Monday, February 12, 2007

Crockpot Fiber Dyeing

If you're interested in dyeing fiber (or yarn), this post is for you. I've tried to make clear, helpful instructions with pictures to guide you along the way. Once you try this, you will become SO addicted, believe me!

Ready? Set? Let's DYE!!!


-Approx. 4-6 ounces of undyed fiber (or yarn) rolled into loose coils:

-An old crockpot that you will only be using for dyeing...not for cooking anything to eat in:

-A plastic spoon (clear or white) or measuring spoons (using them only for dyeing), a plastic fork, your dye powder, white vinegar, a measuring cup, rubber gloves, and towels:


1. Put 1 cup of water and 1 "glug" of vinegar into the bottom of the crockpot:

2. Place 1 coil of fiber in the bottom of the crockpot into the water:

3. Using a measuring spoon or plastic spoon, sprinkle out desired amount of dye powder onto the coil. I usually use 1/8-1/4 tsp per coil layer:

4. Put another coil of fiber, another sprinkling of dye powder. Repeat for layer 3:

5. Pour 5 cups of water (one at a time) over the fiber coil layers. Measure out one more cup of water, add a "glug" of vinegar to it and pour that in as well. Some of the dyes will disperse:

6. Put the crockpot on low, cover and let steam for 1 hour:

7. Take cover off and VERY GENTLY press the fiber down into the water with the fork. Use light pressure and go along the whole circumference and center of the fiber coils. Re-cover pot and steam for 5-6 more hours, until the water in the pot is clear and the dyes have exhausted (been absorbed by the fiber):

8. Take cover off, turn the crockpot off and let the fiber and water cool to room temperature (or cooler). For me, this takes at least 2-3 hours. (If you put the crockpot on an hour before bed, you can press it down before going to sleep and then turn it off in the morning when you get up. By lunchtime or sooner, it's all cool and ready to go.)

9. Gently, using both hands, lift the fiber mass out of the water, and squeeze firmly to expell most of the water, but do NOT wring the fiber or twist it. When you've gotten the mass to stop streaming water, place in a lingerie washing bag, zip it up and place in the washing machine. Place the machine on the SPIN ONLY cycle to expell the rest of the water. (This step REALLY helps to let the fiber dry quickly.)

10. Take the fiber mass out of the bag and (very slowly and with much patience) start to fan out the fibers horizontally just a bit. You're just opening up the coils of fiber so that they can dry more quickly. At first, the damp coils will look like 3 damp ropes. Take one at a time and using your fingers to pull the fiber apart from top to bottom. They will look like this when you're done.....(sorry about the dark picture):

11. Let the three strips of fiber dry either on a mesh sweater drying rack, on a table lined with thick dry towels or (if you have a wood stove like I do), over a chair next to the stove (but not TOO close!).

12. After the fiber is dry, you can tie a knot with the three strips at one end and braid them together. Knot at the other end and roll into a coil. My finished fiber (about 4.5 oz of superwash merino/tussah silk using two shades of yellow dye and royal blue dye) looked like this:

*This method is very quick and easy once you do it a couple times. You will love it! The only things I will mention that make this a secondary method to handpainting are these:

-You usually cannot duplicate your fiber colorway. I tried doing the same exact thing (with the same measurements of red and black dye and same weight of yarn/water) and I got these two fiber colorways. can only do up to 6 oz. of fiber at a time (well, unless you find a HUGE crockpot). My instructions are for a medium size crockpot...and the vertical ones (the ones that are more deep than wide) are the best for this. If you are handpainting yarn or fiber, you can do a LOT at one time and it can be very close to dupllication of colorways.

Here is another example of my latest dyeing fiber experiments:

This is a merino fiber that I dyed with fushia, a bit of red and a smidge of black. I gave it to Joanne of A Knitter's Garden as a gift. I called it, "Knitter's Garden Rose". I think she liked it! Sometimes, I have no idea how the colors will come out, but that's all the fun!

Good luck and would love to see how your fibers (or yarn) come out!

Happy Dyeing!


Heide said...

Thank you for the crockpot dyeing directions. That's one method I've not tried. I absolutely love the roving you dyed, especially the reddish, pink.

Amanda1 said...

Great post! Really interesting to see how the same ingredients yielded such different colors.


Cayli said...

Love the tutorial. This is one method I need to try. I love the blue/green/yellow roving. That should make for some great looking yarn.

Lora said...

