put the blank in the dish dividing it left to right instead.
  4. I dissolved some blue Wilton’s food colouring in some hot water and a bit of vinegar and poured it into the dish, keeping it out of the tinfoil bowl divider.
  5. I dissolved some yellow Wilton’s food colouring in some hot water and a bit of vinegar and poured it into the tinfoil bowl side.
  6. I added some blotches of red and green along the center section that was held up by the divider out of the two main colours.
  7. I put the dish in the oven at 200°F for about an hour.
  8. Drain, rinse, leave it to dry fully.
  9. Once dry I unravelled it from the blank on to my swift.
  10. I unwound it from the swift, dividing the two strands into two separate balls
  11. I rewound one ball back on to the swift and then rewound it into a center pull ball using my nostepinne. Repeat for second ball.


I am super excited for how it ended up, but I do have some notes:

  • The colours are a little more easter-ish than I intended, mostly because I dropped a bit of pink dye around in splotches on both sides. I think I was intending for it to result in a more mottled look, which did work kind of. Mostly the pink just dispersed throughout making the yellow look orange and the blue look more mauve. Ah well.
  • What a colossal pain in the ass it was unraveling this yarn and reballing it. Holy crap. Now, in fairness part of the problem was that I sort of screwed up when I was unwinding the blank on to my swift. The blank itself unraveled really smoothly and easily, that wasn’t the issue. I started with the swift in a weirdly unexpanded state and then it just got worse and, well, you can see the disaster I created in the first panel of the above picture. (What was that about my secretly believing myself to be a natural genius when it comes to this kind of thing?)square
  • The blank was a double knit one, and reballing those two strands into two separate balls was irritating to put it mildly. I don’t know if there is some magical easier way of doing it, but it took me a long time. I may have to put this question to the actual geniuses on the Ravelry forums to see if maybe they can enlighten me because seriously… it was a pain in the ass.
  • I have knit one square (so far) using this yarn and I think it is pretty fantastic. Turned out basically how I was hoping in terms of the self striping within my tiny block. This yarn would probably look more varigated if I used it for a larger item (like a sock) but the stripes work out perfectly in my little squares. WIN!
  • Despite the huge annoyance I suffered while unwinding and reballing the blank, I still LOVED dying using the sock blank. It was a great way of creating a really cool colour way, really simplified the whole process. No tangles or shenanigans. I also love that it resulted in two identically dyed balls, and I can absolutely see how that would be fabulous if I were going to use this yarn for socks.


So, in summary, I loved using a sock blank for dyeing. I loved dyeing it and loved the end result, so I can overlook the unballing/reballing annoyances.


Oh, and as for my husband’s reaction to my having dyed while he was away? I made a point of cleaning everything up before he got back home so that he would have no reason to be grumpy over any future dye projects, and he was totally fine with it, until he saw the distinctly blue staining on our wooden cutting board… oopsie….

Shimmy Mittens


The end result of my yarn dying experiment. I love how they turned out, all warm and cozy and colourful. My home dyed yarn was great, though I deeply regret not having spent more time rinsing the dyed yarn, especially the pink sections. Huge amount of colour transfer on to my hands while knitting those sections, and the cable on my needles even picked some up! Yeesh! None the less, love the mittens.



Click here to read more about my yarn dying experiment.


Project Notes:

  1. Used ~160g of Fishermen’s Wool divided in to four 40g balls. Two balls were dyed to be blue -> purple gradient, the other two were dyed to be yellow -> pink gradient. Each mitten used one of each colourway.
  2. Knit using size 13US needles. The yarn was held double in that I always held both colourways the whole time. It created a sort of double colour gradient that I think looks pretty cool.
  3. The mittens were 36 stitches around which was plenty. They are frankly a little wide yet, but I’m worried that if I felt them further they will become too short. I may still try anyway.
  4. I REALLY wish I had knit the cuffs longer. I made them 3.5 inches down from the thumb and I thought that would be plenty but nope. It is really irritating because I knew that felted items shrink in length more than width and I *thought* I had that accounted for but apparently not. Not the end of the world though.
  5. The thumbs were done as an afterthought thumb with seven stitches knit on to scrap yarn and picking up 1 on each corner to make 16 stitches around.

