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Responsibly Handmade Fashion by Jean Chung

Other Obsessions: Dyeing Yarns

Other ObsessionsJean ChungComment

As soon as I was comfortable enough to knit a sweater in a week, I started experimenting with overdyeing. Back then, all I could afford on a law student's budget was big box store yarns, mostly acrylic, but I did get a lot of wool-ease, which has SOME wool in it. Even Patons Classic Wool was pricey for me, and they didn't have that many color selections yet.

Over the years, I started getting fancier with dyeing, especially when I started spinning. I have a good collection of food dyes now, and have a huge thing of citric acid, as well as some other fabric dyes I've collected from LA Fashion District.

The other day, I was looking at my stash, thinking about what to make next for my #DestashChallenge, I found 2 skeins of yarns that I once loved but wasn't loving anymore. 

Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, "Mica"

Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, "Mica"


I decided it was time to overdye. I wanted this to be a very saturated colorway, since the original color was so subtle. 

After overdyeing in red and orange in one pot, blue and black in another pot.

After overdyeing in red and orange in one pot, blue and black in another pot.

I love the result! I can see very simple socks out of this yarn, Stockinette foot with some kind of textured stitch pattern leg.

Cascade Heritage Silk, in "Citron"

Cascade Heritage Silk, in "Citron"

The next one I tackled was this skein of Cascade Heritage Silk yarn from Purlescence Yarns in Sunnyvale.

I grew up in Cupertino, a small town now well known to Apple fans (since the default city on all Apple products is Cupertino), so I go back to the Bay Area quite often. I had to go on a business trip to Cupertino one day few years ago, and I literally had 2 hours before I had to be at the airport. I took a detour to Sunnyvale so that I could check out Purlescence's newly renovated store. 

By the way, this was also the day I saw Jasmin and Gigi of Knitmoregirls Podcast at the store. I was incredibly shy back then (still kind of am) and didn't have enough time to introduce myself that day but I was thoroughly starstruck, having been a long time listener :) 

Anyway, I picked up this Heritage Silk yarn, because I had just knitted TWO Citron Shawlette by Hilary Smith Callis, and wanted to make the third one in this color. 

Then I found out that I had a lot of other patterns in my Ravelry queue and never ended up getting to another Citron.

So that one turned into a orange and green with a hint of brown:

This right now is becoming Hermoine's Everyday Socks

I'm really in love with the color variation and the textured stitches on these socks. I have a feeling I'm going to make a lot of Hermoine socks in the future. 

So someone asked me on Instagram what kind of dyes I use, so I'll give a brief tutorial here:

1) I use separate pots for dyeing purposes and mark them "DO NOT USE" with permanent markers all over the pots. In the US, food colors are acceptable for consumption but in many other countries, they are not. I'm thinking, there must be a reason. Besides, I don't know whether the chemical process of dyeing fiber in a pot could potentially be harmful. So just to be on the safe side, I buy cheap pots from 99 cent stores and such and use those for dyeing.

2) Pour some citric acid in the pot, with cold tap water, and soak the fiber in it. Put it on the stove.

3) On medium heat, slowly "cook" the fiber. Do not agitate.

4) While the pot is getting hot, I prepare the dyes. I mix and experiment with food colors in a plastic cup, mix in citric acid, and fill the cup with tap water.

5) I slowly add this color mix to the pot.

6) Dyeing happens when there's heat and citric acid/vinegar. As soon as I start seeing bubbles forming from the heat, I turn off the heat. Let everything sit for 10~15 minutes.

7) I check the water. If the colors are all soaked up in the yarn/fiber, the water will look almost clear. 

8) I pour the water out in the sink, and gently move the fiber into a mesh basket  to coolThis may take up to an hour. 

9) If the fiber feels cool, I squeeze out the water as much as possible by putting the fiber in a big towel, gently roll up the towel with the fiber in it, and squeeze the towel.

10) Let dry in shade. California dry weather definitely helps.

11) When it's dry, skein it and then take beautiful photos for Instagram and Facebook :)