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Snow dyeing yarn for a random effect – 8 steps to a variegated look

by Cindy O'Malley

This week I’m having fun dyeing yarn with Rit All Purpose Dye and Ready to Dye Yarn from UNIVERSAL YARN.

Yesterday I talked about the equipment needed for dyeing. Today, I’m snow dyeing! I’m very excited as this is my first time, and you won’t find the instructions on the box for doing this. It’s a complete experiment, but not without research. There are many sources available online, and they all seem straightforward.

Three colors of Rit Dye powder in Golden Yellow, Teal and Royal blue and Superwash Merino Angora Nylon sock yarn

Rit All Purpose Dye in Golden Yellow, Teal and Royal Blue with UNIVERSAL YARN Ready to Dye Superwash Merino Angora Nylon Sock Weight yarn

I’m using the powder form of the Rit All Purpose dyes for my experiment. I’ve opted to use the Royal Blue, Golden Yellow and Teal as my color choices. Using the funnel, gloves, and mask, I emptied each color into the spice jars.

Golden Yellow, Teal, Scarlet and Royal Blue Rit Dye powder in clear spice jars

Rit All Purpose Dye powder emptied into spice jars

Before I begin with the dyeing process, the yarn needs to be soaked in warm water and vinegar. I’m using the Superwash Merino / Angora / Nylon (50/30/20) blend of sock weight yarn which weighs 3.5oz [100g] at 460yd [420m]. Since the instructions state a cup of vinegar to a pound of fabric, I guessed how much to add to the water. I let the jug glug a few times and figured that was close to a ¼ cup. I let the yarn soak for a good hour or more.

In the meantime, I gathered all the other equipment needed for this project which included the roasting pan, cooling rack, tongs, dye powder, scoop for the snow (I used an empty yogurt tub), and 4 votive candle holders. I didn’t mention those yesterday but they turned out to be very important.

  1. Place the votive candle holders upside down at the bottom of the roasting pan and place the cooling rack on top of them.
  2. Place the yarn on the cooling rack. You can try and place it strategically, but I just spread it out as evenly as I can in a very random fashion. It looks like spaghetti in the bottom of the pan.

White Superwash Merino Angora Nylon sock yarn spread over a cooling rack

The soaked yarn spread out evenly over a raised rack in the bottom of the roasting pan

3. Scoop snow; clean snow that is. Pile it on top of the yarn and pack it down as best as you can. Fill it as high as possible without it spilling over. Now it looks like whipped cream atop a dessert.

Clean snow packed down in a roasting pan

Packed snow on top of the yarn in the roasting pan

This was a challenge that I wasn’t expecting given that I now live in a snow belt. This winter has been a strange one given all the false springs we’ve had. In the morning following a drifting snowstorm, I immediately jumped into action to collect the snow.

4. Shake the dye over the top of the snow. This is where the spice jars come in handy. It was easy to shake and spread the powder where I wanted it. Completely cover all the snow with the dye powder. I started off using Blue, Teal, and Golden Yellow but then decided to add Scarlet to the corners of the blue and yellow. I wasn’t after red but I wanted to see if it would produce purple and orange respectively.

Rit All Purpose Dye Royal Blue, Teal, Golden Yellow with a hint of Scarlet at opposite corners spread out on top of snow in a roasting pan; UNIVERSAL YARN Ready to Dye Collection Superwash Merino Angora Nylon Sock Weight

Rit All Purpose Dye powder spread over top of the snow

5 .Bring the pan inside and let the snow melt. Leave the roaster uncovered. However, whenever we left the room or went to bed that night, I’d put the roaster lid on to make sure the kitties didn’t try to play with the colored snow. The lid slows down the melting process but all was good the following morning.

6. Behold the wonder! I was amazed at what I saw the next morning. All the snow had melted and my spaghetti was now brightly colored. Using the tongs, I scooped the yarn into a zipper-locking bag for the final heat set. I noticed a fair bit of uncolored areas on the underside of the yarn, but since it was spread so randomly, the white was also random. White is a color so I’m good to go. By the way, don’t empty the puddle at the bottom of the roaster. We’ll use it later.

After the snow melts, the Rit dyes have colored the yarn in blues, green, yellow and red tones; UNIVERSAL YARN Ready to Dye Collection Superwash Merino Angora Nylon Sock Weight

Melted snow leaves brightly colored yarn.

7. Steam the bag of yarn to heat set the color. I took the bag to the Guild dye kitchen for this process. I heated water in a stock pot, placed the bag in the colander and let it steam for an hour, flipping it over halfway. When done, I took it back home for the final step(s).

8. Rinse the yarn under cold water until the water runs clear. I was very surprised that the water ran clear right from the get-go. That means all the dye was absorbed and set into the fibers. Then I draped it over a hanger to let it dry. Once again, behold the wonder!

The skein of yarn is highly variegated with Royal Blue, Teal, and Golden Yellow with a sprinkling of Red to make purple and orange; UNIVERSAL YARN Ready to Dye Collection Superwash Merino Angora Nylon Sock Weight

Dried skein of yarn highly variegated from the snow dyeing process

I wanted random and I got random and I love the color combination. Spreading the red over a bit of the blue and yellow turned out exactly as I had hoped for resulting in purple and orange.

As I mentioned in Step 6 – don’t throw out the puddle. As the snow melts, it makes a puddle at the bottom of the roaster taking the dye colors with it. I just had to use the puddle but needed some yarn to dye so I turned to my stash.

Years ago, I inherited a huge amount of mercerized crochet cotton. I have no intention of crocheting with it but think that one day I’ll use it to weave. I’ve often dipped into this stash for dyeing experiments and thought why not, let’s do it again. Rit All Purpose Dye is formulated for protein and cellulose fibers, so I thought this was a great opportunity to try it out on cotton.

I soaked the yarn in warm water and dissolved salt as per the instructions, however, the quantity of salt was a bit of a guessing game for my 50g skein of cotton. I added the yarn to the heated puddle, shook a little more salt over top and let it simmer until the liquid was almost clear. Once again, behold the wonder!

A variegated skein of wool in bright colors above a blue skein of wool; UNIVERSAL YARN Ready to Dye Collection Superwash Merino Angora Nylon Sock Weight

Snow dyed skein of wool blend with a puddle dyed skein of cotton

Now that the warmer weather is approaching, snow dyeing is not feasible. However, substituting snow with crushed ice is an option. This was an amazing experiment. I don’t dye with a proven recipe; every time I dye yarn, it’s always an experiment. If I don’t like the results, I over dye it later. It’s fun, and I enjoy it.

Join me tomorrow when I use a different method for dyeing yarn with a focus on painting a warp. This time I’ll be dissolving the Rit All Purpose Dye powder to make a liquid dye to color another skein from the UNIVERSAL YARN Ready to Dye Yarn collection.

This is part 3 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 2: Dyeing wool yarn | What you need to get started

Go to part 4: Warp painting wool for a planned weaving project – dyeing stripes


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