Over Dyeing with Acid Dyes

Eat, Knit and Dye

We all have it... the yarn that is in our stash that we aren’t sure why it's there. Maybe we got it on clearance somewhere. Maybe its cashmere (and who cares that it is puce colored!) Or perhaps it was a gift from your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate? (Bonus if you get that Spaceballs reference!) Regardless, it’s a yarn in a color that just isn’t quite what you want, but it’s too nice to toss out. 

By now, you may have picked up on the fact that I love colors, the brighter the better! And this tan yarn just isn’t my cup of tea. Maybe tan is your favorite color, and that’s okay, but if I’m going to spend my time knitting up something, I want it to be in a color that I love. 

I’m not exactly sure what this yarn is, but I’m thinking it’s a Zitron Trekking XXL, a fabulous sock wool that is 75% Superwash Merino Wool and 25% Nylon blend. I wanted to see what would happen if I overdyed the same yarn in two different colors of Jacquard Acid Dyes.

I started by taking the yarn out of its skein form and made two hanks by using a swift. Each hank is 50 grams of yarn. After that, I knew that I needed to add several figure 8 ties, though I like to do three loops instead of two to make sure the yarn isn’t going to become a tangled mess. I used embroidery floss for the ties because I have a bunch of it just laying around.

Out comes my trusty old pan. I have read that I shouldn’t use a pot with the Teflon coating because the acid will eat away at the coating and it can also alter the dye colors. Since I’m just doing this for fun, I’m okay with both of those risks. And as always, everything you see is used only for dyeing and not food prep. I also wear a respirator.

The pan was filled with 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of citric acid. I added in 1/8 tsp of Jacquard Turquoise to the water. It doesn’t look like it in the picture, but I didn’t drop the dye into the water, but instead dip the measuring spoon right into the water and then gently mix in the dye powder. This reduces the amount of dye powder floating around in my kitchen.

Taking my presoaked yarn, I put one of the mini-hanks into the dye bath, making sure it was completely submerged. The water was brought to a temperature right before a simmer. And then I just waited for the dye to exhaust (the water turns clear and all the dye is absorbed). Once the water was clear, I removed the yarn and let it cool to room temperature in my sink. 

Then I repeated this process again with the other hank, this time using 1/8 tsp of Jacquard Cherry Red.

After both hanks of yarn were cooled to room temperature, they were washed using a little clear dish soap and hung outside to dry.

I am so surprised at how much color the yarn picked up and moved away from the original tan color. The red is a very bright color and has darker areas of red. Not a hint of brown shows through. The turquoise went teal, which is to be expected (since blue plus yellow equals green). There are some tiny speckles of brown that you can see if you stare really close, but it is pretty clearly teal or green. 

This is yarn in a colorway that better matches my personal preferences, and it was really easy to accomplish. I think my yarn stash is in need of an over dyeing refresh! 

Lessons Learned:

  • Overdyeing is a quick and easy way to change the color of yarn that doesn’t suit your style.
  • Acid dye colors are strong, and you can completely change the color of the original yarn (it can only go darker, and not lighter)

Want to try this, but everything in your stash is spoken for? Check out our clearance yarns, maybe there is something that almost strikes your fancy.

Stay tuned for next week where I attempt to dye an Aurora Borealis colorway.

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