Friday, July 19, 2019

The Best Tools & Equipment for Dyeing Yarn at Home

What do you need to dye yarn?  Beyond yarn and dye, of course.  There are so many different ways to apply color and heat to your yarn!  In my yarn dyeing videos, I talk a lot about the dyes and yarn that I use for each project.  I usually include links to other supplies in the video descriptions, but I thought it would be helpful to share a list of my favorite equipment and other supplies that come in handy for yarn dyeing adventures.

This post contains affiliate links to KnitPicks, DyerSupplier, and Amazon, which means I may earn a commission on items purchased through these links. I purchased all of the items myself unless otherwise noted. 

Equipment

When you start exploring commercial dyes, you will want to have dedicated dye pans and utensils. I bought my equipment new, but you can usually find large pots at second hand stores.  Ideally look for pots that are stainless steel or enamel.   
  • Multi Pot - I use the SALT® 8 qt. Stainless Steel 4-Piece Multi-Cooker from Bed Bath &Beyond with a steamer basket and Pasta Insert as the dedicated dye pot in many of my videos. I use this pot both for immersion and steaming techniques. I own both the 8 qt and 12 qt versions of this pot.  The 8 qt steamer basket can hold ~200 g of yarn easily but you can fit a lot more in the pasta insert.  I have also used canning pots that have a wire rack for steaming yarn on the stovetop.  
  • Rectangular Steam Pan - The 4" Deep Full Size Stainless Steel Steam Pan measures 20.75" x 12.75" x 4" and can fit across two burners on my gas stove top.  I use this for low immersion dyeing and speckling but you can also fit enough water in the pan for some deeper immersion techniques.  There is plenty of space to lay out the yarn in these pans and I typically use them to dye 100-300 g of yarn at a time.  I use the exact pan I linked from Amazon, but you can also find these at restaurant supply stores. 


Personal Safety Equipment

Safety is super important. When you use commercial dyes, you want to make sure that you are working with only dedicated dye equipment that isn't used for food.  
  • Gloves - My favorite gloves to use are the Kimberly Clark Purple Nitrile Exam Gloves.  These are the exact same gloves that I used while I was working on my PhD.  I wear gloves almost at all times to prevent staining my skin.  
  • Safety Goggles - Eye protections is important!  You can find these in many places.  I buy a lot of my other safety equipment from Dharma Trading Company
  • Dust Mask - I started out wearing NIOSH approved N95 dust masks that have a metal bridge on the nose so you can fit it to your face.  You want some kind of barrier when dealing with powdered dyes to avoid inhaling any powders.  I wear some kind of mask when I'm dealing with any type of powders.  
  • Respirator - I upgraded my dust mask to a Deluxe Rubber Respirator for more heavy duty protection.  These have replaceable NIOSH P100 Particulate Filters and is easy to fit tightly and securely.  There are vapor cartridge sets that you can include in there, but I don't currently use those.  


My Favorite Tools 

As you dye more yarn, you will develop preferences for how you like to measure and apply dye to your yarn.  The following are some of the tools that I reach for over and over again.  
  • Kitchen Scale - I currently use a 500g - 0.01 g mini pocket food scale which overall I have been happy with.  I wish that it were a bit more sensitive for when I'm adding dye volumes smaller than 0.5 g, but overall it is great for weighing everything from dyes to packages that I need to ship out.  (The scale is small, so I place a bowl on it for weighing larger items.) I love to weigh yarn before and after a project so I have accurate information about the yardage in a project.  
  • Re-usable Nylon Zip Ties - Not only do these reusable 12" nylon zip ties help prevent tangling through the dyeing process by acting as a separate tie, they are rigid and are a really easy way to pick up and flip the yarn around during the dyeing process.  The nylon will take up some color from acid dyes and food coloring, but I still reuse them for multiple projects.  
  • Squeeze bottles - I use squeeze bottles both for applying dye in handpainting techniques, or for storing dyestocks.  Dharma Trading company sells 2- 32 oz squeeze bottles that I have been really happy with.  I also will save the bottles from Tulip One Step Tie Dye kits and use those 4 oz bottles in many of my videos.   
  • Tongs - a good set of silicone tongs are SO HELPFUL!  I use tongs all the time to remove yarn from the dyepot when it is still too hot for me to touch with my hands. I cannot locate the exact brand that I use, but I went for some that are silicone versus hard plastic or metal so I could avoid snagging the yarn.  
  • Miscellaneous spoons/utensils - I like to have various slotted spoons around for helping to push yarn into the dyepot and move things around.  I have a selection of silicone slotted utensils that are dedicated for dye projects only.   I like to buy utensils that are a completely different color than what I use for cooking so there is never any confusion.  
  • Dedicated Dye Measuring Cups and Spoons  - I like to find spoons that also indicate the number of mL in each tsp and Tbsp.  I bought a few sets at a local Dollar store.  
  • Syringes - Syringes are great for measuring out small volumes of dye or applying dye to fiber.  Like a squirt bottle, you can squirt the dye on top (but in a more measured capacity) or you can even inject the dye into the fiber directly.  I have a collection of 3 mL - 50 mL syringes that are super easy to wash and reuse.  
  • Graduated Cylinders - I have a PhD in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, and I still love bring my science background into dyeing.  I used 10 mL - 100 mL graduated cylinders for accurate volume measurements when mixing colors.  The set I purchased came with a lot of graduated beakers which also come in handy for mixing.  
  • Squeeze Bottles - I used a variety of squeeze bottles for applying dye to yarn and storing dye stocks.  Dharma Trading Company carries squeeze bottles in a variety of sizes and I have been very happy with the quality.  
  • Shower Curtain Liner - These tend to be larger than a lot of table cloths, and I like to use a cheap one as reusable protection for my kitchen counter top. After dyeing, I will wipe it down and reuse it multiple times.  I currently am using the Innaren Shower Curtain from Ikea. 

