Dyeing Knitted Blanks with Food Color

What's next after dyeing hanks?

Try dyeing knitted blanks.

Commercial blanks are double stranded superwash wool knit into a long rectangle. After you dye the rectangle, it's unraveled to knit two socks at a time. Depending on how you apply the food color, your socks can end up stripped, or in random splotches.

But psst, wanna know a thrifty secret? If you are making a project in a heavier weight (non-sock) yarn, grab a second-hand wool sweater and use the sleeves as knitted blanks.


Long Color Change

  1. Plan your color sequence.
  2. Prepare and heat the dye baths.
  3. Wearing heat proof gloves, hold the sleeve so the shoulder is in one hand and the cuff is in the other.
  4. Let the center of the blank fall into the the dyebath and hold until the color bonds. (In this example, the first bath is red).
  5. Working from the center dye stripes until you reach the ends of the blank. (Here the shoulder was dyed brown. Then the cuff was dyed gold).



Making Vertical Stripes

Dyeing length wise stripes equals vertical knitted stripes (when you knit in the round).

  1. Roll the sleeve as you would an egg roll.
  2. Use a rubber band to keep the sleeve rolled.
  3. Dip one side into the hot dyebath. (In this example, the first dye bath was brown).
  4. Flip the roll over so the dyed side is up and place the roll in the second dye bath.
  5. Unroll and let dry until just damp.
  6. Fold the sleeve so the dyed edges are touching and re-roll.
  7. Use a rubber band to keep the sleeve rolled.
  8. Dip the undyed edge into the third dyebath.
  9. Unroll and let dry.



Random Flecks

The "who knows what you'll get effect".

  1. Put a slightly damp knitted blank on microwavable plastic wrap.
  2. Pour acidified food color in patches, dots, squiggles or words.
  3. Roll up the blank in the plastic wrap and steam in the microwave until the color is set.

Hints on Dyeing

  • Plan your colors. Make a sketch. When the dyeing frenzy starts, it's easy to forget what colors are supposed to go where.
  • Soak the blank with a small amount of vinegar, just enough to set the yellows and reds (unless you're using Kool-Aid).
  • Squeeze the majority of the soaking water out, or your colors will bleed and mix.
  • Add extra vinegar to the green and blue dye before pouring it on the blank. This should make all the colors bond with minimal breaking.

Hints on Finding Sweaters

  • Use a sweater that is at least 50% dyeable content. The sweater can be wool, animal fur or nylon.
  • Mixed fiber may absorb unequal amounts of food color and turn out mottled.
  • Sweaters can be any color, but the original yarn color will most likely show thru. See overdyed examples.
  • Sweaters that are serged in constructions are not useable. (The exception is if only the shoulder seams are serged).
  • Photos of good and bad (serged) seams and how to deconstruct a sweater.
  • The looser the weave of the sweater, the more the dye will penetrate. Dyed fine gauge fabrics may end up with pastel or even white areas.


Can't find a sweater?

If sweaters are scarce in your area, consider knitting or crocheting your own blank.

Holding the yarn double, will give you two skeins that look exactly alike after unraveling.



Go from Knitted Blanks to Dye Your Yarn home page.

See the lovely AmeriColor food colors.

Wonderful Wilton, and why you need them.

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