It's that time of year when crafters begin making their lists and checking them twice. Handmade gifts are not only thoughtful, but they can be the perfect solution when you're trying to find something for the person who has everything. This year, why not up the ante by hand-dyeing your yarn or fleece to create the ultimate personalized, handmade gift? It's easier than you might think!
You'll want to start with undyed yarn or fleece - white, cream, or even a light brown will do. For first-time dyers, it's easiest to dye animal (protein) fibers, so any wool or mohair is a good choice. If you will be dyeing skeins of yarn, you'll want to make sure there are two or three ties to keep each skein tidy.
There are plenty of starter kits geared towards beginner dyers that include a variety of dyes, mordant, and instructions using either natural or synthetic dyes. You can also find countless online tutorials demonstrating how to dye yarn or fiber using alternative dyes such as kool-aid, easter egg dye, and even coffee, tea or turmeric!
Once you have decided on which type of dye you'd like to use, you will need a container (or containers) to mix it in and a large stainless or enamel pot to heat your yarn and dye. A crock pot would also work well for this activity. If you'd rather dye your yarn using a microwave, you'll need a glass dish that is microwave-safe.
It's important to note that anything used in the dyeing process must not be used for any other purpose, especially food preparation. You'll also need a candy thermometer so that you can make sure your dye bath reaches the correct temperature; if your yarn and dye don't get hot enough, the dye will not set properly.
We have easy-to-follow instructions for dyeing yarn or fiber with acid dyes here in our advice and help section. For more detailed instruction, the Ashford Book of Dyeing or Teach Yourself Visually Hand-Dyeing are great reference books to keep handy. Safety is important when working with dyes - even natural ones! Click here for important information to help you dye with care. We also recommend wearing gloves and a dust mask when working with powder dyes.
Once you master the basics, it's time to experiment! You can add multiple colors by painting dye directly onto a skein with a paintbrush. If your yarn or fleece is in a still dye bath, you can use a turkey baster or flavor injector to add drops of dye to your skein, creating a dappled effect. You could even dip-dye your skein with a light color of dye, then use a spray bottle filled with a darker hue to create an interesting effect (just be sure you wear a dust mask and eye protection). Whatever you try, you're guaranteed to end up with a truly unique work of art, allowing you to knit, spin, weave or hook a memorable gift for that special someone!
Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team!