Miscellaneous Tools & Equipment


I have some tools that are super handy to have, but are not necessary to start out dyeing yarn.  In this list, you can find some more expensive pieces of equipment and some cheaper alternatives.  
  • Salad Spinner - Want your yarn to dry a bit faster?  You can use a salad spinner to spin out the excess water before you hang up yarn to dry.  
  • Nina Soft Spin Dryer - If you dye a lot of yarn, a spin dryer can make a HUGE difference to your dyeing process.  Laundry Alternative sent me this spin dryer for free to test out and review. The device is about the size of a small trash can, but it permanently lives in my kitchen.  Spinning out the excess water after dyeing yarn speeds up the drying process so much.  This is an item that I wasn't sure that I needed, but now that I have it I wouldn't want to work without it.  It appears that the Nina Soft Dryer is no longer being sold, but there are other similar models out there that I haven't tested.  
  • Frost Drying Rack - I absolutely love the FROST drying rack from Ikea.  I keep this rack set up in a bath tub to collect drips (although now with the spin dryer my yarn doesn't drip anymore so I could move it to another location.) I like to lay yarn over two rungs to allow for air flow and you can fit a ton of yarn on this rack.  
  • Ball Winder - I am on my second KnitPicks Ball Winder in 10 years.  (My kids managed to break the first one.)  I find it really easy to use, and it is great for getting the perfect yarn cake for some yarn cake dyeing projects.  
  • Yarn Swift - I am not sure where my yarn swift is from, but I plan to upgrade mine at some point.  The umbrella swift is similar to this KnitPicks one and is super useful to avoid tangling your skeins when you're ready to start knitting with them.  
  • PVC Pipe Niddy Noddy - A niddy noddy is a tool for reskeining yarn.  I use mine mostly for unraveling sock blanks, reskeining gradients, and making miniskeins.  The PVC pipe can get wet, and I can change the size of the skein I create really easily.  I even used mine to create a 12 ft skein for some self striping yarn! 
  • Electric Motorized Skein Winder - This is a true luxury item.  If you find yourself doing a lot of resekeining or prefer to create your 100 g hanks from cones, an automated skein winder can become your new assistant.  The one I purchased has a counter so I can easily create miniskeins without having to manually count wraps.  The skein winder is a huge time saver, and my shoulder also really appreciates the break.  This is NOT something that everyone needs, but I get a lot of questions about mine so I wanted to include it on the list.  

Yarn & Dye

Most of the yarn I dye comes from KnitPicks and DyerSupplier (I am an affiliate with both companies.  There are a number of reviews of their yarn bases on my YouTube channel.)  I have created a list of multiple bare yarn suppliers so you can check out some of the most popular ones for yourself.  

I use a lot of different types of dye in my videos.  For commercial dyes, my favorites are Jacquard and Dharma Acid Dyes.  My favorite food coloring is the Wilton Color Right Performance Color System.  Maybe at some point I will do a whole post talking about the different dyes I use in my projects.  

