Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dyeing Wool/Acrylic Blends with Food Coloring

I frequently get asked at ChemKnits on my yarn dyeing tutorials if these techniques will work on acrylic based yarns.  While I demonstrated in the video
What you can’t dye with food coloring that these methods do not work for 100% acrylic fibers, you can dye wool/acrylic blends with food coloring.  I started dyeing yarn in the first place because I had a mountain of 20% wool/80% acrylic cream yarn remaining after knitting a sampler afghan.  These hand dyed yarns ended up being the bulk of my 10 hour afghan design.  

What You Need
  • Yarn - In this tutorial I used Lion Brand Wool Ease yarn as the base, which is 20% wool /80% acrylic.  
  • A stove safe pot with a lid
  • Heat - In this tutorial we are using stovetop methods.  
  • Dye - I used a mixture of different liquid food coloring to create an orange/brown color.  
  • Acid - I supplement my dyebath with a healthy splash of white vinegar, usually 2-3 tablespoons per 6 cups of water.  
  • Water (6 cups)
  • Utensil - A slotted spoon, tongs, something to help you safely submerge the yarn.  
  • Rubber Gloves (Optional) - Keep your hands color free by wearing gloves!

How to Dye Wool/Acrylic Blends (See below for the video tutorial.)
  1. Before you dye your yarn you will want to wrap the yarn into a skein.  In the accompanying video, show how I wrap the commercial yarn I wanted to overdye into a skein using a chair.  
  2. (Optional) Presoak your yarn.  If you want subtle variations in the wool, you can follow our kettle dyeing tutorial by adding dry yarn to the simmering dyebath.  If you would like to get a more solid, consistent color to your yarn, then soak  your yarn in for 20-30 minutes before adding it to the dyebath.  
  3. Set up your dyebath as follows:  Put 8 cups of water, 2-3 Tablespoons of vinegar and your desired quantity of dye into the pot on the stove.  Since only the wool fibers will absorb the color, you will want to use more dye than with 100% wool to achieve a more saturated color.  
  4. Cover the pot and turn on the heat until the dyebath comes to a soft boil.  
  5. Add your yarn to the simmering dyebath.  (If you presoaked your yarn, gently squeeze out the excess water first.)  Use your slotted spoon to help submerge the yarn into the dyebath.  Recover the pot and reduce the heat.    
  6. Allow the yarn to heat 20-30 minutes or until the dyebath is clear.  
  7. Turn off the heat, and let the yarn cool until you can handle it comfortably.  Be careful when moving the yarn around, too much agitation can felt the yarn.  
  8. Once the yarn is cool, rinse with lukewarm water and mild soap until the water runs clear.  
  9. Hang the yarn to dry.  
  10. Knit or crochet a fabulous project!  

Dyeing wool acrylic blends is so much fun because you can easily get a beautiful heathered appearance even if you didn’t start with a heathered yarn.  This is a great way to give your stash a boost!