Sunday, January 28, 2018

Where to Purchase Undyed Sock Blanks for the Sock Blank Special Dye Along!

The week of February 26, 2018 I'm going to host a DYE ALONG!  I will do MULTIPLE livestreams to give everyone an opportunity to join in.  The theme?  SOCK BLANK SPECIAL 2!!  I will demonstrate a variety of dyeing techniques on homemade and commercially knit blanks in a series of livestreams and pre-filmed videos.

In this article, I will share many places to purchase sock blanks, tools for you to make your own sock blanks, and materials that are helpful to have on hand so you can dye along with me.

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The Sock Blank Special Dye Along schedule will be released in the middle of February, however I wanted to share the general plan now to give you a chance to get your hands on some sock blanks for the dye along.  I will release a number of pre-filmed sock blank dyeing videos in addition to multiple livestreams.  The livestreams will take place at a range of times (morning, lunchtime, and evening) to give as many people as possible the chance to tune in.

What is a sock blank? 

A sock blank is a knit piece of fabric that you can dye and then unravel to use in a knitting or crochet project.  These make it really easy to create gradient yarns and other unique asymmetric colorways.  When a sock blank is knit with two strands of yarn, aka a double knit sock blank, you can use this to create identical or symmetrical colorways. A single knit sock blank is knit with one strand of yarn.


Where to Buy Sock Blanks

You have two main choices, purchase commercial blanks OR create your own.  You could hand knit a blank, but that would take a long time.  If you want to create your own custom blanks (single or double stranded), I recommend getting an inexpensive hand crank knitting machine. I will talk more about this in the next section.

Here are some choices for purchasing your own sock blanks:
  • KnitPicks -  Stroll Fingering (75% superwash merino / 25% nylon) is one of my favorite yarns to dye, and KnitPicks offers a double knit sock blank with Stroll Fingering as the base.  You can purchase an individual blank that contains two 50 g balls of yarn knit together (462 yards total) for $19.99 or you can buy a 20 pack of sock blanks for $339.80 with the bulk discount (Affiliate Links)  
  • Wool2Dye4 - Wool2Dye4 offers three different sock blank options that you can purchase as a 5 pack.  They offer a double knit blank (i.e. two strands of yarn knit together so you can make identical socks) in their Platinum Sock line (75% superwash merino, 25% nylon).  You can buy a single knit blank as Sparkle Blanks (with 5% stellina for some sparkle) or a single knit blank in Platinum Sock Yarn.   (In the single knit blanks there is only one strand of yarn knit at a time, so you can make a really stunning gradient or striped yarn but you will not get two identical skeins of yarn when you unravel the blank.) Prices for the 5 packs run from $68 - $71.  
  • Dharma Trading - Their single strand Super Sock Blanks are made out of 75% superwash merino / 25% nylon. Prices start at $18.55 and will go down to $15.90 if you order 20 or more.  
  • ACME Fibers - For an additional $6-$6.50 CAD, you can order any of ACME's bare sock yarns as a double stranded or a single stranded sock blank. They offer a wide variety of fingering weight and sock yarns that you could get as a custom blank WITHOUT having to wind it yourself!  This final cost per sock blank will range from about $20 - $27 CAD depending on the yarn base you choose. ACME Fibers is a Canadian company, and I'm not sure whether they offer international shipping.  
  • Fiber to Yarn - You can special order a 10 pack of Ashland Bay Willamette Bay Sock Blanks for $202.50.  The single stranded sock blanks are 80% superwash merino / 20% nylon.  
  • Etsy - You can purchase undyed sock blanks on Etsy for a variety of prices (I've seen anywhere from $14 - $22 USD.)  

Make Your Own Blanks for Dyeing

There aren't many options for purchasing commercially knit blanks for dyeing. All of them are fingering weight yarns and most of them have the same, or very similar, fiber content in a superwash wool / nylon blend.  If  you purchase a hand crank knitting machine, you can create your own knit blanks using whatever yarn weight and fiber content you desire.

