Friday, April 23, 2010

Having Fun With Yarn

My goal was to dye my own self-striping yarn.

In case you're not a knitter and that sentence didn't make sense to you, these socks were knitted from a single ball (skein) of yarn that has been dyed in a factory somewhere so that the stripes form as you knit.

Yes, it IS just like magic. Or, as my friend Carol's husband calls it; witchcraft!

Whatever you call it, it's pretty darn cool.

What would be even cooler? Dyeing your own!

So, you start with an undyed skein of yarn. Like this.

Not just "white" yarn, it has to be un-dyed.

Then you DON'T do this with it;

Because now you get to spend the next three days untangling that mess. NOT fun.

OK, you've finally gotten it untangled. Now you need a plan.

I did the fairly obvious. I was knitting a pair of self striping socks with a pattern I liked, so I simply pulled out an entire length of the pattern, measured each color section, and then decided on my own colors for each section. Easy as pie.

I came up with something like this:
(click to enlarge)

It's rough, but it worked.

I needed the yarn to be in lengths of about 46 feet to complete my pattern. (You don't have to be exact with it, but close). To do that, I placed a kitchen chair at our back door, front door and in the bathroom, then strung the yarn around all three chairs until I ran out of yarn. (I used an old piece of yarn first to measure where to place the chairs.)

Lucky for me our cat was not interested in this project, and for some reason our dog was scared to death of all this craziness and stayed on the couch.

Now, you have to be sure to tie the yarn at various points to avoid it getting tangled (again). I followed Julie's method.

Then I marked what color each section was to be dyed (with a safety pin and paper). My pattern written on paper came in handy here.

Next comes the "fun" part.

You get to dye the yarn! Yay!

I used Wilton paste food dye and liked it.

So, mix up your chosen colors. Whatever appeals to you. And that's what I went with. I kept hearing advice like, "Just go with it, whatever happens it will probably be a cool looking sock when you knit it up. Don't sweat it too much." Good advice.

I set our roasting pan on the stove top and placed some water inside, then into that water bath I placed my dyeing pots - mason jars and a pyrex dish. You should soak your yarn for 30 minutes in plain water to get it ready to absorb the dye so I simply did that in the mason jars first.

I also marked each jar with the dye color for that section of yarn. Yeah, it takes some coordination to get the yarn into the correct jar. I ended up using two jars for the burgundy color since that was my main color.

There is some overlap between jars so having on plastic gloves is a great idea, and having a few pair is even better. You'll be dipping the overlapped yarn into the proper dye jar to get it to absorb the color.

I used the pyrex dish to do some dots with dye on that part of the yarn. I really liked the way that turned out and I liked it even better when I accidentally dripped some blue dye in there also. So, those happy little accidents can turn out nicely.

Some advice; don't try to dye anything black. It didn't work for me. And try not to add an excessive amount of dye to the jars. When the dye is all absorbed the water eventually clears. And trust me, you've got to rinse the yarn until it runs clear and it will take a lot less time/water if you use only as much dye as you need to achieve your color.

I started with cold water and heated it up slowly. Never boil it! I allowed the dye on the yarn for 20 minutes, then poured in some white vinegar and let that sit for 10 minutes more. You can stir it but do so gently to avoid tangling the yarn. Allow to cool in the jars or carefully remove and cool on towels.

Then you need to pull the yarn out and rinse, rinse, rinse in the sink until the water runs clear. Old bath towels are very helpful here. I strung towels from the stove to the sink and all over the floor. And I managed to not leave any evidence of dye in the kitchen.

Then it needs to dry. I used our spare shower with a sweater drying rack and another towel underneath.

Throughout all of this handling, be very careful not to tangle the yarn. It's tricky but just work carefully, patiently and slowly. Having tied up your yarn earlier with waste yarn really helps keep it from getting tangled.

The next day I spread it all out in the living room and walked around forming it into a ball of yarn. Be sure not to wind it too tightly or you'll stretch out your pretty yarn.

And ta da!

The (nearly) finished result;

I'm very happy with it. Will I do this again? Oh yes, I will!

For more info on dyeing your own self striping yarn:

See Eunny Knit

Beatle Wear

Streets and YOs

And here's the pattern I use for my socks;

Women’s Size Toe Up Sock


With size 2 double point needles and sock weight yarn, cast on 8 stitches.
Work in stockinette (knit one side, purl the other) for 15 rows.
With resulting rectangle, holding the working needle in your right hand   pick up eight stiches along top with a second needle.  With the knit side of the piece facing up, knit across these stitches with another needle.  You now have two working needles.  Continue along both remaining sides, picking up eight stitches on both remaining sides and knitting across them.   You now have 4 working needles.  Place a marker and/or stitch counter.

Increasing toe:

Note- make sure you snug/tighten up the stitches between one needle to the next, otherwise you’ll end up with “ladders”.

Increase Row (Odd number on your counter):
On the needle with the marker- Needle One;  K1, M1 (pick up the bar between the two stitches by sliding the left hand needle under it, keep it on the left needle and knit it through with the right hand needle), K to the last stitch.
Needle Two - K to last stitch, M1, K1. 
(These two needles hold the heel stitches.)
Needle Three:  K1, M1, K  
Needle Four:  K to last stitch, M1, K1

Even Rows:  Knit  (even number on your counter)

Repeat these two rows until you have 12 stitches on each needle.


