I love to dye fibre before spinning but sometimes it’s nice to have more control and predictability over the finished product and dye the yarn once it’s spun. Usually this is achieved by a hand-painting technique involving, amongst other things, a large flat surface, at least one pair of gloves and a few metres of cling film. However, I recently came across this method of dyeing a single ball of yarn using two colours and it’s so quick, easy and fuss free I just had to share.
First you need to wind your yarn (natural hand-spun or undyed commercial yarn) into a “cake”. You can use a nostepinne or a wool winder but take care to wind it very loosely – too tight a tension will inhibit the dye from penetrating the centre of the cake. I also recommend you wind into cakes of 50g.
Once it’s been wound, soak it for at least half an hour in a bowl of acidic water (use litmus paper testers for a PH of 4) – use either white vinegar or citric acid. Let the yarn soak up as much of the water as possible. While it is soaking, prepare your dye colours – you will need two.
Use Acid Dye for wool such as our own FibreDye. Make up a 1% solution using a 10g sachet of Fibre Dye and 1 litre of water – you won’t need a lot of dye for this, so you can save the rest of the solution for another day or dye more than 1 ball at a time!
Pour a little of the first colour in the bottom of a small bowl and pop the cake in the bowl. The dye should cover only about half-way. Cover with cling film and pop it in the microwave. How long you will need will depend on the microwave you are using etc. but I suggest to start off with 3 or 4 minutes. When done any water in the bottom of the bowl should be clear and the bottom half of the yarn should be dyed. Repeat using another bowl but this time, turn the cake upside down so that the undyed half is now on the bottom. Be careful - the yarn will be hot and I recommend using tongs or a fork to lift and turn the cake.
Once cool, rinse your yarn cake by putting it in a large bowl of cold water and repeat until the water runs clear. Squeeze it dry and press it with a towel and leave to dry. To speed up the drying process and to see the effect of the colours, you can re-wind the yarn into a skein using a niddy noddy and hang up to dry.