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.  

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.