Dying Yarn – Slow Cooker

Last year, I shared how I’ve previously dye my own yarns with food colour gels in the microwave, but there are a number of other methods that work really well, including using a slow cooker.

One of these ways is using a slow cooker and if I’m honest, this is one method I find a lot easier. As I’m using food gel colours, this means I can use the same equipment for dyeing yarns as I would for everyday cooking due t them not containing any toxic chemicals. This also makes it a safe, fun activity to do with children!

You will need:

* Slow cooker

* Food gel colours – I used a mix of Wilton food gels which you can get from Hobbycraft, Amazon, etc

* White vinegar

* Protein based yarn such as merino, alpaca – I used a skein of Chester Wool Ultra DK (100% superwash merino wool, 225m, 100g)

* Large bowl

* Smaller bowls – for mixing dyes

* Spoon – for moving the yarn – it will get extremely hot!

Step One

Prepare your yarn! As you are using food colouring, you will need to add acid to your water to pre-soak the yarn so that the yarn will absorb the dyes. If you don’t do this, the colour won’t set. In a large bowl, add approx 6 cups of water and 1 cup of vinegar. Press the yarn to the bottom carefully and make sure that all the fibre is soaked through and any trapped air is released. Leave this for at least 30 minutes.

Step Two

While your yarn is soaking, you need to prepare your dye bath. You need heat in order to set the dye. If you don’t, the colour will just wash off and you don’t want that! Fill your slower cooker half full of water and set to high to heat up.

Step Three

Now the fun bit – choosing your colours! I think this is the part that I always struggle with as I want to use all the colours!! For this tutorial, I have chosen to use 2 different colours – pink and yellow.

In smaller bowls, pour boiling water into each one and add a little bit of gel colour to each one. The darkness of the colour depends on how much gel you add. If you want a light shade, only add a small amount of colour and build it up as you go – adding water will not dilute the colour.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how many colours you use, you can use one, two or all of them!

If you want to dye with black colouring, this is extremely hard and is very likely to break due to black colouring’s being made up from blues, reds and greens. I once tried to dye a skein of pink and grey and, though it looked so lovely on the wet skein, once I added heat into the mix, the grey disappeared. For a black/grey, you would have to use acid dyes.

Step Four

Now it’s time to add the yarn to the dye bath. Remove the yarn from the water/vinegar soak and very gently squeeze some of the excess moisture out. Do not wring it too hard, you don’t want to ruin your beautiful fibre!

Add the yarn to the slow cooker and make sure it’s spread out. Now you can add your dye!

Pour your dyes in various parts of the slow cooker over the blank yarn – you may notice that the yarn absorbs it quickly. Once the dyes had all been absorbed by the top parts of the yarn, I swirled it round every so carefully with a spoon and added more dyes to the parts that were harder to reach.

Once your happy with the amount of dye used, cover and ‘cook’ for 2-3 hours.

Step Five

The yarn is ready once the water is clear – all the dye has been absorbed!

Very carefully remove the yarn from the slow cooker and leave to cool completely. I place my yarn in a colander over a bowl to allow it to drain. Once it is completely cool, rinse the yarn in cool water, followed by a small amount of washing up liquid – there’ll be a lovely smell of vinegar once it’s finished! There should be no colour running from your yarn.

It’s super important not to rinse the yarn while it’s still warm or you’ll run the risk of felting the yarn!

Hang the yarn to dry and leave it – it will take a good 24 hours for the fibre to dry out.

Once your yarn is dry, you can twist it or re-skein it and twist it. I find that there always seems to be looser strands of yarn towards one end so I have to re-skein it to make it nice and tidy.

This time round, I found the colours weren’t as striking as when I’ve previously dyed up a skein of yarn, but I’m loving the more pastel shades of pinks and yellows!

The next step is to decide on a project to make with your beautiful one of a kind skein of yarn!

Happy dyeing xx

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