Preparing yarn for hand-dying

How to prepare Yarn for dying.  My yarns come from Italy either in big hanks of 500 grs or on cones.  If it is in big hanks – I dye it the way it is and if it is on cones – we wind it in 50 gr hanks, using a swift and a special yardage counter to make sure all the hanks are the same yardage. The interesting part is that I am trying to teach people how to convert meters into yards and it seems to be quite a task. If you ever get European yarn on cones un-dyed (let’s say buy it at School Products Yarn Store) you need to know how many yards to wind to get 50 gr hank. Inside of the cone I sell there is usually a label with the number corresponding with the count of yarn: for example 1.500. That means that in 1 kilo (2.2 lb) there is 1.500 meters of yarn. Let’s convert it into yards by using a coefficient 1.09 (it is a constant number for meter/yard conversion): 1.500 x 1.09=1.635 yrds per kilo.  We have 20 (50gr) skeins in 1 kilo. Now let’s figure what is the yardage of 1 skein/hank: 1.635 : 20 =81.75 yrds round up to 82 yds. Now if you ever go to Europe and want to buy yarn there – you are an expert!  If the label on the yarn shows you a meter count – you just multiply it by 1.09.

Ok, yarn is wound in a hank.  Now we have to secure it in 3-4 places that it does not get tangled when many hanks meet each other in a pot!

Tips: a) Use the same or similar in content yarn for tying. b) Tie it in 4 places (crossed like number 8 ) spaced evenly. It is important to tie it pretty loosely that the dye goes through easily, otherwise it will leave ugly white marks behind.

Now I put hanks in bundles of 10 connecting them with the strong 20-24″ string. They are ready now to be washed! Yarn has to be washed and rinsed before dying for a couple of reasons: to get rid of the spinning oil and to relax the fiber in the water for the better absorbency of the dye. I make a warm bath for the yarn and drop few drops of mild detergent (no bleach, please).  The more yarn stays in the water (up to 24 hours) the better it is, but I usually do it much faster, just wash it, rinse it and we are ready to go!

Let’s  go over the equipment and other little things I use for dying:

1. Two large enamel pots (34 and 50 gallons). The pots could be any capacity depending on the quantity you are planning to dye, but it should be enough room for the yarn to move in the pot.

2. Two outdoor burners with the gas tanks attached to them. I use Bayou burners.

3. Stainless steel stand with pegs on it (arranged at the different levels) to hold the string from the bundles of yarn.

4. A couple of long wooden sticks to mix dyes and vinegar in the pots.

5. 2-3 medium size (1lt or 1.000ml) measuring cups to mix the dyes.

6. Dust masks (very important!). 

7. Heavy duty gloves.

8. Heavy duty apron.

9. Few large plastic bins with handles to accommodate the yarn.

10. Clothes Wringer - this piece saved my life! Boy, when you wring few hundred hanks at the time, your joints screem at night!

11. Dyes. Let’s talk a little about dyes: I use Aljo acid dyes and I love them! I am sure that there are a big variety of other dyes, but it is the most popular dye company in New York and I love their colors. The acid dyes are used for natural fibers and nylon, there are not good for cotton and linen. My yarns are mostly cashmeres and cashmere blends, silk, merino and merino blends and acid dyes work perfectly on them.

Below are pictures of my new 100% cashmere in light fingering weight hand-dyed collection. 250 yrds/hank. Great for fingerless gloves (or regular gloves),  scarfs, shawls and of cource fine sweaters!

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