Continue with regular knitting until piece measures 5 1/2 to 6 1/4 inches (depending on what size you want - measure your favorite sock from tip of toe to start of gusset angle.)

(Needles three and four hold the instep- you can start a pattern here if you like, such as KK, PP, KK, PP but only use it on needles 3 and 4)


Odd rows:   Needle one:  K1, M1, K
                    Needle two:  K to last stitch, M1, K1
                    Knit across needles three and four

Even rows:  Knit

Repeat these two rows until you have 22 stitches on needle one and 22 stitches on needle two.  Make sure you knit the last even row.

Turning the heel:

Working across the first two needles only;

K 14 - add marker, K16, turn (stop using 5th double point needle here and knit with just needles one and two)

S1, P15 (to marker), turn (remove marker, it won’t stay)

S1, K13, turn

S1, P11, turn

S1, K10, turn

S1, P9, turn

S1, K8, turn
S1, P7, turn

S1, K6, turn

S1, P5, turn

1st Increase row:  S1, K5, (M1, K1) 4 times, S1, K1 from side of heel, PSSO, turn

2nd Increase row:  S1, P14, (M1, [pick up the purl bump below the stitch on the left hand needle, place it on the left hand needle and purl it] P1) 4 times, P2 tog, turn

Slip Stitch Heel Flap

Row 1:  S1, knit to last stitch before the little gap, slip this stitch as if to purl, K1, PSSO, turn

Row 2:  (S1, P1) to last stitch before the little gap, purl it together with the stitch after the gap, turn

Repeat these two rows until you are back down to 44 stitches or the stitches after the gap have been used.
This completes the heel.

Leg  (now you can add in the 5th needle by splitting the heel onto two separate needles if you want.)

Knit 4 rounds even then start whatever pattern you want for the leg, as long as you want it.  (see note below first)

To avoid holes at the gusset area;  as I knit the 4 rounds after finishing the heel - knit 12 stitches onto needle, then (splitting the heel again), knit just 11 stitches onto needle two, putting the 12th stitch onto needle 3.  Knit that stitch together with the second stitch on needle 3 - making sure to snug it 
up.  When you reach needle four you’ll have to decide whether to knit the last stitch of needle four with the first stitch on needle one, or sometimes I actually add a stitch between in order to avoid the hole.  Then as you’re knitting the four rounds before beginning the leg pattern, add a stitch when needed to have 12 stitches on each needle again.

When using size 2 needles I usually switch to size 3 part way up the leg of the sock so it’s a bit bigger when it gets to your calf.


Connie said...

I love the end result!!!

Unknown said...

WoW Victoria! That was fun - cause I didn't have to do all the hard work. It looked kind of like spaghetti in your blue bowl before dying. LOL Kim's dinner?
Anyway it turned out absolutely beautiful and your socks are too. I'll bet you have the prettiest socks in town from what I can see.

Pat said...

Knot a knitter :)
Way too ambitious for me.
Cracking up laughing looking at that pic of the yarn around the chairs and cabinet.

Catherine said...

This looks very much like my first weaving project where I ended up with counted yarn lengths of about 20' extending out into the front yard on chairs when the wind came up. Your project brought wonderful and hilarious memories of something I don't do anymore. I DO have a recipe for dying yarn with kool-aid, which I 'dying' to try on some yarn that I spun years ago. Your socks look GREAT...toe up pattern?

Randy Emmitt said...

So have you done the other sock to match? BTW I wear size 14 if you want to try making really big socks... :)

Rosemary said...

OMG you so impress with all that work , the results are terrific! Wonderful colours.
Laughed at all the yarn woven thru out the house, can't believe the cat and dog did not bother it.
Still think I will be buying pre done striped yarn..

François-Xavier said...

le résultat est magnifique mais je pense qu'il faut beaucoup aimer le parmesan pour avoi autant de récipients identiques... rires !
bisous de Toulouse !

ps : et bon anniversaire à Casey !

Prairie Chicken... said...

those yellow striped socks are EPIC!

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

I take my hat off to you, Victoria!

Katherine Schultz said...

Woweee, congrats!! I wish i could do this! Good on you :) Well done!

Have a GREAT weekend.

K xx (from

Kathleen said...

Hilarious photo of the yarn strung down the hallway!! Love it. My cat would have totally ate this project up ~ might have even messed it up in the process ~ good thing I don't knit! Your knitting always looks wonderful to me. I use Wilton dye for almost everything ~ the colors are so rich.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

I love the colors and LOVE fun socks, not a fan of do a lovely job of it.
From the thumbnail photo though it was going to be a Wizard of Oz topic.. :-D

Bangchik and Kakdah said...

Exciting!!... I wish to have that space and patience. ~bangchik

Laura Paine Carr said...

I cannot even believe this! I will have to visit again today as a form of pinching myself, a reality check. Thank you for a great photo-journey through the making of striped socks. Witchcraft, indeed. My cats would have put the kabosh on that project. And yes, Luna would have been very very deeply worried with such goings on, most likely hiding in the laundry pile.

Awesome. Delightful. Hilarious. Amazing.