We have a loooooooooot of snow and it is cold as hell. My mittens are pretty fabulous for this weather!!

EXPERIMENT: Dying my own yarn (Part 3 – the end result)

I finished knitting up my mittens using my dyed yarn and ran them through the washer a couple times to felt them up. I am very very pleased with the results. 003The colours stayed remarkably bright despite my concerns that not enough of the dye would have bonded with the yarn. I was pretty convinced that it was going to all wash out, but it truly didn’t. I have a definite colour gradient in my mittens! Hurray! The mittens themselves, while awesome, aren’t exactly perfect. They are still a bit big, especially at the cuff. I have to really stuff them in to my coat sleeves. But man alive are they warm and pretty fabulous looking if I do say so myself. I was so excited to show them off that I created a pretty weak excuse for why my husband and I had to go in town. (I said that I needed more sugar free syrup.) A proper project post about the mittens will be coming shortly.


So, in terms of yarn dying…

  1. I will absolutely be doing this again, and on a larger scale I think. I also intend to go at this at a much more controlled scientific way as well. I have been looking online for different sources of ready-to-be-dyed yarns and proper dyes, and I have a number of different ideas circling around inside my head for what I want to do. Expect more posts about me dying yarn.
  2. Dying yarn + knitting + felting = big bang for your buck in terms of how much enjoyment you get from one project. I can see how adding in the extra step of spinning your own yarn could extend that even further, but I am not ready to cross in to that dangerous territory (despite it being on my list of things I want to do this year.)
  3. Gloves are unbelievably important. I normally am not one who minds having my hands dirty or dyed or yucked up in one way or another, but having everyone at work make “What the hell happened to you hands?!” comments gets old. I will be getting gloves.
  4. My yarn swift (a recent gift from my in-laws!) made this way way way easier as well. I think a yarn baller would also be of great help, just in terms of balling up the finished product in a pretty way, but the swift is a bit of a must have if you ask me.
  5. Dying the tweedy Fishermen’s Wool worked well and in a pinch it absolutely works, but I want to try dying pure non-tweedy wool next to be able to get a more true, unmuddled colourway.

Part one of my yarn dying experiment

Part two of my yarn dying experiment

Project notes for the completed mittens using this yarn 


EXPERIMENT: Dying my own yarn (part 2)

20150203_174022My hands are pink. Very pink. First they were green, now they are pink. So I guess that is the first point I want to make: Please god, use gloves and rinse your yarn very thoroughly to get off any unbonded dye. Ugh. I guess in terms of whether or not this experiment made my hands turn colours this has not been a big success. HOWEVER! In terms of whether or not I was able to make awesomely dyed yarn, this has been EXTREMELY successful.

After the first dye the balls looked pretty cool but due to my not balling them tightly enough and due to my having squished them repeatedly the dye ended up penetrating really far in to the balls and they became borderline solid coloured. The blue in particular really penetrated through, which would have been fine except I had been hoping for more of a colour gradient/ombre thing to happen.

Undeterred I gave the yarn a good rinse and then reballed the yarns, this time in the opposite direction so that they (slightly) lighter sections were on the outside. I gave them all a bath in some pink dye with the hopes of creating a pink – yellow gradient and a blue-purple gradient.

Mission accomplished.

The gradient turned out wonderfully, much better than I anticipated I’d be able to accomplish!

Now, before I get all excited and proud I do need to admit that the red dye hasn’t set particularly well. I tried very hard to rinse the yarn properly to get off the excess dye but clearly I didn’t do a good enough job because the dye is still coming off on my hands while I knit with it. Once I’m done knitting them I will try to give them a proper soaking and rinse, but regardless I’m expecting the dyes (especially the pink) to mellow out quite a bit when I felt them. Maybe it won’t, who knows, but I’m concerned.

I am about halfway through knitting up my project using this yarn. The first mitten is just about done and pretty awesome looking if I do say so myself. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the colours merge and blend when they are felted. Even if the colours mute out some, the colour transition should be pretty fantastic.


Part one of my yarn dying experiment

Part three of my yarn dying experiment