Dye Your Own Yarn with Spices and Vegetables
Modifying a crochet pattern is relatively easy. You can change length, adjust a detail, or play with the stitch pattern. But have you ever thought about modifying your yarn?
By dyeing your own yarn, you can create unique colors that are perfect for you and not available even on the shelves of your local yarn store. You don’t need to buy expensive chemical dyes, and it’s fun and easy. I experienced dyeing for the first time as a child, and I still feel the same joyful excitement whenever I create my own distinctive skeins.
Tanis Gray is a master at dyeing your own yarn, and I love the story of how she became interested. It involves some beets and a shower!
A Tale of Beets, Onion Skins, and Kool-Aid
I was mulling color over one day at my LYS and I couldn’t find the exact shade I wanted. I had messed around in my kitchen a few times with dyeing fabric and clothes, and as a child, dyeing Easter eggs was something I looked forward to every year. Many of my friends are hand dyers, but I didn’t want to use powdered dyes or any chemicals in our tiny kitchen where my 4-year old son and I spend a lot of time. I wondered, would it be possible to naturally dye yarn safely at home and get the results I wanted?
When I was attending Rhode Island School of Design, I had an abstract drawing teacher who taught my very first class on my very first day. Our homework that first day was to create a drawing in water with a non-traditional material. (Going from an all-girls high school where I wore a plaid kilt for four years to suddenly being in art school where anything goes was a shock to the system!) After mulling it over a few days, I brought home some beets in a doggy bag from a restaurant, got into a shower stall fully clothed, and did my homework, drawing only with beets, water pouring down. Odd? Yes, definitely, but it taught me very quickly to let go of the idea of what I thought was a traditional color source. That beet drawing was my first experience with kitchen dyeing and I never looked at food the same way!
With that lesson in mind, I went home from my LYS determined to create my perfect color way using only materials found in the kitchen. Grabbing coffee grounds, turmeric, onion skins, beets (those horrible beets somehow snuck their way back into my life again), tea, pomegranates, grapes, avocados, spinach, kool-aid and whatever else I could find in my cupboards, I started doing research for my Kitchen Dyeing video.After copious amounts of research, talking to dyers around the world, asking questions to yarn companies, reading book after book, becoming friendly with my local garden shop after asking them a million questions about using plants as dye material, talking to the “spice lady” at the Asian supermarket where we get produce, and experimenting like a mad scientist on my stovetop, in my microwave, in my crock pot, and with solar dyeing, I became an expert in kitchen yarn dyeing.If kitchen dyeing is something you’ve been wanting to try and weren’t sure where to start, join me in this wonderful new video!Get that perfect color you’ve been searching for, dye your yarn safely using materials you hadn’t thought of as a color source, experiment with your heat options, and get the results you were hoping for. The sky is the limit when you have a few hanks of undyed yarn, your imagination and cupboards full of interesting materials.See you in the kitchen!
—Tanis Gray, Yarn Dyer Extraordinaire
Learn how to create your own unique colors and dye your own yarn with Tanis Gray’s video workshop Kitchen Dyeing.
P.S. Have you ever dyed your own yarn? Share what inspired you in the comments.