Adventures in dyeing, part 1.

(Discovered this post and tomorrow's in the drafts folder. Time to go public.)

Sometime last year In December 2010 I won some Black Bunny fingering weight yarn at Webs. I blogged about it at the time, but here is a photo to refresh your memory.

Bb yarn

These are both lovely yarns — merino blended with alpaca or cashmere or bamboo or fairy dust. I loved the red and the blue but I eventually decided they are both a bit too saturated for a scarf to be worn next to my face, which is what I intended to make from them. They would serve in colorwork, but I'm not fired up about about practicing colorwork right now so that is out. The intense colors could be fine in socks, but socks from these yarns would have to be handwashed, and that way lies madness. (Not that I will never in my life handwash a pair of socks, but I'm not that crazy yet.)

(Edited to add: I recently discovered that my washer has a Hand Wash cycle (who knew?), so hand wash socks may be in my future. But probably not from these yarns.)

What to do, what to do? I have been pondering this question for nearly a year.

Last week it came to me: I would overdye the red and blue with tea, just enough to tone down the color intensity.

On Sunday I googled "tea dying yarn" and the first hit was an instruction page at Knit Picks. I made a quick trip to the nearest supermarket to purchase a box of El Cheapo tea bags and the game was on. The entire dyeing process was easy-peasy.

Results of the Black Bunny yarn:


You may notice that the entire photo looks a little greenish. I had to tweak the color in order to get the yarn color accurate. 

To recap, before and after:


Success! The color now is more of a deep teal, and the yarn retained its tone-on-tone character. 

And here is the exact method I used, not that you should follow my example, but if I decide to attempt this again I will have a record of how I did it.

The blue method:

  • 12 cups water, bring to a boil
  • Add 12 El Cheapo tea bags
  • Return to the boil; steep for 30 minutes.
  • Add 100g yarn wool/cashmere/nylon yarn that has been soaking in warm water while you fiddled with the steps above.
  • Soak until dye water is nearly clear and/or cool. 
  • Drain, rinse yarn. 
  • Roll in towel, hang to dry.

I also did something that isn't supposed to work, and it didn't. I tried to tea-dye some pale beige Rowan Calmer.

The Calmer method:

  • 6 cups hot water from the tap
  • Add 2 El Cheapo tea bags
  • Bring to the boil
  • Add 50 grams Calmer that has been thoroughly soaked in warm water.
  • Steep 30 minutes, drain, rinse, roll in towel, hang to dry.

The dyed yarn looked pretty much indistinguishable from the original color.

I don't know if the failure was because You Can't Dye Synthetics or because I only used 2 tea bags. Maybe I'll try again… someday.

This entry was posted in Dyeing, Yarn. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Adventures in dyeing, part 1.

  1. Vicki says:

    There’s a hand wash setting in my LG washer and I love it! I trust it with the likes of St. Brigid and Fib!
    You know, that tea would certainly leave a mark on a FINISHED PROJECT knit from Calmer. Add that step, I think you’ll be good to go.

  2. Erika says:

    I too have tried to dye cotton yarn because I wasn’t going to let “The Man” tell me what I could and couldn’t dye. And yeah… it didn’t work. Sometimes I guess “The Man” is right.
    Clever idea to tone down those yarns, though!

  3. Yeah, plant based fibers accept dye differently than animal based. Over dying yarn is one of my favorite things to do. It’s a quick and easy way to give yarn a makeover!

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