Before you make your own blank, it can help to think about what you might want to make out of the yarn.  Do you want to make socks or mittens?  Consider making a double stranded blank so you can get identical pairs.  Are you making a hat or a cowl?  how do you want the colors spaced? Will you want stripes?  These questions can help you decide how you want to dye your blank, but also the type of yarn you want to use in your blank.  Most commercially wound blanks use either a single strand or double strands of sock yarn.  With a hand crank knitting machine, you can create your own blanks in almost any yarn type.  Double stranded lace?  Go for it!  You have your pick of bare yarns to choose from.  The knitting machines that I own (shown below) are intended for worsted weight yarn.  These also work well on fingering weight and double stranded fingering weight yarn.  However, creating a double stranded worsted weight blank was really hard on the machine so I do NOT recommend trying that.  (I have not yet tried DK or sport weight.) 



I use a Singer hand crank knitting machine to make my own blanks.  This plastic machine is designed for children, but it works well enough to make imperfect tubes that I can use for dyeing yarn.  (You can also create flat blanks with the machine but I tend to do tubes because they are faster to crank out.)

I have a few videos that feature my singer knitting machines:


I'll probably do a livestream at the beginning of the Sock Blank Special Dye Along where I will make a double stranded blank.  Maybe I'll even make a flat one!



Materials for the Sock Blank Special Dye Along

In addition to pre knit (or crochet!) blanks, there are some other materials that you need to dye along with us.

DYE - In the Sock Blank Special Dye Along, I will use mostly food coloring or Kool-Aid in the live streams.  However, all of the techniques I will do in the dye along will translate nicely to commercial acid dyes.  I will talk more specifically about the materials I will use in each livestream when I release the final schedule.

YARN -  There are many suggestions on where you can purchase sock blanks or how to make your own above.  I wanted to give a few reminders about the fiber content in this section.  Since we are using either food coloring or acid dyes, we need to have yarn that is made out of protein based fibers such as a wool or silk.  Most commercial sock blanks are wool/nylon blends and these dye beautifully.  I have had great success with 50% wool 50% viscose (a cellulose fiber).  Wool/acrylic blends can work, but the resulting colors will be more muted.  If you are going to make your own sock blanks, I recommend picking yarns that have high % of wool.

ACID - I mostly use white vinegar (acetic acid), but you can also use powder citric acid to help the dye bind to the yarn.  The amount of citric acid found in a KoolAid packet is sufficient for dyeing yarn so if you are using KoolAid then you don't need any additional acid.

HEAT - In the dye along, I will either use a microwave or a pot on the stove to set the colors.  In the microwave, I usually will wrap the yarn in plastic wrap and then steam it, however you can do kettle dyed yarns in the microwave.  On the stove top, I will either have the yarn completely submerged in the dyebath or use a steamer basket to steam the yarn after it has been handpainted.

EQUIPMENT - The following are equipment pieces that I regularly use when I am dyeing yarn.  If you are planning on using commercial acid dyes, please make sure that you use dedicated pots, utensils, and other equipment that you don't use for food.
  • A 3-8 qt pot for stovetop techniques.  My dedicated dyepot is 8-quart with a steamer basket and lid.  
  • A dishpan or large bowl for presoaking yarns and washing the yarns at the end (so I don't have to lay them directly in the sink)
  • A microwave safe plate(s) 
  • Slotted Spoons (to press fiber down in a pot)
  • Measuring cups and spoons 
  • Plastic cups for mixing dyes
  • paper towels for cleaning up messes
  • Plastic wrap for steaming and/or microwaving
  • Tongs (helpful for removing hot yarn from a pot)

OTHER TOOLS - You can apply dye to knit fabric in many different ways.  Sometimes I will just pour out of cups, other times I will use some foam brushes or squeeze bottles to hand paint the blanks.  The following tools are completely optional, but might make an appearance during the Sock Blank Special Dye Along.  When I release the final schedule, I will create some specific materials lists.
  • Foam Craft Brushes (or maybe a sponge) to dab dye onto the blanks
  • Needle nose squeeze bottles - these are great for creating thin lines of color on your sock blanks during hand painting.  
  • Syringes for applying dye to yarn (as an alternative to squeeze bottles.  These are also useful for measuring out dye volumes.)  
  • Misto Pressurized Spray Bottle as an alternative to Wilton Color Mist Sprays.  
  • Cookie Cutters for stenciling 
  • Sprinkles for making speckles
  • Salt shaker or tea strainer

Sock Blank Dyeing Videos

Sock Blank Special - In December 2017, I had a Sock Blank Special week where I released multiple videos featuring different ways to dye sock blanks.  These videos feature techniques like spray painting for graffiti effects, dip dyeing for gradients, and hand painting stripes and random patterns.  We also unraveled some of these blanks in livestreams.  


