Lil’ Sharon Rainbow Fade Hand Dyed Yarn

Eat, Knit and Dye

I think that this has been my most ambitious experiment to date. Not only did I want to create 6 different skeins in a series, but I also used a technique that I had never tried before. So, grab some popcorn, and join me on this very messy dyeing adventure! This week features the undyed yarn Lil’ Sharon, which is a mini-skein of Sharon. Sharon Undyed Sock Yarn is a non-wool, sock weight springy alternative to wool and is 55% Cotton, 16% Bamboo, 8% Silk, and 21% Elastic Nylon.

Mini skeins are a great way to test out new techniques or a fade set before you commit to a larger project. I’m also betting that the different fiber types take up the dye in different ways, which I’m hoping will lend a great texture to the yarn. For this set, my goal is 6 skeins where 1/3 of the skein is a rainbow and the rest is a solid color. Each of the solid colors will be different, so in the end, I will have a full rainbow.

To accomplish a harmonious rainbow, I used only primary dye colors and used those to create the secondary colors. I mixed the primary colors dye powders and 8 ounces of hot water into 3 plastic condiment bottles. I used:

•    ¼ tsp of Jacquard Sun Yellow
•    ¼ tsp of Jacquard Sky Blue
•    1/8 tsp of Jacquard Fire Red

To mix the secondary colors, I poured the primary colors into other bottles and mixed them together to get orange, purple and green.

Red + Yellow = Orange
Red + Blue = Purple
Yellow + Blue = Green

While I was mixing the colors, the mini skeins were all happily soaking in a bowl of water with 1 tbsp of citric acid. After they had been there for 30 minutes, I pulled out the first skein, squeezed out the excess liquid and laid it down on top of the copious amount of plastic cling wrap I had covered my countertop with. I took a deep breath and then started slowly pouring the green dye stock onto the yarn.

It was messy. The yarn was so wet, and the dye didn’t cover all the yarn, and I was really concerned I hadn’t made enough dye. Luckily, I was able to mop up the giant puddles to get consistent coverage. Seeing how wet the yarn was, for the rainbow portion I decided to only use the primaries and not try to add any of the secondary colors. This turned out to be a good idea judging from all the dye that was left on the cling wrap.

I wiped up the excess dye with a paper towel, and folded the cling wrap over the yarn, making sure to keep the two sections separate. And then rolled it up like a cinnamon roll. Again, I wrapped the cinnamon roll in more plastic wrap and placed it on a dye dedicated plate. Into the microwave it went for 2 minutes. (Note: If you are worried about using the same microwave for food and dye, you can wrap them in an extra layer of protection using a slow cooker bag. For me, I just ripped out a 1990s monstrosity of a microwave out of my kitchen. That monster lives in my garage now, and its where I microwave my yarn.)

I microwaved the yarn 2 more times in sets of 2 minutes. Everything out there I have read tells me to keep doing that until the dye exhausts and the leftover water was clear. I was nowhere near that, but I decided I had used more than enough dye, and it had probably set. Plus I didn’t want to totally nuke the yarn. Using tongs, I picked up the yarn roll and left it in my sink to cool to room temperature. That little roll of yarn was super-hot!

I switched tactics at this point. Clearly, I had way too much liquid between the wet yarn and the liquid dye stock. I wrapped up the remaining skeins of presoaked yarn in a towel and let it absorb a whole bunch of moisture. Then I added the main color just the same way as I did for the green skein. But before I added the rainbow, I picked up the skein by the undyed part and squeezed out the excess dye into a glass jar. This leftover dye would be used on another experiment as I didn’t want to just flush the leftover dye down the drains (both for the environment and my pocketbook). Then I wiped up the excess dye on the plastic wrap and added the rainbow bit.

I just kept doing this method for the remaining skeins. I always made sure to wrap the skeins the same way and have the rainbow part on top of the cinnamon roll. I didn’t think it really made a difference, but I wanted to be consistent. I microwaved the remaining skeins for the same amount of time.

I had some concerns about the blue because the color was so pale. It looked so washed out and it barely had any color. But I learned that this is a color that really develops during the heat set process. The Sky Blue turned out so vibrant and gorgeous.

After all the yarn rolls had cooled to room temperature, I unwrapped them. This will take way longer than you think because those coils hold in heat really well. But I rinsed the yarn and washed it with clear dish soap, towel dried them, and hung them up to dry.

I’m pretty happy with how this turned out. Some of the rainbows, especially the yellow in the rainbow sections got completely overtaken. This doesn’t surprise me, because yellow is always the first to vanish. I think if I try this again in the future, I want to have the rainbow section elevated. Or I might try another technique. Either way, this was a fun process!

Lessons learned:

•    Some colors need to be heat set to really see the vibrancy
•    Too much water is your enemy with this technique
•    Just keep going even when it seems like something isn’t working, you will still get lovely results.

If I wanted to pair this with a solid, I would pair it with HiKoo® CoBaSi and make some totally rainbow-rrific socks!

Stay tuned for next week where I play with over dyeing.

Ready to make your own unique colorway? Hop on over to Makers’ Mercantile and pick up your undyed yarn and supplies. We can’t wait to see what you make, so tag us on social media with #makersmercantile!

About Tara
Tara Warburton is the former graphic designer for Makers' Mercantile® and a fine artist. She specializes in watercolor and colored pencil illustrations. She lives with her two cats, who are not helpful when knitting.

Tara Warburton's Frost Fairy