Sunday, November 10, 2013

Self Striping yarn - A tutorial

Hello All,
Now that we have our newest KAL going on I thought it would be nice to show you HOW I dye the self-striping yarns we sell in the shop.  Self Striping yarns are a long drawn out process (pun intended).  I have to places that I am able to set up the VERY long skeins.  See the skeins for a self striping yarn are between 20 and 40 feet LONG!  That allows the dye to get attached to a specific amount of yarn.  It's all in the math. (God, I HATE math......)  

We are doing a Self Striping Knit Along in the shop.  Why I agreed to that is beyond me.  So as the custom orders came in from our lovely customers, I began to set up their skeins.  It was a nice day but the back yard was too muddy to skein off in the graveyard (you'll see pictures later and understand it name) so I had to use the front porch.

Here are the orders in plastic bags waiting to be filled.  The cone is on a ladle, yup its a big spoon.  Having the cone ride on something make it easier to get the yarn off smoothly.


Here is the front porch.  I have two plant hangers on either end attached to the pillars.  The Porch is 27 feet long so the entire skein is 54 feet total.  I use my trusty calculator to figure out how many laps I need to take to fill an order.  What you can't see is a hanging counter that I click each time I come back to that end.  Ensuring I have the correct amount of laps.  It is a boring job so I wear my shuffle and jam out.  That counter has saved my bacon quite a few times.  I do get my walking for the day in (depending on how many jobs are in my queue) because you not only skein off to dye but you un-skein onto a niddy noddy when its done.  LOTS of walking.

So I walk back and forth and back and forth until all the yardage is walked off then I tie off where the color changes need to be.

Cone, spoon and the much needed measuring tape.  There is also a calculator, pen, twine, sissors and camera just outside the picture.  

All walked off and ready to hit the studio.  Those Custom Order slips tell me who its for, when it was ordered, when its due, the yarn weight and base, yardage and color requests.  I also do my math on each page.  Leaving notes on how long each color will be etc.  That way, if it goes right I can reproduce it or if I'm off I can go back and see what went wrong.

Darn it wrong photo.  Oh well it will work to get my point across.  I clip together color repeats so that they are dyed at the same time.  Using clothes line clips I attach a note on color and mix recipe (if I have one).  It helps later in the process when I have multiple skeins going at once and I'm tired and can't remember what color comes next.  

All of my self striping yarns are a dip dye.  One one section of the yarn is "dipped" into the kettle at a time.  When its done its pulled out and placed into a bucket to cool and wait for the rest of the skein to be finished.
I use tap water with powdered citric acid to set the dyes.  

Do Not Boil the water!  Simmer only.  It will take as long as it takes to exhaust the dye.  Be patient.   The yarn always looks darker when wet.  Don't panic.

Once the yarn is dyed and dried it goes out to the graveyard.  See what I mean with the crosses etc......
I can't put it back on the front porch because there is shrinkage in all dyed yarns.  Another hard learned lesson.  The skein is now placed on the holders, I attempt to keep the strings all from tangling and twisting but that dosen't always work out so well.  I spent 2 hours skeining off a yarn once when the job should have taken 30 minutes max.  It's a lot like painting, prep is EVERYTHING!!  Take the time to skein off and tie up properly and the un-skeining will go well.  Jump the job and you get yarn barf, pretty barf, but barf just the same.  I would have cut and run, and just redyed the yarn if I had not been under such a time crunch.  So I took the time to untangle each and every strand.  It took me so long that I ended up with a flashlight and my niddy noddy, grumbling the whole way.

You can't see in this picture well but there is a third "holder" in the center.  This keeps the yarn from stretching and keeps it off the ground.  The yarn in the picture is Jenn's for the KAL.  Its called Fallen, Raisin, Razzberry, Silver, Lilac and Gold.  The Razzberry and the Lilac stripes will be thicker than the others. (Hopefully)  Damn math.......  My knitting skills are not the best yet and you need to know exactly how much yarn will be used per round to be able to work out the math correctly.  I didn't know her pattern or what gauge she would be working with so I had to guess.  

I walk back and forth with my niddy noddy - that DH made for me out of teak, yeah he loves me - as I un-skein the dyed yarn from the holders. It takes time and more walking but it's worth it.  The placing of the yarn on the niddy noddy cleans up the skein and makes it uniform again.  It also brings the size down in to a manageable length.  From here balling up into a cupcake is easy and quick with the swift and ball winder.

See center holder too.

Usually it's set up on the side yard, but that was still muddy and I needed the back porch light when the sun went down.  The flashlight was for the tangles......

Here is a picture of the side yard during the summer.  Again you can't really see the center holder.  Overall it's a nice walk back and forth.  My neighbors think I'm a crazy pacer.  Back and forth, back and forth, talking to myself the entire time.  Singing actually, but my voice is so monotone I sound like I'm chanting.  

Finally done, this is my yarn for the KAL.  Its called Tuscany.  All jewel tones, Razzberry, Rusty Orange, Forest Green and a Plum.  The stripes are all uniform and on the larger side.  It's gonna look cool as my fingerless mitts.

I've started them and I'll post a picture of how they are coming out soon.

Hopefully you were able to glean some sort of information from this tutorial that will help you make our own gorgeous self striping yarns.  

Good luck and happy dyeing.



  1. How cool to see how the process works! That sounds like a lot of physical effort.

  2. Oh boy is it! But worth all the walking....