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?


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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.  

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