If you have any questions during this tutorial, about something I didn’t cover or explain. Please leave the question in the comment section below. I will compile the questions and answer them all on Friday in a special Q & A post.

Your Supplies:

– Your yarn samples, PRESOAKED (you will need one for each color you plan on sampling  (Click here for instructions on how to divide one skein of yarn into samples, and click HERE for PRESOAK instructions.)

– Wilton gel food coloring, one for each color you’d like to try. (You can find it in your local craft store- near the icing, or you can order it online.)

– 1 teaspoon citric acid OR 1 TABLESPOON distilled white vinegar. (You can find citric acid in the canning section at your grocery store OR you can order it online.)

– Cups to dye in. One for each sample you want to dye, each should be at least 12 ounces, microwave safe.  I am using Solo cups, which aren’t exactly microwave safe, but will stand up to a few rounds in the microwave.

– Two measuring cups (2-cup capacity with milliliters printed on them.)

– 1/2 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon

– disposable powdered latex gloves to keep from dyeing your hands (or non-latex, if you are allergic)

– a few empty 16 ounce soda bottles (optional, but helpful)

– funnel

– water

– a place to lay the mini samples out to dry.

I’m making the assumption that some people won’t read all the tutorials in order- they will just read the one they need. To that end- I will explain some things AGAIN that I explained in the previous tutorial. Just bear with me- I’m trying not to lose anyone.

I’m going to remind you right here that you MUST use animal fibers for this. Acrylic yarn WILL NOT WORK. Cotton yarn WILL NOT WORK. Blends that are mostly animal fibers will work, BUT your coloring will not be as deep as with 100% animal fibers.

So we’re all on the same page, yes? Okay, let’s continue.

I am using the 12 pack, with each color weighing in at 1/2 an ounce. I an using the red, green, blue, and yellow.

There are a few tutorials out there for gel food coloring. The measurement we are going with, is 1/8th of a teaspoon per ounce of fiber. So that would be 3/8ths of a teaspoon PLUS 1/16th of a teaspoon for one standard 100 gram skein of yarn. If you’re like me- this makes your eyes cross. Plus- how the heck do you divide THAT by 20, so you know how much you need to dye this sample? Well, to do this sample dyeing with ANY amount of accuracy- we will need to create dye stock. (What is dye stock? It’s basically just converting dry measurements into liquid, thus making measuring easier.)

Pour 100 milliliters (ml) of BOILING water into one of your measuring cups. Yes, it needs to be boiling. Gel food coloring will not dissolve easily, so you will need the water to be as hot as possible.

That complicated 3/8ths of a teaspoon PLUS 1/16th of a teaspoon EQUALS almost a 1/2 teaspoon of gel food coloring. This is about 1/2 of that little 1/2 ounce jar. So fill your 1/2 teaspoon to ALMOST full, and plop it into the water. Stir. And stir. And stir some more. That little gel blob will be stubborn. You may want to squish it a bit, this will help it break up and dissolve.

Once you finally get it all dissolved- this is your dye stock. Yay!  Your stock will last a few weeks.  Longer, if you refrigerate it.  Just make sure no one drinks it!

You only actually need 1 teaspoon of it (5 ml). Yep- that’s it. It’s enough, trust me.

Measure out the 1 teaspoon and put it in your dye cup. If you want to keep the rest of the dye stock- I suggest putting it into an empty soda bottle (using the funnel).

(You can also grab the other half of that 1/2 ounce jar, dissolve it into 100 ml MORE of boiling water, and adding that to the soda bottle as well. Wait until the stock has cooled, before you put the cap back on the soda bottle.)

If you’re sampling more than one color, go ahead and make your dye stocks for the other colors. Remember to rinse the measuring cup AND funnel between colors.

Now we need to prepare the mordant. A mordant is: “a substance, typically an inorganic oxide, that combines with a dye or stain and thereby fixes it in a material.” Without a mordant- you will only be staining the yarn. Mordants create a bond of yarn and dye, and (with heat) are permanent bonds. Your mordant, in this case, is the citric acid or vinegar. You need one or the other, NOT BOTH.

— PLEASE NOTE- some of the darker colors can break with vinegar. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use it. It just means that you need to be aware of this phenomena, so that you’re not surprised if it happens. (What is breaking? It is when one color breaks down into the separate colors it’s made of. For instance- black will break down into reds, blues, and yellows.)

Pour 2 cups of water into your other measuring cup. Add EITHER the teaspoon of citric acid, OR the TABLESPOON of vinegar. Mix well. This is enough mordant for all four samples, just divide it evenly into the dye cups.

Add water until your cup is about 75% full. The amount of water in terms of dye DOES NOT MATTER. The water is simply a conduit for heat, and you need heat for the bonding process.

Now- take your PRESOAKED yarn sample and squeeze the presoak water out of it. It doesn’t need to be dry, just not dripping. Once your cup is 75% full of colored water, add your yarn sample. You can gently push it down into the cup with a spoon, but DO NOT STIR. When your yarn is completely submerged, put it in the microwave.

You can put all four cups into the microwave at the same time. If you are doing this- microwave on HIGH in 1 minute increments, until steaming. Do not microwave for more than 5 minutes total. Remove cups carefully. (They are HOT!)

If you are doing one cup at a time, microwave on HIGH in 30-second increments, until steaming. Do not microwave for more than 4 minutes. Remove cup carefully. (It’s HOT!)

The water in the cup should be clear or almost clear. (This is called exhausting the water.)

If it is not clear- your problem could be one of a few reasons. 1. You have hard water. Minerals in water will keep your dye from bonding with your yarn. This is the reason that most dyers will use filtered or distilled water. Red dye is notorious for not bonding in hard water. 2. You were heavy-handed with measuring your gel. Your yarn can only absorb soo much dye, before it just stops absorbing. 3. You didn’t get it hot enough. If you didn’t see steam coming out of the cup- you need to nuke it again. 4. Turquoise (blue) is really bad about being slow to bond. So anything with blue in it (green… purple…black, etc) will take longer to absorb all the dye. It might need another few rounds in the microwave. Let it cool COMPLETELY, and check the water, before you nuke it again.

Let your sample cool COMPLETELY before you rinse. Rinse the sample in cool tap water. Make sure you rinse WELL. These gel food colors all contain SUGAR. And you don’t want to attract critters. (If you are using 100% wool, and are worried about felting- fill a container with cool water, and gently lay the sample in the water and let it sit.)

If the rinse water runs clean- all the dye bonded and you are done! You can lay your sample out to dry. Your yarn will look darker while wet. Wait for it to dry, before you judge the coloring.

Here are my samples:

Lovely pastel colors.

That’s it! See- that wasn’t hard, just a little more involved. It really takes longer to read it, than it does to do it.

Your sample size will be an accurate representation of the color you would get, if you dyed a whole 100-gram skein of yarn with that crazy equation of 3/8ths of a teaspoon PLUS 1/16th of a teaspoon (OR 100 ml of stock) gel food coloring.

Remember- if you have questions, please put them in the comments below.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Day Four: Acid Dyeing! (This sounds scarier than it is.)