I love speckled dyed yarn!!!!! It's so fun to see the specks of color spread out through a skein of yarn. Speckled yarn gives such a unique look to any project. There is so much variety with speckling, you choose the colors, and how heavy the speckling is. Each hank turns out different.
I was weaving a lengthwise grad dyed baby wrap for a very good friend and we decided that a medium heavily speckled weft with each color representing an important event in her life would be a lovely representation of those memories, and add beautiful color and unique visual characteristics. Following is the process I used in dyeing these beautiful speckled dyed skeins of yarn.
In this Instructable you will learn how to measure and tie your yarn hanks, prepare your yarn for dyeing and a speckle dyeing technique that is easy and gives good control of color placement. You will also learn some tips to help your yarn dyeing go smoothly and produce beautiful results.
I hope you enjoy following this Instructable and make some beautiful speckled dyed yarn for yourself or as a gift for a fiber artsy friend!
Step 1: Supplies Needed
-Yarn- Natural Fibers- cotton, linen, hemp, rayon, viscose. Fiber reactive dyes work best with natural fibers, but can also be used on some protein fibers. The yarn I am using is 100% Natural Ring Spun Georgia Cotton 8/2.
-Yarn for tying your yarn hanks- I like to use acrylic yarn because it doesn't take on the dye and is easy to get out of the hanks after dyeing. Don't use wool yarn because it can felt and make a mess of your hanks.
-Tool for Measuring Yarn- there are different things that can be used, such as a yarn swift, chair, friend's hands, a box, just something that you can wrap your yarn around to make a big loop.
-Container for scouring and soaking yarn- I used a large tote.
-Small Paintbrush- I borrowed mine from my kids art kit.
-Gloves- to protect your hands from the dye and chemicals.
-Large Spoon- tools that are used for dyeing should not be used again on food.
-Measuring Cups- tools that are used for dyeing should not be used again on food.
-Dust Mask- important to use when dealing with powder dyes.
-Fiber Reactive Powder Dyes- I used Dharma Trading Company Fiber Reactive Dyes in baby pink, pagoda red, maroon, cornflower blue, clear sky, and wasabi. These are awesome dyes!
Other fiber reactive dyes that can be used are Dylons and Tulip Dyes that can be found at craft stores.
-Surface- use a surface that you don't mind getting dye on, or make sure to cover your surface really well.
-Time- Preparing and dyeing the yarn will take about 1 to 2 hours depending on how many hanks you are dyeing and how quick you are. The hanks then will need to batch for 12 to 24 hours. Rinsing takes a couple hours with soak time. The yarn will then need to dry which took 2 days for mine (my hanks were thick).
Step 2: Measure and Tie Yarn
Now that you have gathered all of your supplies for speckle dyeing, it's time to measure and tie your yarn. Tying your yarn will help keep it from getting into a tangled mess while dyeing and rinsing.
If your yarn is already in skeins untwist it into a hank and skip right to tying figure eights through your hank. If your yarn is on a cone the first thing you need to do is measure it into hanks. There are different ways to do this, you can use a yarn swift, a chair, a friend's hands, a box, and many other things. You just need something to wrap the yarn around that will create a big loop.
-Measure Your Yarn- For this project I used an Amish Swift to measure my yarn. Tie a slip knot and place it around one of the pegs. Place your cone on the ground below you. Hold the yarn in one hand to keep it at the level you want and use the other hand to turn the swift from the middle. With the hand holding the yarn control the yarn so it goes around the pegs and does not go off. Periodically weigh your cone and stop spinning when you've reached your desired skein weight. Tie another slip knot around the same peg with your beginning slip knot.
-Tie hanks- Tie a loop through the two slip knots and around the hank to keep the loop from coming undone when you take it off the swift. Tie more loops and figure 8's throughout the hank to keep the yarn from coming undone and making a mess during dyeing and rinsing.
Next the yarn needs to be scoured to get it clean.
Step 3: Scour Yarn
Now that your yarn is measured and tied it's time to prepare the yarn for dyeing. The first thing to prepare it is to scour your yarn hanks. Scouring is a way of washing your yarn to remove dirt, oils, and other things that might keep the dye from properly attaching to the yarn. Not all yarn needs to be scoured, but most cotton and linen do. Viscose rayon yarn often doesn't need to be scoured. A good way to determine if your yarn needs to be scoured or not is by setting your yarn on top of water and observing how well it absorbs the water. If it sits on top of the water and doesn't easily absorb it, it's a sign that your yarn needs to be scoured. If your yarn sinks and easily absorbs the water than it probably doesn't need to be scoured and you can skip this step.
There are a couple different ways of scouring. This is the one that's easiest for me and produces good results.
-Wear gloves to protect your hands from the chemicals that can irritate your skin.
-Pour 1/2 cup soda ash/washing soda into a soaking container.
-Add a small squirt of Blue Dawn/Synthrapol to the container.
-Fill the container with very very hot water high enough for the yarn to move around freely in the water/container.
-Stir until all of the soda ash/washing soda is dissolved.
-Add yarn hanks to the water. Push the yarn down into the water, stir it, squeeze the yarn to get it to absorb the water.
-Let the yarn soak until the water cools (an hour or more) stirring occasionally.
