1 Hank Dyed 2 Ways
Hand-Paint and Immersion

This is a tutorial on using both hand painting and immersion dyeing on the same skein.

To hand-paint, a small amount food color is put directly on the wool yarn. The food color can be spooned, poured or painted with a foam brush.

Immersion dyeing is submerging the wool yarn in a large amount of water with food color and vinegar in the dyebath.

Food Colors used:

  • Kool-Aid: Lemon Lime and Cherry
  • Wilton Icing gel: Sky, Kelly, Royal and Disney Fairies Blue
  • McCormick: Yellow, Red and Blue

The hank in the video is 100 percent wool. You can use any yarn with wool, animal fur, silk or nylon. Yarn with blends of these fibers will also work.
I had it in the back of my mind that this project was going to be a disaster.
  • Gold isn't my favorite color.
  • We hadn't dyed a super-sized hank before.
  • The yarn wasn't cleaned or even damp.

Would the hand-paint food colors stay on the yarn during immersion or would the dyebath turn into a yucky blue mess?

And truthfully until the Wilton® Fairies blue dyebath went clear, I thought this hank would be the ugliest ever.

Instead, we ended up with a hank too nice to knit, and this video tutorial.

Step-by-step directions are after the video so you can make your own.

  1. Make a large diameter skein.
    This yarn is 100% wool yarn, dyed gold and sold on a cone (a mill end) by an unknown manufacturer.

    We used two dining room chairs with the seats facing each other to wrap the yarn around. Every 20 trips around the chair, the skein was tied loosely in four places with pieces of scrap yarn. After another 20 trips the newly wrapped yarn was tied with another set of ties. This was repeated until all 250 yards had been skeined.

  2. Wool yarn skein on chair.

    Tie the skein loosely before dyeing with food color.

  3. The skein was placed on plastic bags on the driveway. We used the driveway for three reasons - there is more room to work than our kitchen, spills don't matter and the lighting for the video was better.

    The skein was not prepared in any way.

    Usually mill ends are washed to remove any machine oil. We didn't do this.

    Usually the yarn is soaked and just damp before being hand-painted. This skein of yarn is completely dry.

    We also haven't used vinegar at this point. The yarn hasn't been soaked in vinegar. There is no vinegar in the jars of dye.

  4. To hand-paint, the jars of food color - just left over Wilton, Kool-Aid and McCormick from other projects - are poured on the yarn.

    The food color used was:
    • Kool-Aid: Lemon Lime and Cherry
    • Wilton Icing gel;: Sky, Kelly, Royal and Disney Fairies Blue
    • McCormick: Yellow, Red and Blue

    The Wilton Fairies Blue comes in a set of 4 colors.

  5. The yarn is allowed to dry.
    It was hung on a pole between two lawn chairs in the yard. The day was breezy and the yarn was in the shade.

  6. For immersion, a bath of Wilton Fairies Blue was prepared.
    1/4 teaspoon of gel was mixed with water. The amount of water isn't critical here. Add to stockpot with enough water for the skein to float around, but not so much water that you are wasting energy and time to heat it.

  7. 1/4 cup of inexpensive white vinegar is added.
    I buy the largest size jugs in two packs every few weeks. I recall from a Master Food Preservers class that lemon juice and vinegar can become less acidic over time. So if you are using old vinegar, you might have to add more to make the colors set.

  8. Add the yarn.

  9. Heat to 160 degrees F (72 C).
    I crank the heat up, just like when heating a pot of water for cooking pasta. Fast heating maybe a bad habit that I picked up from scouring fleece. Our fleece is popped into 180 degree water, and it has never felted. None of my yarn has ever felted heating it fast, either.

    I do try to move the yarn as little as possible in the heating water, however.

  10. Add a second 1/2 cup of vinegar.

    No need to stir, just trickle it in the dyebath.

  11. Heat to 180 degrees F (82 C).

  12. Put a lid on the pot and turn the heat off.

    Some of the food colors we hand-painted are going to strike in step 8 with the first 1/4 cup of vinegar when the dyebath is 160 F.

    The blues usually take a bit more heat and a lot more time to strike. By increasing the temp we can use the latent heat in the water to bond the blue. The dyebath will stay hot long enough by itself without the burner on for the Wilton® Sky, Royal and Fairies Blue to bond.

    If you would prefer, you could hold the dyebath at 160 degrees until the water goes clear. The results are about the same, but you are using more energy and time.

  13. The hardest step - leave the pot alone to cool. No peeking, no stirring, no rinsing while the yarn is still warm.

  14. Rinse and allow to dry.

    This technique of hand-paint and immersion dyeing can be used on any color base-yarn.

  15. Confused about what base-yarn to try?

    Go from Hand-Paint Tutorial to Dye Your Yarn home page.

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