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I said I'd do it and here it is, the handpainting yarn tutorial.  It's not as exhaustive and minutia-geared as the first, more of an overview of how the process differs.  But it's an interesting comparison and who knows, this may prompt someone to give it a shot and if that is the case I am more than happy to type it up. My apologies for any typos I may have missed - my new test editor doesn't spellcheck and Firefox isn't highlighting either, so I am trying to catch them manually and may have missed a few.





- Yarn of some sort, this tutorial is written with a wool yarn blank in mind, but any protein fiber (wool, alpaca, mohair, silk, etc etc) will do.  It can even be a skein that is already dyed, and that makes very interesting effects.

- Protein Fiber dye of your choice - I'd recommend food coloring, easter egg dye, koolaid, or professional acid dyes.  I used Jacquard Acid Dyes

- White Vinegar, to use with your acid dyes

- Cups and bowls to mix your dye colors in, squirt bottle work well too

- A vegetable steamer basket and lidded pot that will NOT be used for food

- Foam brushes

- a sink and counter space clear of any food or food preparation items

- paper towels for blotting and cleaning up spills

- wire whisk, if needed, for mixing your dyes

- latex or rubber gloves, if you don't want colored hands

- Synthrapol or Castille Soap, to use as a wetting agent

- Eucalan Wool Wash



Step 1:  We start with soaking the yarn in the sink with a few drops of synthrapol for wetting and lifting and grime or grease from the wool. Yarn can still definitely felt if agitated too much or exposed to drastic temperature changes, but compared to the handling of the pencil roving this is cake.  GENTLY push the yarn down in the water and swish it around a little to get out all the air and thoroughly wet.  Leave it for at least an hour - yarn is more difficult to evenly wet that roving, due to the fibers being closer together.


Worsted weight merino yarn in for a soak in the bathroom sink


Remember, the water must be cool to lukewarm.  NO DRASTIC TEMPERATURE CHANGES AT ANY TIME!




Step 2: Drain the water and squeeze out as much moisture from the yarn as you can, with your hands.  You can even GENTLY wring the skein, but that is taking a bit of a risk with fulling/felting.  A plastic salad spinner comes in VERY handy for draining excess water from the skein, but it is absolutely not necessary.


Unroll 3 ft. or so of plastic wrap on the counter and spread your skein out.  You want it orderly, but take care to truly fan out the skein as much as possible, so it is laying as flat as it can.  The thicker the skein is the more difficult it becomes to make dye penetrate, so flattening and spreading it will aid that process immensely.


Skein slightly damp and spread out on plastic wrap - excuse the unretouched photos!


This would also be a great time to get your dye mixed up on another counter, and grab those foam applicators and squeeze bottles.




Step 3: Apply the dye!  This is more difficult with yarn than roving, simply because the dye molecules want to bind to the top layer of fiber and not penetrate through.  This is also why I prefer a foam brush from application, because the dabbing/pushing motion helps the dye penetrate.  You end up using much less dye AND get a more even color, so it's a win/win.


Remember you arenot using painting/sweeping motions, but pressing and dabbing.  The more pressure you apply the better your penetration will be.


Applying the dye by dabbing and pressing in into the yarn


Tip:  It is a good idea to label your foam applicators with the general color family used.  No matter how well you rinse them out the foam will always hold traces of dye - especially when dealing with darker shades like red and black, it is a good idea to keep the same brush with the same dye color family to prevent accidental staining of your yarn.  A sharpie to the handle works quite nicely for labeling.


Be sure to lift your yarn up on occasion and check that the dye is penetrating to the underside of the work.  If it is not, gently fold it over or flip the skein onto a clean spread of plastic wrap and apply dye to the back side as well, so you don't get unintended white space.




Step 4:  When you are finished applying dye, let the skein cure on the counter for at least 15 minutes, to slow/prevent bleeding.


Leave yarn to cure


Though not strictly necessary, good latex or rubber gloves are recommended to avoid socially unacceptable rainbow fingers.  I, personally, find they get in the way most of the time, so I just invest in a good stock of Reduran (which is a hand cream that lifts dye) and chase little children with my frightening fingers.  It's all quite amusing, but not the best idea if your day job includes business attire, food service, or anything involving individuals without a strong sense of humor.


Gloves are advisable, green fingers are more fun, though





Step 5: Wrap your skein up as detailed in the previous tutorial. Fill your dye steaming pot, close the lid, and turn it to a boil.


Wrapped in plastic wrap and ready to be steamed


Once it starts boiling, turn it down to the lowest setting and set your timer for 30 minutes.  Once time is up, turn off the heat and leave the skein as long as humanly possible to cool - overnight is best.  Yarn, more than roving, can tend to have dye adherence issues and so the more time it cools naturally the better off you are.




Step 6: Rinse skein in Synthrapol or a clear water bath as detailed in the previous tutorial.  Be careful with agitation and keep the temperature within 20 degrees of the temperature of the yarn or you'll be a sad panda.


The hand of the final yarn is important, so unlike roving where a Eucalan rinse is optional, I really feel it is necessary for any yarn to get a good, gentle Eucalan washing and regain some softness and suppleness.  The chemical agents in the dye can leave yarn feeling quite squeaky and rough, and especially if you're giving it as a gift or selling it you want people to recognize the real feel of the fiber, not the stripped feeling of the dye.  So Eucalan or else!




Step 7: Squeeze or salad spin out as much water as possible.  Double up a throwaway bath towel and arrange your yarn on it.  Proceed to get out as much additional water as you can - I honestly find that folding another towel on top of the yarn and stepping on it thoroughly works best, but your mileage may vary.


Once the yarn has been towel dried, hang it up by any method you prefer, give it a few days to dry and voila!  Beautiful handpainted yarn, with a lot less hyperventilating and fuss than the same technique used on roving.  Take copious pictures, show all your friends, and enjoy!



The finished product - Melaleuca Yarn



(PS:  The Geranium Sock Yarn is now up for sale, with Melaleuca following tomorrow.)

taryl | General | 20 January, 11:10pm
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