Saturday, November 10, 2007

Handpainting Sock Yarn

The Oceanstate Knit and Crochet Guild met last Thursday. They asked me to show them how I handpainted some sock yarn I was knitting at one meeting. This is the process I used:


Fingering weight sock yarn 350-450 yds in wool or mostly wool blend in a loosely tied skein

Animal fiber dye such as Cushings, Jacquard or Koolaid in two colors (I used Salmon and Brown)

White vinegar for Cushing or Jacquard dyes. Koolaid does not need vinegar.

Sponge brushes or squirt bottles or a turkey baster ( do not reuse for food)

Two jars or glasses ( do not reuse for food)

Small mouth mask

½ teaspoon to measure dye ( do not reuse for food)

Stick to stir dye ( do not reuse for food)

Rubber gloves

Plastic sheeting or garbage bag

Microwave safe bowl large enough to hold yarn

Pot with steaming rack or microwave ( do not reuse for food)


1.Find stash sock yarn light enough to dye or purchase undyed sock yarn from a retailer.

2.If the sock yarn is not in a skein, make it into a skein by using a swift or using a volunteer to help you create one. Make sure that the skein is tied loosely.

3.Prepare the yarn by soaking it in lukewarm water with a squirt of dish washing detergent or synthropol.

4.Boil about a quart to a half gallon of water in a kettle or pan.

5.Place a plastic sheet on your working surface to protect the surface and to wrap the yarn for steaming.

6.Remove yarn from its bath and squeeze out some of the water.(You want to leave some water in the yarn to help absorb the dye.)

7.Place yarn on plastic sheeting on a work surface and arrange it in a neat skein. Put on rubber gloves.

8.Put on your mask and then prepare the dye solutions by putting about a ½ tsp ( using more or less will affect the depth of color) of dye powder into each of the jars. Add about a cup of boiling water into each jar and stir with separate sticks. Add a glug of vinegar to help set the dye.

9.Dip one sponge brush into the dye bath and dab the color onto the sock yarn in one area.

10.Dip the another sponge brush into the second color and dab the new color either directly next to the first color or further away if you would like the natural color of the wool to remain part of the colorway. Continue adding the dye in alternate color bands until you have finished coloring the top of the skein.

11.Next carefully turn the skein over and dab the two alternating colors in the same general areas as you did on the top of the skein. This is done to soak the dye thoroughly through the thickness of the skein. Do not worry about doing this perfectly. You will produce some very interesting dye variations with the overlapping of color as well as absence of color. Gently press the skein in many areas to distribute the dye down through the thickness. Check out the tied areas for color.

12.Mop up any excess dye that you may be concerned about on the plastic wrap. Wrap yarn carefully in the plastic wrap. I fold the wrap over the yarn lengthwise and then roll up what is left. Do not squeeze your wrapped yarn too hard. Put the wrapped yarn in a steamer or a microwave safe bowl.

13.Microwave for two- ten minutes depending on your microwave or steam for 30-45 minutes using a steaming rack in a pot filled with some boiling water.

14.When yarn has cooled, put on your gloves and unwrap the yarn. Wash the yarn in water, squeeze out excess water and dry.

Congratulations! You’ve got your own handpainted sock yarn!!!!

Dyeing Links

Eunny’s Self Striping Sock yarn

Cindy’s Self Striping Sock yarn Scroll down the page.

Knitty’s Koolaid Dyeing

Stephanie’s Striped Yarn


Kristen said...

The yarn turned out lovely; I look forward to seeing it knit up! Thanks for sharing your expertise at the meeting and for the helpful write up and links.

AR said...

Pretty! I love dyeing yarn.

cyndy said...

Thank you, Cindy! A great tutorial...I will bookmark for sure!

Beth S. said...

The finished skein is beautiful! The colors seem a lot more subtle than in the in-progress pictures. Is that 'real' or just a trick of the light?