-When the water has cooled, drain the container and rinse the yarn. When I drained my container the water was a dark yucky yellow color, that's normal. Good thing I scoured to get all that gunk out.
-Squeeze out as much water as you can from the hanks. I have a Nina spin dryer that I use to spin the water out of the yarn. It's not necessary, but it's awesome.
Next is the soda ash/washing soda soak, then on to dyeing.
Step 4: Soak Yarn
Now that your yarn is clean it's time to soak it in a soda ash/washing soda soak to prepare it to be dyed. Soda ash/washing soda works as a fixative to attach the dye to the yarn. Without soaking in soda ash/washing soda, the dye won't fix to your yarn, so this step is very important!
-Add enough warm water to your container so all the yarn will be submerged.
-Add 1 cup of soda ash/washing soda per gallon of water that's in your container.
-Stir until all of the soda ash/washing soda is dissolved.
-Add yarn and make sure all the yarn is submerged in the water so it can soak up the water soda ash/washing soda solution.
-Let soak for 30 minutes or longer.
-Setup your dye station and make sure everything is ready to go before moving on. (See the next step for dyeing setup.)
-When you are ready to dye your yarn, drain your container and squeeze out the water from your yarn leaving it a little damp. It should not be completely dry, but it also should not be dripping, just a little damp. DO NOT rinse your yarn. DO NOT squeeze out the water until you are ready to dye your yarn. It needs to be damp for this dyeing technique.
Woohoo, now that your yarn is all ready, it's time to dye!
Step 5: Speckle Dye Yarn
Now that your yarn is scoured and has soaked in the soda ash/washing soda water solution, you're yarn is ready to be dyed!
Dyeing Setup: a table or surface that is in a well ventilated area. Your surface should be one you don't mind getting dye on, or that is completely covered to protect it from dye. I have a table that I use for all of my dye projects that has dye stains. When working with powder dye, it's common for some of the dye particles to get on the surrounding area, because of this I set my table up outside so that I don't have to worry about dye getting on counters or anything inside my house. If you are using an area inside your house, make sure to wipe down the area well after you're done dyeing. Other items you'll need are the dyes, a small paintbrush, plastic wrap and paper towels all within arms reach. Also, make sure to wear clothes you don't mind getting dye on.
-Wear a face mask and plastic gloves for protection while dyeing your yarn.
-After squeezing the excess water/soda ash solution out of your yarn, bring it over to your dye area.
-Roll out a length of plastic wrap onto your dyeing surface.
-Lay damp yarn on the plastic wrap and spread the yarn out, make sure that all the yarn stays on the plastic wrap.
-Dip the tip of the paintbrush into the dye powder, then hold the paintbrush over the yarn and lightly tap the paintbrush so the dye sprinkles onto the yarn. When you want to switch dye colors make sure to wipe excess dye powder off the paintbrush onto a paper towel so you don't mix dye powders. Add as little or as much dye speckles as you want in whatever colors you choose.
-When you are done speckling one side of the hank, flip it over and speckle the other side.
-When you're happy with the amount of speckling, lay plastic wrap over the top of the yarn and roll the sides of the bottom and top plastic wrap together all the way around so the yarn is enclosed in the plastic wrap. Wrapping the yarn in plastic wrap helps keep the yarn moist. The yarn needs to stay moist during the reaction time for the chemical reaction to occur.
-Sit the yarn in a warm place (70 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) for 12 to 24 hours to let the chemical reaction occur. This is called batching. I generally aim for 24 hours. I put my yarn wrapped in plastic wrap into my tote, and set the tote in my bath tub for 24 hours.
Once your yarn has sat for 12 to 24 hours it will be ready to rinse and hang to dry.
Step 6: Rinse Yarn
Now that your yarn has sat and had time for the chemicals to react and the dye to fix to the yarn, it's time to rinse out the excess dye. It's important to remove the excess dye so that the dye won't bleed later in the wash.
-Wear gloves or your hands will get stained.
-Remove a yarn hank from the plastic wrap and run it under cold water until the water runs clear.
-Turn the water to hot and continue to rinse the yarn while the water warms up. You'll notice a lot more color come off as the water gets warmer.
-When the water gets very hot, plug your sink and add a little Blue Dawn/Synthrapol to the sink.
-Fill the sink with enough hot water to cover the yarn, and mix it so it's sudsy. The soap will help loosen excess dye that needs to be washed out.
-Add yarn to sudsy hot water and swish it around.
-Let the yarn soak for 10 minutes or more.
-Rinse and soak yarn in hot water (without soap) draining and refilling until the water runs clear.
-Squeeze excess water out of the yarn and hang to dry.
My yarn was in thick hanks, so it took about 2 days to fully dry.
Step 7: Make Something Beautiful!
Once your yarn is dry, it's ready to use, hooray!!! You can re skein it, wind it into a ball, or do whatever works best for your project. I used this yarn for weaving, so I put my skein back onto my Amish Swift and unwound it from there winding it onto my pirns for weaving.
Here are some pictures of my medium heavily speckled yarn and how it looks both on and off my loom.
I love how it turned out!
I hope you enjoy dyeing your yarn and would love to see your project using speckled dyed yarn.
Here's a fun video of my weaving process in making the baby wrap where I used this yarn.