A couple of weeks ago I plucked a bunch of mulberries from the huge ass mulberry tree in my backyard and headed to the kitchen to dye some yarn. I have been fascinated with dyeing yarn for a few years now. I love all the colors, designs and fun names that indie yarn dyers dream up. My favorite thing to do is browse #handdyedyarn on Instagram. I finally got tired of just daydreaming about making my own yarn and decided to jump into the yarn dyeing game myself.
There are tons of blog articles on how to dye your own yarn. And, of course, there’s a bit of variation to each one, so I’m just going to say here is how I did it:
Wash and rinse your bare yarn. Make sure not to get it tangled – so pay attention to where your skein is tied off. Make sure the yarn is damp when you apply the dye.
Set the yarn aside. Put the berries (or whatever you’re cooking with) and some water into a small pot and stick it on the stove. Let it simmer for about an hour. Be careful not to burn your ingredients. Add alum and cream of tarter for a mordant. I used about 1 to 2 tablespoons of each, but the amount seems to vary in all the readings I’ve done. That’s something I’ll be toying around with a bit more…
Once your dye has simmered for about an hour or so, remove it from the heat. Honestly, dyeing with food is less of a science and more of an art when compared to using to acid dyes. In essence, allow your ingredients simmer until the color is vibrant and not watery.
Now, you see all those bits of mulberries in my dye? Yeeaaah. You don’t want that in your yarn. So, strain that shit thoroughly before you do any soaking. I just used a mesh strainer over a stainless steel mixing bowl, but you could use cheesecloth as well. The point is, you don’t want to be picking berries and other food stuff out of your beautiful yarn. So strain it.
Once your dye is strained, you can slowly drop your yarn into the dye. If you want to dye the entire skein, you will place your entire skein in the water. Now we wait. Let it soak as long as you like. The longer than more vibrant. I soaked mine over night.
Finally, you will do a vinegar rinse to set the color. Remove the yarn from the dye. Squeeze the liquid out. Soak the yarn in one part water, one part vinegar for about half an hour. Next, rinse the yarn with cold water until the color stops running from it. Hang up your yarn to dry. And don’t freak out – your yarn will be a lot lighter once it’s dried. The first time, I hung my yarn up on a swift and put a towel down on the floor, but after that I just hung my yarn on the clothesline outside.
Voila! You have hand dyed yarn! The steps are really simple. However, the process is time consuming and something of an art. Every skein will be a little different unless you make large batches. And if you want to create speckled yarn, self striping yarn, variegated yarn or anything using acid yarn, the process looks a bit different.
I repeated this process with left over brewed coffee as well and got what I call Blondie.
Have fun! ❤