Monday, May 17, 2010

Adventures in Dyeing

Last week I spent several days in bed with a migraine. To make matters less interesting, the computer was dead (as I mentioned earlier - power cord is no more). So I started a really easy knitting project to pass the time between feeding G and taking more medicine. Fortunately, Gwennan was a doll. I couldn't have asked for an easier, quieter roomie (unless, of course, she could have brought me food on a platter - we're working on it).

Since switching to formula, we pick Gwennan up most mornings to find her soaked, so I'm back to experimenting with diaper soakers and wool diaper covers - my knitting project. I used this pattern (it shows an adult content message, but there's no adult content). Ravelry has many, many more patterns to dig through and try out, including crochet patterns.
note - I used fisherman's wool and knitted two strands at once - not necessary, just made the pattern go faster because I could use bigger needles and still get a tight stitch.

In case you're wondering why I made a wool diaper cover, wool has such great absorptive qualities that it can actually be used as the outermost layer to keep baby's skin and clothes dry. It also stays warm when wet making it ideal for backpacking. Tim and I are very protective of our 100% wool items.

My diaper cover was an ugly brown and white (Fisherman's Wool only comes in "natural" colors), so I set about to dyeing it!!!

I love to dye fibres. My previous projects include play silks and two other wool diaper soakers. When I first visited the Craft Center where my sister attends, the fibre majors reminded me of librarians. I decided that if I attended the Craft Center, I would pick a cooler major like ceramics or glass blowing. Now that I've spent more time with fibres, I would absolutely major in fibres - weaving, knitting, dyeing, felting, silk painting, batiques, sewing - so many cool things to be done with fabrics and the materials that make up fabrics.

I dyed the diaper cover first in a deep indigo, leaving the lower portion in the dye vat longer so that the color would show a gradient. Here it is drying in the sun:

I'm excited about the results, but I'm waiting for it to felt to the correct size. By "felt," I mean that raw wool shrinks when exposed to heat then quickly cooled (you might have accidentally felted a pair of dress pants before - I have). When you felt wool, it gives it a neat texture, or in my case, it shrinks to the size you need it. My girl's tiny behind needs a tiny diaper cover.

I had extra yarn and dye left over. Rather than let it go to waste, I continued to play:

The method for dyeing protein fibres (wool, silk) is very similar to dyeing easter eggs. You need dye, warm water and an acid to make the color stay fast. I use white vinegar and food coloring. You can also use kool-aid which allows for pre-made colors. With food coloring, you have to mix your own colors.

An interesting point on mixing your own colors - the red dye was absorbed faster than the blue, so that the diaper cover came out a deep violet/indigo color whereas the skein of yarn is blue with no discernible red.

If you are interested in trying your hand at dyeing, start with some inexpensive material and go for it! Dharma Trading is my favorite site for materials. Also, you can pick up 100% wool yarn at any crafting store. Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool is probably your best bet. Much better quality yarn can be found at specialty shops and online.

I used a host of websites when I first started dabbling with dyeing. I still have a lot to learn, so I'm going to let more experienced crafters tell you what to do:

Dyeing Yarn Using Food Coloring
Dyed in the Wool
Hand Painting Yarn - hand painting is more involved than merely dyeing in a pot like I did
Dyeing with Herbs - really neat site although I still have to grow some of the herbs to try this. I do have a large collection of onion skins ready whenever I figure out something I want to use them on.
Natural Dyes from Plants - another site with natural products for dyeing

And for those of you who want to try your hand with play silks:
Making Play Silks

I made some for Gwennan. I still need to practice consistency, but they were incredibly rewarding!


  1. I love the diaper cover. Makes me want to take up knitting again. It's beautiful. I'd love to make something like that for the up for a lesson?

  2. Sorry...I was signed in under Syd's it's me...Jenn. Ugh technology and kids!

  3. You're fine. Knitting is easy - two stitches, one the reverse of the other. If you want a tutorial, we can work it out. All we need is a long movie to practice after I show you how. I'm now crocheting a diaper cover if that interests you more.


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