Hand dyeing yarn – for Next Work in Progress

Weather is horrible today. So no cycling.

For my next WIP (Work in Progress), I fancy a set of cushions for the front room, and what better than a matching pair using this pattern.

By Joyce Lewis

When finished, this centre piece will only measures 30 x 30 cm, and I will want larger cushions than that, so I shall incorporate this into the Sophie Universe pattern – something I have done before with another center piece to great success.

The pattern for this is not mine, so here are the details should you want to make this for yourself as well.  Pretty isn’t it?

Crocodile Flower by Joyce Lewis

Once the centre piece is finished, I will need to follow on with the ‘Enchanted Garden’ pattern to complete the large square for the front of the cushion.  The Enchanted Garden pattern has a very excellent photographic tutorial showing you stitch by stitch how to make your crocodile flower metamorph into the most amazing panel for your cushion – or the tote bag, should you prefer, as suggested originally by Courtney Laube.

Enchanted Garden by Courtney Laube

The final cushion, when completed using the Enchanted Garden pattern as its edging should measure approx 40 x 43cm, but I can increase this with a border if necessary.  The wool required for this project is a commercial yarn, in an Aran weight.  USA worsted I think is the right term.  Whereas I’m using DK (double knitting) weight, or light worsted, with a 4.5mm crochet hook, so I expect my cushion front will be smaller than the size suggested, but as said, the addition of a further border will ensure the cushion will be large enough for what I foresee it to look like on completion.

My input into this gorgeous design, is using blank yarn, and hand dyeing all of it into the colours I love, before crocheting it into some thing very beautiful.

Enchanted Garden Tote

Getting organised.

According to the Enchanting Garden pattern, I will need 9 different colours of yarn, each about 200g or 325m length.

The dye I will be using is Gaywool dye, purchased from ‘The Threshing Barn’ in Cumbria.

The Threshing Barn

First of all, the dk yarn blanks all needed to be well soaked in tepid or cold water.  Put in a small dot of washing up liquid to break up the water tension – this helps with the soaking process.  Your yarn must not have dry or unsoaked ‘patches’ on it, or the dye uptake will be uneven and the white yarn’s natural base colour will show through.


Soak the yarn for 30 minutes or longer.  Over night is always bestest.


Decide on your colours.  I am looking for Autumn colours for my cushions.  Looking through my Gaywool set, I chose the following dyes:

Gaywool 1Gaywool 2I need 9 colours: (weight of dye to 200g dry weight of yarn)

1 – Mustard – 10g dye

2 – Pearl – 12g dye

3 – Citrus – 12g dye

4 – Peppercorn – 12g dye

5 – Garnet – 6g + 8g in Peppercorn

6 – Natural – One undyed skein

7 – Tanbark – 10g

8 – Rosemary – 12g

9 – Stringybark – 12g

Using these dyes is very easy.  No pre-mordanting is required, no citric acid or vinegar either.  Each sachet of dye crystals is complete and has enough in it to dye strongly – 500g of fibre.  Strength of colour take up is dependent on the time the fibre is in the dye pot for.  Longer at full strength of dye ie 16g per 100g of dry fibre will give the strongest colourways.

I want a sort of muted tone.  I have a choice, either less dye, or more fibre in the pot.  I shall opt for less dye AND more fibre for this project.

You will need to dye your yarn:

  • Skeins of yarn, weighed out in g
  • Your dye crystals
  • A decent set of scales to weigh small amounts of dye
  • Old jam jar
  • Electric kettle
  • Tongs
  • Wooden spoon
  • Mop bucket or other vessel to hold your hot draining yarn in.
  • Thermometer
  • Old spoon to stir with
  • A suitable dye pot.  Old, stainless steel saucepan or fish kettle preferred.
  • (NEVER EVER use any of your dye equipment for your daily cooking needs, the dye pigments are very toxic, and no matter how clean it looks, at the micro level, you couldn’t tell if you had toxic materials in your pan that your about to boil your spuds in).

The amount of water in the pot doesn’t affect the dye take up.  Ie more water will not ‘thin’ the pigment.  Just make sure though there is enough water for the fibre to spread out sufficiently, and enough to ensure your fibre remains submerged.  (I often weight with a plate or use my old fish kettle.




Dissolve your dye amount in an old jam jar with hot water, stir well to ensure its fully dissolved, then put into your dye bath water.

Bring to about 60C in temperature to melt the dye crystals and add your blank yarn. Make sure you use a thermometer don’t guess this.


Wring out your skein (s) and place loosely into the dye pot.  Add a weight (old plate) if necessary to keep your fibre submerged.

Bring up to a near boil.  I get mine to about 90C.  Then watch the dye pigment disappear.

IMG_1249When you discard your dye pot water, you should have clear or very nearly clear water to get rid of, no pigment as its all – hopefully, as it’s all in your yarn.

Do not stir during this process, but you can shift your fibre about …. gently does it…. Yarn loves to felt with agitation and high temperatures, so be careful not to do this in error.

Gaywool dyes state that 80% of up take of pigment occurs in the first 10 minutes at temperature, if your colour suits you, remove it now.  or keep in the dye bath up to 30 minutes.

Once the dye bath reaches 90C, I leave the fibre in the pot with the heat off,  until it naturally cools to 70C, then I remove the skeins and put them into my mop bucket sieve to drain and further cool to about 40C.

Careful when cooling your now dyed fibre.  Take your time.  (watch for possible felting issues).

Once cool to the touch, I wash my skeins in wool wash to remove any pigment that has not latched onto the fibre, then I towel dry, and allow to dry fully and naturally in my kitchen, ready for balling up.



Phew… 9 x 200g of fibre (plus one blank of course) ready for my project.  Not sure how long this should take to dry off, our boiler broke today, so no heating or hot water sadly, so I expect in our cold cottage at least 2 days worth of drying time lies ahead before I can ball this lot up.


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