Different Dyeing Techniques

There are so many different ways to apply color to yarn.  Check out the ChemKnits Tutorials YouTube Channel for hundreds of dyeing videos using a variety of dye types and yarn bases.  

Have Fun!

As long as you have a heat source, a pot, some dye, and some yarn, you can get started on your own color adventures.  I really hope that this list will help you get started on your own dyeing adventures.  I try to always include links to the materials I use in my videos, but I felt it was time to create a more comprehensive list of everything I use when I'm dyeing yarn.  What are your favorite tools to use when dyeing yarn?


---------------------------------
This post contains affiliate links to Amazon, KnitPicks, and Dyer Supplier, which means that the links contain a tracking code and I earn a commission on items purchased after clicking on my link.  Dyer Supplier has sent me multiple of their yarn bases to review and share.  Unless otherwise indicated, I have purchased the materials, equipment, and dyes myself.  

Monday, July 15, 2019

Can you dye yarn with Skittles Candy?


You thought I was done with rainbows for a while?  Well Paradise Fibers had other ideas!  In the July 2019 Fiber of the Month Club Box they gave my "Dyeing Yarn with Leftover Halloween Candy" a shout out in the newsletter:


I have dyed a LOT of yarn with candy, but I haven't used skittles since the original video back in November 2017.  Dyeing with candy is very similar to dyeing with food coloring.  However, since it takes a while for the artificial food coloring in the candy to dissolve, you can get some beautiful pockets of color in a very fun and random fashion.  


Here are some  of my tips and recommendations for dyeing yarn with candy:
  1. You need a protein based yarn.  Wool, Alpaca, Silk, and Cashmere are all protein based fibers.  Plant based fibers are cellulose based and won't absorb food coloring in the same way.  Blends will work great, as long as there is some protein fiber content in there.  
  2. Waxy candy (like Skittles) can leave residue on fiber.  I prefer to use more chalky candys like Sweetarts and Candy Hearts since the washing is significantly easier in the end.
  3. Dyeing with candy requires a lot of washing.  I recommend spinning your fiber into yarn before dyeing it with candy.  I will remove the fiber directly from the warm dyebath into a warm rinse bath to help keep any of the dissolved candy from solidifying on the fiber.  
  4. With Skittles, remove the colorless insides as soon as the colorful outer shell has dissolved.  There is no food coloring on the inside of Skittles so you can save yourself some washing later on by picking out the candy from your dyebath. 
  5. Start small. If you're feeling nervous, start with a miniskein or just a few grams of fiber to see if you like the effect.  You can always scale up and dye more fiber later! 

After the Paradise Fibers shout out, I decided to try dyeing some fiber and yarn with just Skittles in a YouTube livestream since I had never tried this candy on its own before.  I did three different tests 8 g of the 50/50 Cashmere / Rose Fiber from Paradise Fibers, 100 g of KnitPicks Hawthorne High Twist Sock Yarn (80% Superwash Peruvian Highland Wool/ 20% Polyamide), and 100 g of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes Roving (100% Peruvian Highland Wool). 

50/50 Rose /Cashmere Fiber
I was very conservative on the luxury rose/cashmere fiber.  I used the small packet of skittles that came in the kit plus a couple more pieces of candy.  As soon as the outer shell dissolved, I removed the inner portion and transferred the fiber into some warm tap water to help rinse out all of the dissolved candy.  


Hawthorne Yarn (left) WOTA Roving (Right) before and after the candy dissolved.  

With the superwash yarn and the wool roving, I decided to take a greater risk.  I dumped a lot of skittles on top of the fiber and let it dissolve completely.  I washed the fiber thoroughly, but I was much more gentle on the roving than I was on the sock yarn.  The Rose/Cashmere fiber came out really beautiful - I even spun it in the recap!  The yarn turned out really well, too.  The wool roving... it is definitely waxy.  I was hesitant to wash it aggressively because I didn't want to felt the fiber.  I think that after I spin the roving I will try washing it in hot water to see if I can get the wax to melt back off.  The yarn still won't be superwash, but it will be safer than washing the unspun fiber aggressively.  


Can you dye yarn with Skittles?  100% yes!  It is so much fun... and it smells really good, too.  My official recommendation is to do this technique on yarn versus unspun fiber, but I have a feeling that I'm going to play around with my favorite candy hearts on some roving in the coming months. 

Watch the livestream recap to learn more about the whole project:



Dyeing aside, the Rose/Cashmere fiber is a stunning blend.  The yarn was silky and it practically spun itself.  I cannot wait to spin up the rest of the fiber that came in the Fiber of the Month Club box.  Part of me is debating dyeing the rest (with acid or fiber reactive dyes) or leaving it in its natural color.  I truly cannot decide!  

