Dyeing Rescued Yarn With Food Colouring.




Introduction: Dyeing Rescued Yarn With Food Colouring.

About: I live in the country with my husband and our chickens and dog. I sew as often as I can and garden the same and don't seem to have much time left in my days.

I have recently learnt how to crochet. I also have recently re-realised how expensive wool is in the shops. I have been looking for alternatives and found this tutorial for reusing wool from charity shop jumpers. http://www.craftstylish.com/item/9839/how-to-recycle-yarn-from-a-thrift-store-sweater . I found a 100% wool jumper which happened to be white and so then started to look for ways to dye it.  I found a way to just use food colouring which doesn't wash out or run!
Equiptment and materials:
Thrifted Wool
Food Colours
Sauce Dispensers (see step 2)
White Vinegar
Cling Film
Rubber Gloves 

Step 1: Making Skeins and Soaking

To make the skeins as I unravelled the jumper I simply wound around my knees as i sat cross legged and when I had a good amount I tied scraps around the whole bundle at four intervals (please excuse my pyjamas in the photo). If you don't know how to twist a skein to keep it from tangling this is just one of the many videos available http://www.chemknits.com/2011/06/twisting-yarn-into-hank.html . To allow the fibre to accept the dye more readily the skeins should be soaked in a mixture of 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water. I just used my sink and put a plate over the top to ensure all the wool was under the surface. It should soak for about half an hour.

Step 2: Preparing Surface and Getting Dyes Ready.

While the wool was soaking I got my work area ready and prepared my dyes. I put down some news paper and unrolled a long piece of cling film on top of the news paper (long enough to wrap the skein in). To prepare the dyes I put 200mls of water in the sauce dispensers and added the dye a capful at a time until it was approximately the right colour density on the paper.

Step 3: Adding Colour

Bring the vinegar soaked wool over to your work surface after squeezing the excess out you could even let it drip dry for a while. 
Now for the creative part. Add the colour gradually ensuring all strands are coated but not allowing the dye mixture to pool underneath the skein. If you find this does happen you can use a sponge to wipe up excess. 
These photos show the blue green skein I did. I also added a few drops of yellow at the other end of the green section which added some depth to the green. 
In terms of colour mixing I only have one tip. Use which ever colours you want just remember for a clean nice looking border between the colours don't use colours from the opposite side of the colour wheel next to each other.
For example
You could use a red next to a blue (purple in between) or a red next to a purple dye,
or red next to a yellow (orange in between) or next to an orange dye, 
but you couldn't use red next to a green without making a brown in between.
If you wanted both green and red in the same skein you could put a blue in between to help the transition.
I hope this makes sense. :)

Step 4: Wrapping and Steaming

After completely coating your wool in colour the next step is to wrap it in cling film making sure no colour can escape. Then put it in the steamer for 30 minutes. Because you cover each skein completely you can steam lots of different colours at the same time without the colours running. Using food dye and white vinegar you can use the same equipment for cooking food afterwards but if you are using other non-foodsafe dyes you would need separate equipment. If you don't have a specific steaming implement you can just cover the top of a pan with tin foil with holes in it and cover with the lid. You can also heat set in a microwave although I'm not sure about timing ect because, we are off the grid and don't have enough electricity to run a microwave. So you would have to do your own research on that :)

Step 5: Cooling and Washing

After your skeins have been steaming for 30 min they will be very hot take care when removing them and make sure you cool them down gradually or they will felt. I took the whole steamer out and set it in the sink for 5 min first and then pre-filled the other sink with warmish water with a capful of wool wash. I  then gently released the wool from its packages into the water and then gently agitated it. I then filled the other sink up with water for a rinse. Just a tip never have the wool in the sink you are filling as the running water could be enough to felt it. The colour should be set by now if it runs its probably an indication that more steaming is necessary. 

Step 6: Drying and Winding

I was lucky enough to have a very dry hot day and so I just hung up my wool in the sun for 20 min and it was dry but normally I would not suggest drying in direct sunlight for too long as it may fade the colour just let the wool drip dry somewhere warm but shady. To wind the wool I found an amazing way of winding centre pull balls on a toilet paper roll which works a treat. http://slamskatkitten.livejournal.com/166007.html
So now you have some very cheap beautiful 100% wool which you can feel good about using.

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    6 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome 'ible! i hope i can get me mom to take me to a thrift store so I can recycle some old sweaters. I have a bunch of super-concentrated gel food dyes that I rarely use, so maybe I'll use them for this :)


    8 years ago

    This is great!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I think its really important that we either reuse resources we already have or support ecologically sustainable, local and ethical ways of producing them. Thanks Penolopy I was really happy with the way the colours turned out too. Much more exciting than the boring white jumper it started out as. :)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I love this! And, it's a way for vegans to ethically use real wool, as it does not create a demand for animals to be farmed.