Creative Knitting - Yarns to Dye For!
By Linda Black

When you want to knit with a yarn that is totally unique, try dyeing it first.

There are two ways of dyeing yarn. One way is with chemical or synthetic dyes, which are quick and easy to use, the other is with natural dyes. The process of using natural dyes takes a little longer but the results are more subtle.

Synthetic dyes cover a wider range of colours than natural dyes. They are relatively inexpensive to buy and so, for the beginner, a great way to experiment. It's important to choose the correct dye for the type of fibres in your yarn. Because synthetic dyes are made from chemicals, the same dye will react differently on yarns of different fibre composition.

Natural dyestuffs can be collected from your garden or from the countryside or can be bought as powders from craft shops and chemists.

It's best to dye the more unusual yarns such as cashmere, alpaca or angora, for example. The colours available in standard shop-bought yarns is so wide-ranging that it's probably not worth the trouble of dyeing these, unless you want to match a very specific shade.

Take care when you select the containers for dyeing your yarn.

If you use metal dye pots, make sure they won't rust, as rust spots can ruin your yarn. Stainless steel or enamelled pots are best, as these will not react badly with the chemical dyes or with some of the mordants used for natural dyes.

Beware - if spilt, dyes will stain your cooker. If you have one, use an old camping gas stove or portable electric ring for heating up the mixture, just in case!

Other tools that you might need when dyeing your yarn:

* small pan for dissolving chemical dyes (if these are being used)
* table-spoon for mixing
* a pair of wooden tongs
* some smooth wooden sticks
* weights and scales
* hot and cold water
* apron and rubber gloves
* scouring pads (for cleaning the tools after dyeing is complete)
* clean bowls for rinsing the yarn
* notebook and pen (keep notes of yarns dyed and recipes used)

Dyeing your own yarn is creative and fun. Why not try it?

Copyright 2006 Linda Black

Based in the UK, Linda Black has written several design books for machine knitters and is a self-confessed knitting addict. Her web site for both hand and machine knitters can be found at Sign up for her free monthly knitting hints and tips newsletter here

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