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!

Advertisements

New Year’s Resolutions Indigo Kitty Style

I’m not normally one to make any kind of New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to learn and accomplish in the upcoming year. Here’s a preliminary list.

Fair Isle – I picked up a gorgeous book at Half Price Books the other day, called Colorwork Creations. It’s subtitled Knit woodland inspired hats, mittens and gloves.
Here’s the cover
ColorworkCreations
Charming, right?  There are so many lovely patterns inside, for example chickadees, butterflies, ducks, cardinals, snowflakes.  Hard to choose one to start with!

I did purchase a kit from Knitpicks a while back for the bright woodland mitts. That seems like a good starting point for my fair isle adventures. I have a knitting date with my friend Wendy, who is a Fair Isle Queen for Jan 3.  Starting this project right out of the gate!

Here is a picture (from Knitpicks site) of the mitts.
woodland mitts

I’d also like to do more spinning and become more expert in using my Ashford Traveler spinning wheel.

Then there’s  hand dyeing fiber.  My business partner, the wonderful and brilliant Cheryl, gave me a very nice book for my birthday about dyeing.  It’s The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes.  This looks like a lot of fun.  I plan to dye yarn and roving using acorns, coffee, blackberries, red cabbage and more.

Here’s the cover.

handbook of natural plant dyes

What a great gift!

Did you know you can use dandelion root to dye fiber red?  I’ll be paying the kids to get me some roots in the spring (and making the lawn look a bit better).   I can’t wait to get started!

I’d like to knit more fingerless gloves, we have a goal to have 50 pairs ready for next winter.  They are big sellers for us and a fun and easy knit too.

I want to write a pattern for a lace shawl and some cabled and lace cowls.  So many pattern ideas, I could probably work 24 hours a day and still have stuff rattling around in my brain!

And all those things should keep me busy for a good part of the year.

Wishing all my readers the best for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.  Keep on knitting (and spinning, and dyeing, and crocheting)!