Thursday, February 02, 2006


Mind you this is my way. There are as many ways to dye as there are dyers. So if this way seems strange or not the way you do it or the way your Aunt Sally does it, don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s supposed to be fun. I don’t dye it to sell, I have swapped dyed for undyed yarn, but that’s as far as this enterprise has gone or will go. I’ve had a blast playing around and have made some pretty things for CIC and for my felting projects.

Instructions for multicolor dyeing.

100% Wool (you can dye some other fibers but I’ve only done it with wool)
Large pot
Dawn (or similar detergent)
Rit Dye 2 or more colors

Wind a skein of Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool (or wool of your choice) into a hank. You can use a swift, a niddy noddy, a chair or a willing person’s hands. I’m fortunate enough to have a wooden niddy noddy my dad made for me. There are online instructions to build a niddy noddy out of PVC.

Loosely tie the hank with a figure eight in several places. I like to tie mine with acrylic yarn. It doesn’t take the dye and it is easy to find when it is time to remove the dyed hanks from the dye bath.

Started the yarn soaking in a large pot filled with tepid water with a little Dawn dish washing detergent (not dishwasher detergent). Let it soak overnight. I tried only letting the yarn soak an hour or so, but found out I get better results by soaking overnight.

It’s morning and the yarn has been soaking all night. Drain off the yucky (scientific term) water and refill with tepid water and Dawn. Try to match the temperature of the water and don’t agitate, you don’t want your yarn felting before you have a chance to knit or crochet with it. You want to get rid of the lanolin in the Fishermen’s Wool so it will take the dye nicely.

The yarn is clean and wet. I like to dye my yarn more than one color, so these instructions are for two color dyeing. Fill a pot with about 6 inches of tepid water. Add a teaspoon or two of Rit powder to the water. Roll the package to keep the rest of the dye for another project. Stir until the powder is dissolved. Drape the hank over a dowel, wooden spoon or whatever you can find to hold about half the yarn out of the dye bath. I use rubber bands to hold the yarn to the dowel if necessary. Turn on the burner to low and simmer the yarn about 30 minutes. Stirring occasionally. You can lift the yarn to check the progress, wet is darker than dry. Let the yarn cool, then lift out and rinse, rinse, rinse until the water runs clear. Wash your pot thoroughly, so you don’t contaminate your new color with traces of the first. Repeat with the undyed portion of the hank. Once both sections are dyed and rinsed I wrap the yarn in an old towel to absorb as much water as possible. Then hang to dry.

A note about safety:
Lots of people feel it is best once you use pots for dyeing to not use them for food preparation, hence the popularity of dyeing with Kool-Aid and Wilton’s. I found them fun to dye with, but not light fast. According to the Rit powder MSDS (material safety data sheet) it isn’t necessary to have special pots. You can read the MSDS for yourself at Just don’t drink the dye or breathe the powder or get it in your eyes. Same holds true for Kool-Aid if that’s what you decide to use.

When I finish I wash the pot with hot sudsy water and a little bleach. If you are more comfortable using pots dedicated to dyeing do so. My sons and I used our kitchen pots for tie dyeing in the 70s, and none of us ever got sick. Now some people might dispute our mental faculties, but that’s another story.

Thanks Suzie for the clear instructions - I will be giving this a try after the Knitting Olympics!

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