Very cool!! Might have to try this one day if I ever get a new crock pot for cooking!! The old one would be great for this :)

Nichole said...

The fiber you dyed for Joanne is GORGEOUS!!!! I may have to have Mom hunt the yard sales this spring for crock pots now... lol

Jackie said...

I'm dying to try dyeing! Will this work on any yarn? You make it look so easy. Thanks for the tute!

jen said...

oh that looks awesome! i would love to dye and spin yarn someday. i can't believe how the colors come out they are so vibrant. thanks for the tutorial!

Corey said...

i've been thinking of trying my hand at dyeing (i'm a virgin), and was worried that maybe it would be long and tedious and i'd be stuck w/ koolaid dyeing. but whoa! your post made it seem super easy!!! i can't wait to try this! thanks!!!

Zefiber said...

Thank you for the great tutorial. I've been curious about dyeing but afraid to make the attempt - you make have tipped me over the edge! thank you again for sharing the information!

Keli said...

Can you use Jacquard dyes too? Wonderful explanation.

Cindy said...

What kind of dye did you use?

SleepyEyes said...

Hi everyone!! Thanks for the wonderful compliments. I was happy to share my experience with crockpot dyeing, though you may find another method works better for you. Experimenting is fun!

I used Permalon and Jaquard Dyes for this project. Though, I expect they would work with any colorfast, fiber friendly dyes. I definitely stress having a separate crockpot (and measuring spoons) for dyeing (and another for edible foods) because the dyes are toxic and you wouldn't want to get poisoned by them.

Another thing is to remember to fully cover all of your counter areas when you're dyeing...and even the floor if necessary. Dyes quickly drip and spill - and then you've got a mess everywhere.

Finally, rinsing the fiber is a must. You don't want to be spinning with these fibers and have the dye come off on your hands. Soak the fiber just as you would yarn in a tepid bath with fiber friendly non-rinse wash (like Soak or Euclan) and gently squeeze dry. Roll fiber in a thick towel to get out excess water (or send for a spin in the washer -spin only-in a lingerie bag) and lay flat to dry on more clean, dry towels. Air drying in indirect sunshine or outside on a nice dry day is perfect.

Hope this helps! Feel free to email me if you have any more questions. Gina ; )

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ashley0607 said...

So I am question, maybe in read something wrong in your instructions BUT I was curious: After you let the fiber and water cool for the few houses do your instantly put in mesh and put in spin cycle OR do you rinse the fiber first before putting it in spin cycle / drying?

I read your comment and I understand also that you should always rinse your fiber (I have done a few stove-top dyes) but have always done it after the H2O cooled a bit and then followed on with the spinning/drying steps....

Am very curious on were you stand on it. : )

BTW: thank you for the tutorial, it is very helpful to me since I want to try crock dyeing. Great work. Look forward to hearing your response.

SleepyEyes said...

Hi Ashley,

Thank you for your comments! As far as the rinsing goes...well, for me, it depends on the color. Usually blues (even turquoise) and reds are the ones that bleed most often.

If the fiber has a lot of deep, brights like that, than I WILL rinse before spinning out the excess water. And I usually wait until the fiber is completely cool and use the same temperature water for rinsing.

If the fiber is mostly muted colors, I have to say that I don't usually rinse afterwards. I'll most likely be blocking out my handspun yarn after I spin it up anyway (which would involve soaking and rinsing it), so it seems redundant.

Hope this works out for you and thanks for checking out my tutorial!

Gina ; )

Barb said...

I'm on my second crockpot full! Yes, it is VERY addicting. Thanks so much for the tutorial!

Thyme Photography & Thymeline Prop Shop said...

Just pinned your article on Pinterest. Very cool, and want to try it. Thanks for sharing. Lucy :)

Amanda OwlPrintPanda said...

great little tutorial, thanks! I have several balls of fibre sitting ready to be dyed, but I'm just too scared! :/

Thyme Photography & Thymeline Prop Shop said...

a glug, I'm not sure how much that would really be. can you give a rough estimate in measurements. thanks Lucy

SleepyEyes said...

Hi Lucy,

I haven't dyed now for a long while, but it would be safe to say that the "glug" that I mentioned would equal approximately 1/4 cup. It also depends on the size of your crockpot and the amount of fiber you are adding to the pot. Good luck and hope this helps!

Gina :)

lorrwill said...

EXCELLENT tutorial. Thanks for the clear instructions and drool worthy pictures of your results. So inspirational. I am now on the hunt for a big crock pot to use for this.