Paradise Fibers put a beautiful box together each month for the Fiber of the Month Club. (Affiliate Link)  In addition to the rainbow dyeing project, this Wizard of Oz themed box has a rainbow of Corriedale fiber, a yellow brick road (Lego) stitch marker, and the "Wizard of Ewez" vinyl sticker.  Each month Paradise Fibers makes me smile with the creativity and care they put into these packages.  I truly look forward to them because I cannot wait to see what they will come up with for next month!


I'm not sure if there are any more July 2019 Fiber of the Month Club boxes left, but it never hurts to reach out to Paradise Fibers to ask! 

If you missed the unboxing where I first saw the newsletter, you really want to watch the replay (My reaction to the shoutout is at 13:18):

 

Thank you so much, Paradise Fibers, for the shout out!

This post is not sponsored.  Paradise Fibers sends me their Fiber of the Month Club for free each month to unbox and review.  I am a member of their affiliate program which means that I earn commission on purchased made after clicking on my link.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Rainbow Roundup!

To show my support for Pride Month, I decided to dye up a bunch of Rainbows and make a donation to the Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention to LGBTQ youth.  Here are some of the stunning colorways I created in June:


In the two June #ChemKnitsDyeAlong livestreams, I talked a lot about Rainbows mean to me personally. The light and the hope that they can represent.  I picked a picture that had a lot of options.  I will finish up the recap from the dye alongs later this week.  If you want to be featured in the recap, share your projects on Instagram with #ChemKnitsDyeAlong or as a comment on the Facebook thread.  Whether you wanted to take a literal view of this scene, or focus on the rainbow itself, I always love seeing what you create!

A cartoonish version of the Dye Along Photo
A "green" rainbow - dyeing both sides of the blank
Rainbow roving!


All of the ChemKnits Dye Along livestreams and recaps are in the following Playlist (the June Livestreams are #19 & 20)



I was so excited to finally dye some rainbows with commercial acid dyes.  This stunning speckled gradient was created with a commercial double stranded sock blank that I unraveled for a matched 50 g pair.  What would you create out of this yarn? 



During the livestream, I kept an extra presoaked skein of yarn off to the side to use as a dye mop.  Whenever I had dye powder on my gloves from speckling and wanted to swap colors, first I would wipe off the extra dye on the yarn before washing the gloves.  This created a random rainbow yarn that is unique and full of fun.  I think part of the beauty comes in because my focus is elsewhere when I'm creating these mops to leave no dye behind. 



The following video won't be out into August, but if I'm sharing some of my favorite rainbow yarns... this one HAS to be on the list.  A long time ago, in a livestream, I sprayed a sock blank with different colors and then showed how it unraveled for amazing alternating speckles.  I finally created a stand alone video, and how stunning is this deep rainbow?  I have a feeling I will be recreating this colorway more in the future. 



View this post on Instagram

Each time I dye a gradient of rainbow speckles, I get very excited. 🌈💖🌈 This skein took my breath away. The dark purple-black speckles alternate with the rainbow colors for a new twist on a ChemKnits Favorite. Even with an automated skeinwinder I had to wind this one out by hand to see the gradient in full force. What would you create with this set? The dyeing video 🎥 won't come out until late August, but this stunning set of 50 g skeins is currently available in the #ChemKnitsCreations #Etsy store! (See link in profile) There is only one right now, but I have a feeling that I will revisit this colorway in the future. Created with @knit_picks sock blank 🧶 and @wiltoncakes color mist sprays. 🧁 #sneakpeak #tutorial #rainbow #rainbowyarn #yarnstagram #yarnie #diy #sockyarn #foodcoloring #handdyedyarn #indiedyer #fiberartist
A post shared by ChemKnits (@chemknits) on

In addition to the dye along, I played with all 40 colors of Jacquard Acid dyes in a couple of different ways.  I like to do crude swatches with new dyes to get a sense of relative intensity and hue between the colors.  There are much more accurate ways to do this, but this is a quick and dirty way to get a quick feel for all of the colors in the collection. 




The swatching is useful (and the final yarns are gorgeous!), but the real winner was the Leave No Dye Behind take on this project.  I used the seals from all of the containers on a single skein of yarn.  This rainbow yarn has all 40 colors on it! 


I could dye rainbows all day every day.  I hope that you enjoyed this look at some of my favorites from June 2019!