In addition to the sock blank special, I have dyed a number of homemade blanks:

Sock Blank Special 2; A ChemKnits Dye Along

So what can you expect to see in the Sock Blank Special 2?  I plan to take some requests on the techniques we explore, but here are some of the suggestions that might make an appearance:

  • Stripes (with blanks that I can unravel since the last time I had to send the backer a completed blank)
  • Write a love letter on a blank
  • Stamping/stenciling
  • A crochet blank
  • Space Dyeing a blank
Is there anything that you would like to see?  Please let me know in the comments!  I look forward to another week focusing on dyeing pre-knit blanks.  Hopefully you will get your hands on some blanks so you can dye along with me in the week of February 26, 2018.  



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This post contains some affiliate links to Amazon and KnitPicks.  All thoughts, opinions, and product selections are my own and I was not approached to promote any of the products.  

Monday, January 22, 2018

Where to Buy Bare Yarns (Undyed Yarns)

Where do you buy your bare yarns to dye?  I have an old blog post on this topic but it hasn't been updated in a long time.  I've dyed a lot more yarn now than I have back then so I know more about what I want as a home dyer.  It also seems like I can find a lot more suppliers than I could find easily back in 2010.  Not to mention that some of the websites that I originally linked to are no longer active.  Let's see where we can find bare yarns now!

There are many MANY websites that offer bare yarns for sale.  I know that I am only scratching the surface in this post.  However, I wanted to assemble a list of some of the companies that have the most name recognition in addition to some smaller players.  If I left your favorite supplier off this list, please let me know in the comments!

