Space dyeing is a broad term meaning yarn that has multiple colors of dye applied to it – usually 2-4 colors. One of my favorite methods for space dyeing is by using jars to dip dye sections of yarn. This method creates a natural ombre effect as the ends that go into the jars first are the most saturated and the color is slowly absorbed up the strands of yarn. Today we are going to be using this method to transform BRISTLE yarn from the creamy undyed yarn to shades of purple and blue. BRISTLE is 70% fine organic merino wool and 30% hemp. The hemp gives the yarn a crisp body making it a great yarn for a project that needs a little more structure. Hemp is a cellulose fibre and will not absorb acid dyes in the same way so you will have some light strands twisting throughout the yarn for a beautiful, multidimensional effect.
Fill a large bowl with cool water and dissolve two tablespoons of citric acid into it. If you are using shower rings or zip ties, loop one through each of your skeins now to keep them from tangling. This is optional and makes it easier to maneuver the skeins. Submerge the two skeins of BRISTLE undyed yarn into the bowl and allow the yarn to absorb the water fully. A thorough presoak is essential for an even dye application because it opens up the outer cuticle layer of the fibre allowing the dye to penetrate evenly. It usually takes about an hour for the yarn to fully saturate.
Label each of your four jars with the name of each dye using masking tape and a marker. Add a quarter cup of the hottest water from your tap into each jar. Put on your respiratory protection and gloves. Dissolve ⅓ teaspoon of each dye into the corresponding jar and gently stir to dissolve the dye fully, scraping the bottom of the jar and sides. Fill the jar the rest of the way with lukewarm water leaving about 1-2” of space at the top. Dissolve a dash of citric acid into each jar.
For this process, I use a slow cooker, though a steel stock pot with a lid also works. Fill your dye pot with a 1-2” inch layer of water. This helps the jars heat evenly. Place all four jars inside your dye pot, spreading them out so there is a bit of room between each jar.
Squeeze the excess water out of the presoaked skeins of BRISTLE yarn. Dip the end of the skeins into one of the jars. Moving clockwise, dip two middle sections of each skein into the next two jars. Finish by dipping the other end of the skein in the final jar. Depending on the width of the mouth of your jars, this might be a tight squeeze. You can dye one skein at a time and repeat this method, just dissolve half as much dye the first time and then repeat the process after refilling the jars. The closer the jars are together, the more dye saturation your skein will have. If you separate your jars farther apart or use fewer, you will end up with more white space on the finished yarn.
Put on the lid and turn on the heat. Allow the yarn to heat set for at least 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I like to shift the skeins around in the jars to minimize white space. I do this by starting with one of the two middle jars and shifting about two inches of yarn from inside of one jar to the neighboring jar, or to the middle, to make room to shift yarn from an adjacent section into the jar. This happens at a point when the dye bath is partially exhausted so the yarn will fade into each section in a soft ombre. If you work with larger jars or even bowls, this may not be a necessary step. Let the yarn set for at least one hour total.
After the yarn has set, turn off the heat and allow it to cool completely. Once it is cooled, remove it from the jars and rinse it until the water runs clear. Hang the yarn to dry.
Once the yarn is dry it is ready to use! This method is a fun way to apply different colors to different sections of the yarn in a controlled manner. The way the dye is divided creates a beautiful finished skein that will produce interesting pockets of color when knitted or crocheted!
There is a variation on this technique that might be interesting to try! The same method can be used with food coloring and then instead of putting the jars in a slow cooker, you can put them in your microwave and do 15-30 second bursts with a 45 second break in between until you’ve microwaved the yarn for a total of four minutes. This is only advisable for food safe dyes as putting acid dyes in your microwave would make it no longer food safe.
Happy dyeing! We can’t wait to see what you create. Don’t forget to tag us on social media at @knomad_yarn and #knomadyarn.