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Overdyeing yarn

Want a different color? Dye it yourself!

Dyeing yarn is a fun and rewarding way to make a huge mess in your kitchen and tie up your stovetop for hours. I kid (kinda), but over the weekend I put three batches of yarn through the overdyeing process, and I couldn't be more happy with the results.

Years ago I tried my hand at selling hand-dyed sock yarn, as did a lot of other people. I lost interest in the business, and was left with about a dozen skeins in the colors that no one wanted. Even I didn't want them, and I was the one who had dyed the darned things to begin with!
 
Fast forward to last weekend, when I decided that it was finally time to do something. I split the dozen skeins into three batches of four skeins each, chose three great colors from my collection of dyes, and went to town. I now have four gorgeous skeins each in dark green, a brilliant royal blue, and a nice chocolate brown.
 
Overdyeing is, as the name suggests, laying a dye layer over the yarn's existing colors. Done just right, it can create some wonderfully subtle color effects. Or if you just want to change the yarn color, you can soak it in dye and get some rich, dark colors in exchange.
 
I used Jacquard acid dyes, which need just water and vinegar to work. Using a non-reactive pot (I have a big stainless steel stew pot set aside just for dyeing) you bring the yarn up to just below a boil and hold that temperature for 30 minutes. You can read all the detailed instructions at their site here. 
 
I find that the best results come from just turning the stove off and leaving the yarn to cool to room temperature. For two gallons of water, this takes at least 4-6 hours. A lot of dye seems to get taken up during this cool-down process, so don't rush it!
 
I also recommend that you tie the skeins of yarn with cotton yarn. Because the Jacquard dyes don't work on cotton, the skein ties will remain undyed - which will make them easy for you to spot later. (Otherwise you have a problem like when you can't find the beginning of the roll of tape.) And remember to tie your skeins very loosely, or you will get little "blips" of undyed yarn at that spot.