26 July 2012

Dyeing to Crochet

a whole new stash

The starter dye kit I picked up on sale nearly a year ago finally got opened this month. I had dyed thread with fruit, fruit juice, drink mix, tea, food coloring, egg dye, permanent markers, cheap grocery store dye and rust. I wanted to try dyeing the way the pros do it.

Ready to Dye

I quartered the recipe in Deborah's Art Threads tutorial. (She doesn't mention in the post where the salt goes; it goes in with the dye to help the dye dissolve in water, but my results were just fine using no salt.) I recycled and upcycled non-aluminum tools from my kitchen, labeling plastic food containers and utensils with a big D for dye so we don't accidentally use the tools for food down the road. My husband provided a pair of rubber gloves he uses when working on our bikes. I did not use a mask because I was working with tiny amounts of chemicals. If I had been dyeing yarn, I would have used a mask.

I don't have a swift or a ball winder, so I measured out 50-yard lengths of cotton thread by walking the 50-foot-length floor of my house three times while stringing the thread along, securing the thread on both ends of the house as I walked.



After I had adequate samples, I wound the thread around a book and tied each end of the loop hanks with a short piece of thread. The looped thread hanks soaked in soda ash water for 20 minutes or more. As I removed the soaked thread hanks, I gently squeezed out excess moisture. One by one, I placed the hanks across a wire rack balanced upon an empty plastic container to catch drips. I dribbled each looped hank with color, placing the moist, colored hanks in sealed plastic bags to cure as I worked.

hungry for color

first attempt

My first mistake was forgetting to rinse off the rack after my first hank of what I hoped would be shades of bright lime green, which came out darker than what I intended. The violet I used for the next hank also was darker and bluer than I wanted, but the color looked nice with the drips of green I'd forgotten to wash off the rack. So I dipped a gloved finger into green drippings in the plastic tub and further enhanced my booboos, quite pleased with the final result.


For the next batch, I doubled the amount of water in the violet dye and added a tiny amount of pink. The resulting plum hue is closer to what I originally visualized.

color corrected

My second mistake came after removing one glove to take a photo of the dyed thread and forgetting to put the glove back on before I picked up the green thread. The resulting stains on my skin took a couple of days to fade completely.


The bags of thread cured overnight and throughout the next work day. After removing the thread the following day, I rinsed each looped hank individually with Synthrapol and lukewarm water, then let room-temperature water flow through each individual hank until the water ran clean. Most of these hanks needed a second washing, as dye remnants would bleed onto my work surface as they dried.

intentional dual color




fun combos

Once dried, I wound the hanks into balls, and I couldn't wait to get started crocheting!

my assistant

first wind

ready to crochet

mountain of fun


  1. Just beautiful! And a perfect little bear. :)

  2. Oh my another catchy title! Love it. My mother in law taught me how to crochet, thanks to her! I tried hard to learn how to knit with my own mother but never got it quite right!

  3. lovely colors you made on the yard. Two finger holding it. :) I remember as a kid when my grandmother needed help with yarn for socks. How my arms was in pain after a while when holding the yarn while she wound it up.

  4. Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! What a fun post. Was it really hard to wait while they cured?

    They all came out beautiful. I think the "first wind" and the rainbow-y ball (front, center in the next photo) are my faves.

    P.S. I also like the photo with your winding aide/thread holder. :)

  5. Wow, the colors are great! Thanks for sharing your process with us.


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