Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dyeing for Crochet: An Adventure in Food Coloring

My crochet group came to my house at our last meeting and we learned to dye yarn using food coloring. Yes...food coloring. We had soooooo much fun! In some of the pictures you can see Kool-Aid packets. Those are great to dye with also.

We used Wilton Gel Food Coloring to do it and here's what you'll need if you want to try it yourself:

• Wilton Gel Food Coloring
Wilton Mini Decorating Squeeze Bottles
• Yarn that was 100% animal fiber. No synthetics or plant fibers since they don't work. Animal fiber includes wool, alpaca, silk...you name it. If it was made by a creature, it counts.
• Cream of Tarter (white vinegar works too)
• Measuring spoons
• Glass bowls that fit in the microwave, or plastic wrap
• Some way of winding your yarn into a hank. A niddy noddy, a yarn winder, or something that will work of your own choosing.
• A microwave or steamer.
• Someplace to hang up your yarn to dry when you're done
• Toothpicks or craft sticks (small tongue depressers)
• Scrap acrylic yarn.
• Bucket

Winding yarn on a yarn winder.
First, we wound the yarn into hanks. We used a niddy noddy and yarn winders but you could do it by winding around your arm from hand to elbow or between a couple of chairs. We tied it very loosely with a figure 8 in a minimum of 2 places using some scrap acrylic yarn.

Second, we put the hanks of yarn into buckets of water to soak for 20 minutes while we mixed up our colors.

Beginning to mix up our colors.
Third, we mixed our colors.
• Using some Wilton Mini Decorating squeeze bottles we put about 1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tarter (for acidity) and some of the gel food coloring in (using the toothpicks or craft sticks). Don't worry about putting too much Cream of Tarter in since you need the acidity to make the dye colorfast. You want your dye liquid fully saturated with it. Next, put in the food coloring. The darker you want your color the more you want to put in. We tested our colors on a sheet of paper towel before using it on the yarn.
• We filled the prepped squeeze bottles with water and shook them up really well to make sure the Cream of Tarter and food coloring were fully mixed into the water.

Fourth, we took our hanks out of the water and gently squeezed out the water being careful not to accidentally start the felting process. That's something to be careful of throughout the dyeing process.

Fifth, we applied our color and heated the yarn to set the color. There are a couple of options for doing this step.

• You can put the part of the yarn you want to color in a glass bowl that will fit in your microwave. Squeeze on color and mush it in with your gloved fingers until the yarn has no or few white areas. Heat it in the microwave for a couple of minutes then move to the next part of your yarn to color another area with another color. Repeat the color and microwaving until all your yarn looks about how you want it

Microwaving the yarn to set the color.
OR

• Cut a piece of cling wrap that is about 10 inches longer than your hank of yarn. Lay it flat on the table and center the damp hank of yarn on it. Apply the colors you've mixed up where you want them. Fold the ends of the cling wrap over the ends of the hank then fold in one side and roll the hank up in the cling wrap. Next, roll the whole thing up in a spiral. At this point you can put it to heat in the microwave. I have never had problems with the cling wrap melting, but heat it a minute at a time (2.5 minutes total) and check on it to make sure everything is okay every minute. If you don't want to use the microwave you can put it in a steamer and steam it for 30 minutes. Make sure the yarn package is suspended and won't melt to the side of the steamer.

Using plastic wrap allows you to color all of it at once.
Sixth, remove your yarn from the heat and let it cool down completely. When it's quite cool, rinse in cool water until any excess dye is completely rinsed out. Carefully squeeze out the excess water and hang it up to dry.

The finished product.

These are the 3 that I did. The one on the left is a light gray Alpaca yarn. The other two are white Merino.

I would encourage you to have fun with it! Why fuss about not being able to find the color yarn you want when you can make your own?

If you want to try dyeing with Kool-Aid just use half a packet of regular Kool-Aid in one squeeze bottle. Use it just as you would the food coloring with these exceptions. Do NOT add sugar, don't use sugar free Kool-Aid, and you don't need to add Cream of Tarter or Vinegar because Kool-Aid already has citric acid in it.

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