  • KnitPicks - Most of the yarn I've dyed over the last 9 years has been KnitPicks bare yarns, and I feature these yarns regularly on my YouTube channel.  You can buy 20 packs of bare yarn at a bulk discount, but since you can buy individual skeins you can try the yarn before committing to a large volume.  The prices are also very competitive, too.  When I started my dyeing adventures, I was intimidated by the need to purchase 1 kg or more of bare yarns at a time, so the ability to purchase individual skeins really drew me in.  Plus there is free shipping over $50, and I never have trouble adding that much yarn to my cart!  (Full Disclosure, I became a KnitPicks Affiliate in October 2017, but I have been using these yarns for YEARS before I started officially promoting them.)
  • Wool2Dye4 - This is a dyer's haven with dozens of different yarn weights, fiber contents, and more available.  They only occasionally have single skeins of yarn available, usually you purchase their yarns in 10 skein packages. They offer wholesale discounts if you make a purchase over a certain weight of yarn.  Under their Kits section, you can sometimes find samplers of 3 of their yarns in a given weight.  I purchased the sock sampler once but I've still only dyed with one of the skeins. (I really need to get on that! I've been saving the cashmere blend for something special.) Shiela's Sock yarn took dye BEAUTIFULLY and is something that I would enjoy working with again.  They have some mini skein packs available which is great if you want to dye coordinating 20 g miniskeins without having to wind them yourself.
  • Craftsy - I had no idea that Craftsy sold yarn in addition to crafting classes until one of my followers mentioned it last fall.  can purchase Cloudborn Yarn Dyeables in sets of 10 skeins (50 or 100g).  The skeins range from fingering to bulky in a variety of fiber contents.  All but one are superwash and the sock yarns are both 20% nylon.  I have not tried any of these yarns but the natural colors vary from pale tan/grey to off white.  (Note, I became a Craftsy Affiliate in January 2018.) 
  • Dyer Supplier by KnitCrate - Well this just sounds like a good place for an indie dyer to look, now doesn't it?  I've heard a lot about Knit Crate recently although I have never purchased anything from them.  The site looks like it is set up to offer a wide range of fiber types and weights, but when I checked in January 2018 many of the categories were empty.  They do offer a range between 10 skein packs of yarn, mini-skein packs, and they even offer some single skein samples so you can try out a yarn base before committing to 10 skeins.  Dyer Supplier offers bulk discounts, so if you're going to get multiple 10 skein sets of one yarn you can save some more money. 
  • Dharma Trading - I've never used any of Dharma's dyeable yarns, but they seem to offer a bunch of different natural and synthetic fiber options.  I purchased my acid dyes from Dharma along with some undyed silk scarves and cotton fabric accessories to use with some of my commercial dyeing experiments.  Dharma also has a wide variety of dyeable rovings that include cellulose and synthetic fibers.  Someone once asked me to find 100% bamboo roving and I'm happy to say that now I've found some!  Maybe I'll have to pick some up the next time I purchase some dyes.
  • New England Farm to Fiber - Natural yarn straight from the New England farmer.  This yarn company has a stall at the Boston Public Market and feature yarns from a dozen farms in the New England area.  Like many skeins of yarn from small local farms, the price per skein is higher than what you might pay from a larger yarn company. This site offers a variety of natural colors to choose from, and I imagine that they would all take up dye beautifully.  Personally I would probably chose to knit something from the natural colored wool, but I also wanted to include at least one local (to me) source on this list.
  • Quince & Co - In addition to huge arrays of fabulous colors, many of their yarn lines come in at least one undyed color.  I love that the thumbnail for each of the yarn lines is a natural, undyed color of the yarn!  The have a category for bare yarns, but this leaves out some of the natural NON off white colors that they offer.  Skeins of yarn are sold individually.  Since the yarns come both undyed and dyed, you can get a solid color and then dye a variegated yarn in the same base to complement it.  Sounds fun to me! 
  •  Yarn Undyed / bareyarns.com - It is funny. I just about had given up on the YarnUndyed.com website because it looked like there were only wholesale options and the website for knitters to buy individual skeins didn't seem to work properly. Then I discovered their site through bareyarns.com, and it looks like this one is set up for US based shoppers.  This UK supplier ships both to the US and Canada, and offers both single skeins and 5 skein packs in a mixture of fiber types.  Bare BFL yarns?  Yes please!  They also offer camel, cashmere / silk blends and more.  They offer free airfreight shipping on orders over $75 in case you are worried about expensive international shipping. 
  •  Catnip Yarns -  Catnips offers a wide variety of fiber types, weights, and blends.  You can buy the bare yarns by the cone or by the skein, although it looks like there are more cone options available.  The single skeins range from 3.4 - 5.1 oz from what I could find scanning the site. (I am noting this because most other site sell skeins in 50 or 100 g increments.)  Catnip Yarns will provide free samples of their yarns (12" long pieces) if you email them.  I haven't reached out for samples as of writing this post, but if I do then I will update it with some opinions on the yarns.  Someone reached out to me to let me know that Catnip now only sells cones, not skeins.  
  • A Child's Dream - Child's Dream only has 5 different options for undyed yarn. These include a Big loop Mohair Boucle yarn which looks very unique and cool, although it is $43 / 8 oz. The yarns appear to come the Brown Sheep Yarn Company in Nebraska.  
  • Pacific Wool and Fiber - It looks like Pacific Wool and Fiber currently is only stocking bare unspun fibers, but they certainly have a lot of wheel and wheel accessory options.  They carry a nice variety of wool breeds so you can have some choices for the fiber types you want to dye and spin.  
  • Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Company - This small company offers a variety of natural wool yarn colors in addition to some plant dyed colors.  With their natural colors, you can specify whether you would like sport, worsted, or bulky weight in the given natural undyed colorway.  The colors range from a dark chocolate brown, a variegated brown/pale twist, medium browns, to pale grey or off white colors.  I am not sure if yarns are spun to order of if there are any minimums, but it is an option for sourcing a variety of natural colors in the yarn weight you want.  
  • Ashland Bay - WHOLESALE ONLINE. Ashland Bay offers dozens of different undyed yarns and unspun fibers.  I haven't personally tried any of their bare yarns, but I know that they are popular with other indie dyers.  They even provide sock blanks!  Unfortunately, you can't set up a retail account with them. In order to set up a wholesale account, you have to commit to spending $750/year and send them a copy of your business license within the fiber/textile industry.  They do have a list of online and local distributors on their website.  If they have a product you want but you can't find a supplier, maybe you can ask a yarn store that has an account with them to place a special order for you. Three online suppliers (which you can see next on this list) are WEBS, Paradise Fibers, and Fiber to Yarn. 
  • WEBS America's Yarn Store - The local yarn store on the web that has the domain yarn.com, has a limited selection of natural undyed yarns.  (Search their site for "undyed" for the results to come up.)  They do, however, offer a wide selection of undyed spinning fiber as roving and top.  I have some of their BFL in my stash.  I thought I might blend it with some other, unordered, fiber that I have in my stash but I couldn't bare to mess up the ordered top. They sell Ashland Bay unspun fibers.
  • Paradise Fibers -  They have multiple options for undyed 100% silk yarns in addition to some wool options.  Most of the in stock wool yarns seems to come in cone form versus skeins (the silk yarns are in skeins). They have MANY MORE options for bare spinning fiber than for undyed yarns.  They are an Ashland Bay distributor but at the time I looked the yarns were sold out and they only had Ashland Bay unspun fiber.  (Note, I became a Paradise Fibers Affiliate in June 2018.)  
  • Fiber to Yarn - Here is another Ashland Bay Distributor.  They have limited 4 oz skeins in stock, but they will place a special Ashland Bay order for you if you are going to spend a minimum of $200.  It looks like this might be a good place to try out some single skeins of Ashland Bay yarns before committing to a bulk order.  
  • Darn Good Yarn - They offer a limited selection of dyeable yarns that vary from wool to silk sari ribbon.  You can purchase the yarns in individual skeins. (Note, I became a Darn Good Yarn Affiliate Marketer in February 2018.)
  •  ACME Fibers - This Canadian company offer a variety of weights and fiber bases.  All of the prices are listed in Canadian dollar.  WOA!  For an additional $6 or $6.50, you can get any fingering weight yarn that you purchase machine knit into a blank for dyeing... either single OR double stranded. This is a HUGE offer.  I didn't see specific information on shipping to the US, but you can always contact them to ask if they will ship internationally.  
  • Elitespun - This is another Canada base company that offers a variety of yarn bases.  I found a price list for the dyeable yarns on their site, but it doesn't look like they have pictures of the individual yarns.  Elitespun's website feels like a small company, and you will likely need to email them for prices and to place an order. 
  • Lion Brand Yarn - While not really an seller of undyed yarns, I need to include Lion Brand on this list since the first ever yarns that I dyed were Lion Brand Wool Ease in the color Fisherman.  This yarn is 80% acyrlic, 20% wool but it still takes up food coloring surprisingly well.  I know that a lot of my followers like to use Sock Ease in Marshmallow (75% wool, 25% nylon) because it is something that they can find in big box stores without needing to shop online.  They even offer some luxury fibers like cashmere and yak!  As a random aside that surprised me as I was looking at their site, they sell 100% acyrlic roving AND some steel/wool blend yarn.  Who knew? I've had some trouble finding some of these yarns in person lately (although I did pick up some Fishermen's Wool Yarn in Mapel Tweed this week because I thought it would be fun to over dye.)   (Note, I became a Lion Brand Affiliate in January 2018.)

