How do you dye a ball?

By Amelia

dyed yarn ballsThere's more than one way to dye a ball of yarn ... that's what I learned this weekend at the Lacey Weekend Workshops (the 2008 workshop page is here; 2009 details were emailed out).

This time, we wound our undyed yarn balls loosely on the ballwinder and put a string through the center.

The dye was in crockpots, already warmed when we started dyeing. Our balls were pre-wetted in soapy water, squeezed out, and then dipped 1/3 their depth into a color. We held them by their strings in the dyepot for 10-20 minutes, then squeezed the dye liquid back into the pot. As you can see, we rotated and dipped again, and repeated a third time if desired. My three-dip ball (left) had 6 colors in it once done; the two-dip balls (middle and right) had 4 colors.

This was a fun way to dye! Enough of us were dipping to use up the dye in some of the pots -- the pots with leftover dye were used to put color on some wool roving brought for that purpose.

If you're near Lacey or can get there next July, I highly recommend this annual workshop weekend. The atmosphere is tranquil, the food's plentiful and tasty, and the classes are diverse. I had a fun time!

Oh, and my yarn? The left is superwash merino in a cushy DK weight ... I think it will be a woven scarf; the middle is superwash merino/alpaca/bamboo/nylon sock yarn, yep, for socks; and the right is a funky brown cabled yarn, I'm not sure what it might become.

Do you have another way of dyeing a ball of yarn? I'd love to give it a try, too -- post a note in the comments about your method to share it.

The Bellwether sells Cushings Acid Dyes, great for dyeing wool, silk, and other protein fibers, and available in 94 colors. Your purchases at The Bellwether help keep the blog going -- thank you!
posted 26 July 2009 at


Anonymous said...

Could this be done with roving too?

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

It'd be worth a try. Though, you'd have to get creative with winding it into a ball, given it needs to be loose for this method, with a string in the middle.

I usually do rainbow dyeing a-la Ashford with roving to get the variety of colors -- that has the benefit of being a low-water method, and only putting into use the dye you need for the roving. There are details on that on the Ashford website, under Dyes -> Recipes

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I was just wondering, because wondering seems to be what I do.

Bet you could use a long piece of net twice the width of the roving, fold it around the roving, and then role it all up, jelly roll fashion, and make it work. I might give it a go one of these days, just for fun.

The Bloated Ewe said...

What kind of dye do you use for the workshop? I usually use jacquard acid dyes when dyeing protein fibers synthetically...and I always thought you had to let the fiber soak for at least 30 minutes for a nice colour.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

At this workshop, the dyes were Country Classics, which have the mordant in them. We were told originally to let the balls soak for 20 minutes, but they took up the dye very well, so 10 minutes was enough for most of us -- and we rinsed afterward, too, not losing the depth of color (phew! I admit -- this new style of dyeing had me wondering too, I'm used to a longer strike time for dyes myself). Part of the quick take-up may have been due to our pre-wetting the balls in water and dishsoap. The balls soaked for 30 minutes to an hour ( as long as it took to be wet through ). We squeezed them out before the dipping, and they were very ready to soak up the dye liquid.