Yarn in a dyebath.

Yarn in a dyebath.

I have a lot of interests: gaming, writing, art, reading, photography…lots of stuff. On Incyanity I explore them all, and recently it’s been pretty obvious that crochet has been at the top of my list. Crochet is a hobby I didn’t expect; it came out of nowhere at Christmas in 2015 and I’ve really taken to it since then, particularly with Pod Pals and other cute amigurumi. Something else happened too: I developed a love of pretty yarn. As I started to expand into making clothing, I left acrylic behind and began buying “real” yarn, either 100% merino, or merino blended with other fibers. I’m particularly fond of merino/silk and merino/tencel.

During my trip to New Zealand last month I had the privilege of visiting a farm where a very nice lady dyes yarn. All I really wanted was to treat myself to some locally-dyed yarn while I was in the country, but she happily told me why she got started doing it… As we talked, I started to feel wheels turning in my head.

The truth is, in the last two years I’ve bought a ridiculous amount of yarn. Yarn makes me happy. Another truth? Yarn in blends and colors I really love have not been that easy to find. The dyers I buy from come close…but not always close enough.

I thought to myself, What if I dyed yarn in colors I really love?

Then I thought, How many people out there are like me? Maybe they’re looking for the same yarn I am!

When I got home, I started researching. I read so much and watched so many videos about dyeing that I started to dream about it. The more I learned, the more excited I became. Maybe I really could do this. Maybe it could become a new career path! (I’m definitely ready for a new career path.) I talked to some people, I ordered some supplies…and then, last weekend, I was finally able to test it out for myself.

Wet yarn cooling on a plate after dyeing.

Wet yarn cooling on a plate after dyeing.

Three test skeins hanging in my shower to dry.

Three test skeins hanging in my shower to dry.

Despite how excited I was, I was also nervous because of what could go wrong: maybe the acid level of the water wouldn’t be right; maybe the water temperature would be too low or too high; maybe the yarn would felt. Maybe I would slop dye all over the place, forever staining my floor or counter! Maybe the resulting color would be terrible! Well, those kinds of mistakes are likely to happen at some point regardless…

Maybe I wouldn’t have the talent for it. Maybe I would discover I hate the entire process and had gotten myself excited for nothing. Those were big worries. For a long time I’ve been looking for a way to improve my job situation. I’m good at what I do right now, but I don’t particularly enjoy it anymore. It’s stressful and suffice to say, I’m just not happy. How nice would it be to make money at something I can do well and enjoy? That would be a dream. But maybe it wouldn’t work out…

Maybe maybe maybe. Gah! Fearing that all of this might blow up in my face, I purposefully avoided being specific about it on Twitter and Discord, and otherwise only told a few close friends what I was up to. I’ve been over the moon about giving this a try, and have probably driven those close friends batty by talking their ears off about it, but there was no point hyping it up in public if it turned out I wasn’t going to pursue it. Keeping the secret these last few weeks has been super hard!

Thankfully, so far, everything has gone great!

I knew going into this that synthetic and plant fibers don’t take acid dyes the way that animal fibers do. Nevertheless, variety is the spice of life and I wanted to see how my experience might differ between different blends of yarn, so I decided to start with three:

  • 75% merino/25% nylon in fingering (great for socks!)
  • 70% merino/30% silk in fingering (ooh, silk!)
  • 50% merino/50% bamboo in sport (fancy!)

These blends are all very soft. Soft (gentle) yarn is important to me because I have sensitive skin and scratchy yarn is the worst. The bamboo is also pleasantly bouncy and squishy, with great sheen! I’ve never worked with bamboo before so that was a nice surprise.

Cyan/turquoise/aqua/teal is my favorite color, so naturally I chose that to start with. I also thought it would be best to keep things simple: a solid color so I wouldn’t have to worry about fussing with dipping or painting or multiple pots. (First we walk, then we get fancy!) I drew up my own set of procedures, and yes, I even have a multi-tab spreadsheet already (because of course I do). I felt rather scientific about it all: meticulous notes, meticulous measurements, meticulous timing!

I couldn't keep completely quiet on Twitter.

I couldn’t keep completely quiet on Twitter.

For those who were following along, the coded part of this tweet translates as: How long does water take to boil? (Calgary’s altitude makes a difference.) What’s the correct setting to simmer? (I’m still getting used to my new stove.) Is the calculation of dye to yarn correct? (Different amounts of dye result in different strengths of color for a given amount of yarn.) Do I have enough vinegar? (Acid is required for the dye to bond to the yarn.)

In the end, the dye took fabulously and uniquely well to each blend. The color is a bit greener than I would prefer, but hey, for a first try with dye right out of the bottle, totally acceptable!

Top: Merino/Nylon Middle: Merino/Silk Bottom: Merino/Bamboo

Top: Merino/Nylon
Middle: Merino/Silk
Bottom: Merino/Bamboo

The nylon blend produced a gently variegated yarn. Some sections are a solid teal green, while others are pale but not quite white. There are hints of blue in the paler sections.

The silk blend came out a very even, solid color and is the most faithful to the original dye.

The bamboo blend is also very even but has this wonderful feathering or speckled quality within the strands. Up close I can see bits of white (the bamboo) woven in with the teal color. This is really appealing, as it adds to the overall sheen of that blend. I’m looking forward to seeing how this yarn dyes up in purple or some other darker color!

I’ve seen complaints on some dyers’ websites about stinky yarn, and now I know why: hot wool and hot vinegar does not produce a nice odor! Thankfully, my hanks have a lovely but delicate and non-intrusive cucumber and melon scent, thanks to my rinse process. Whew!

I have more dye techniques to experiment with. Mostly I want to offer solid colors, dual tones, and maybe the occasional dip-dyed gradient—nothing too complex or busy. When the rest of my batch of test yarn is dyed I’ll be looking for a few people to do some crochet or knitting for me to make sure (independently!) that the dye is actually colorfast and the colors are pleasing in person. After that I’ll settle on a select few blends to work with and then, when I have enough dyed yarn to stock…I’ll open a shop. Added bonus: I plan to combine my love of yarn with my love of photography, so the colors I dye will be inspired by the landscape around me. Yarn imitating life! Practical uses for the thousands of photos I have! Reasons to go outside and travel! Woo!!

So that’s it, my secret is out! Incyanity now has yarn! ♥