Did I include your favorite place to purchase bare yarn in the above list?  Let me know and I can update the list!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Dyeing Yarn with Sprinkles

The whole Dyepot Weekly experience is giving me an opportunity to explore and experiment with less conventional materials for dyeing yarn.  One of my favorite new techniques is dyeing yarn with sprinkles.

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Sprinkles are not a conventional dye source.  They contain sugar and ingredients beyond the food coloring that make them brightly colored.  However, if you've ever eaten Funfetti cake, you know that these sprinkles dissolve to bring you bright pops of color inside the cake, so what would they be able to do with yarn?

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I was really excited to find out.  I presoaked some 100% wool yarn, Wool of the Andes Worsted Bare from KnitPicks (Affiliate Link), with some vinegar and the liberally sprinkled on some nonpareils sprinkles.  I picked the most vibrant colored ones I could fine and crossed my fingers that they would transfer their color to the yarn.  

The experiment was a complete success!  I have now played with this technique a number of times (and I can't wait to show you more about those in future posts) but for now, I hope that you'll enjoy watching the first time I tried dyeing yarn with sprinkles.  

Monday, January 15, 2018

Happy New Year!

We had a blast at Disney World with all of the homemade ears!

Happy New Year, Everyone!  I promise that I will get back to business with new posts as soon as things settle down.  I am nearing the end of fullfilling all of my Kickstarter obligations.  In the meantime, make sure you check out what is going on with the ChemKnits Tutorials YouTube Channel.  I've been releasing multiple new dyeing videos every week! 

I have a back log of posts to write up.  Remember how I was sharing ears for our Disney World trip?  I have so many I haven't even shared with you yet!  Plus there are the Dyepot Weekly episodes, and some new fun hats that I knit for the kids.  I look forward to sharing many of my crafting adventures with you this year.