I'm at home; bunged, snotty and fluey. I've been feverish too, so have decided that me and my bed need a break and that it's about time I shared some of the crafty mischief I got up to at the weekend (that is, if I can type between sneezes and raids on the tissue box)

I wanted to try Rainbow Dyeing some of the undyed wool I got from Kerrie/Hipknits. I ordered the dyes from P&M Woolcraft and got the low-down from Kemtex. Kemtex are a great place to buy any dyes from, and also give you instructions, for whatever material you're dyeing. I've been using the easy-acid dyes, which are dead handy for using at home. Sue has been doing the same sort of thing with Koolaid, though she's not shared her techniques yet!

It seems the trick to this dyeing method is to a) have a wide enough shallow-ish vessel so that the skein of yarn can lay flat without overlapping and b) not to stir the dyebath... the colours need to trickle down and stay suspended in the water. Now, I have my old trusted dye pot and the kitchen sink. So I thought I'd try both.

First off, to avoid blotchy patches of dye and to get good colour saturation, you gotta soak the yarn thoroughly first. Next up, get plenty of pretty hot water into your vessel, enough to cover the yarn completely. The dye pot makes this easy, as it can be put on the stove and reheated as necessary. But it ain't the same with the sink... so go for as hot as you can get and maybe cover the lot with kitchen foil to keep the heat in. You *must not* stir the yarn for this technique, so the heat shouldn't damage the fibres. I'd also add a decent swig of vinegar, particuarly to the sink method. Easy acid dyes and Koolaid are acidic enough to work by themselves, but the vinegar helps speed up the dye absorbtion. Dyeing wool successfully requires acid and heat. Once your water is hot enough and vinegar added, lay the wool as flat and as untangled as you can, making sure it's submerged. Then you just sprinkle the dye powder/granules onto the surface of the water in whatever order/pattern you fancy, and let them do their magic. Go away, have a cuppa or knit for a while and return in an hour or so to rinse out and let it all cool. Word of warning though; don't take the yarn out of a hot dye bath and rinse in cold water! The yarn will full and start to felt. If needs be, let it cool in it's dye bath and rinse cold after... a sudden change in temperature ain't good.

I found disadvantages to both methods - the dyepot was too deep and not wide enough, so the dyes ended up blending on the surface, and the yarn that lay underneath didn't get as much colour. Although it could be returned to the heat, it basically didn't work very well so the yarn dyed in that pot will be overdyed with something else later. This blue yarn here is the result - the odd patch of a different shade but generally not very 'rainbow'.

The stuff dyed in the sink was much more successful. Despite not being able to reheat, the stainless steel bowl kept a good temperature and tin foil helped as a lid. By adding a dash of extra vinegar, the dye process was speeded up before the water cooled. As you can see from the photo above showing the yarn dyeing in the sink, there was enough room for the skein to lay flat and take the dye as I intended. The skeins were 200g each, so maybe the dye pot might work for 100g or smaller? Anyhow, I did a couple of skeins in the sink and was dead chuffed with the results. As per usual the flash doesn't do the colours justice. Needless to say, the rainbow technique worked and I have some lovely, subtle colour ways with these yarns. The colours of the easy acid dyes are pastel-ish shades, though adding extra gives more strength to the colours. If you want something really bold and bright, you'd have to get the regular acid dyes and go through the full dyeing process... which to be honest isn't that difficult. Knitty have some info on acid dyes and techniques.

Just need to wind it all into balls and knit it... sometime....

AuthorWoolly Wormhead