Speckled Yarn Tutorial

I’ve been in love with speckled yarns for a long time.

IMG_5452I was determined to create my own, but could not find a tutorial anywhere. I experimented for a while. I tried spraying dye, putting it on with tiny spoons and syringes. These techniques got beautiful, but not speckled, yarns. Finally, I found the trick!

The key is salt!  Yes, salt.  Strangely simple, freely available and inexpensive to boot.

IMG_5461

Here’s how I do it, step by step

  1. Soak the yarn in a combo of cool water and a bit of vinegar. You can use citric acid if you like, I prefer vinegar. It’s available everywhere and there’s no shipping charge to pay on it.
  2. Spin the yarn in the washer to get as much water out as possible. Speckles are smaller and more distinct the drier the fiber is. If you want bigger blobs of color, leave it a bit wetter.  Or spray it after you apply the dye.
  3. Lay out the yarn on some plastic wrap or in the pan you use to apply dye. I go both ways, but for this usually just go right to plastic wrap as there isn’t much liquid to contain.
  4. Here’s the fun part – Using acid dye mixed with salt in a salt shaker, sprinkle the desired colors over the yarn.  Move yarn around and turn over to spread color.
  5. Wrap up and heat as usual. I use a small microwave for 5 minutes, let cool at least 5 minutes, then 5 more minutes heating.
  6. Leave it alone until it is completely cool. This is key!  Messing with it while hot just leads to felted yarn and dye running down the drain.  I usually wait until the next morning. If I do it early in the day, I may unwrap late that same day.
  7. Rinse in cool water until it runs clear. Turquoise may never run completely clear, that’s just the nature of that particular dye molecule.
  8. Spin in the washer again to remove excess water and hang to dry. I always spin because I am impatient to see the final result.  Let dry completely.  I put in a small, warm bathroom on a drying rack.
  9. Twist up and pat yourself on the back at the beauty you’ve created.
I sprayed this yarn with water after applying dye,
I sprayed this yarn with a bit of water after applying dye.

More Tips

  • Buy sets of shakers at your local dollar store. Mine had plastic shakers that are perfect. Avoid metal topped shakers, they will corrode, plastic will last a long time!
  • Less is more with dye. Use plenty of salt and less dye in the beginning so you have good control of how much dye you apply.
  • Less is sometimes more with color. A lot of white showing makes the speckles stand out brilliantly.
  • Try a color that you don’t love. An “ugly” color can be just the thing to really add kick.
  • Try using creamy or even gray yarns to get softer effects.
  • Dye the skein, or just part of the skein first, then apply speckles.
  • Let yourself go. Don’t worry about the result. Try closing your eyes and picking out three shakers. Have fun!

You can see more speckled yarns in my Etsy store and on my Instagram page. I hope they inspire you to create something beautiful!

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11 thoughts on “Speckled Yarn Tutorial”

  1. Hi! Thanks for this great speckle dyeing tutorial – I’m excited to try it.

    One question: in the tips, you suggest dyeing all or part of the skein before applying the speckles. Does that mean I should go through the entire process of heat-setting the dye on the skein (in the microwave or steaming in a pot) before applying the speckles, and then heat-set again to set the speckles? Or should I simply apply the dye to the skein and then while that’s wet apply the speckles as you’ve described? The second way would obviously be quicker, but wouldn’t it potentially cause the speckles to bleed?

    1. It depends on the effect you want, if you want very tiny species you might try a two step process. Dye the big color areas and heat set, then dye speckles separately. If you’d like to try large speckles do it all at once.

  2. I’m assuming that you are mixing the dye with the salt completely dry, correct? Not pre-mixing the dye then using a few drops of dye with the salt? Thanks for this post. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do the fine speckles.

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