Even with a rather mild Colorado winter this year there were a few occasions when nature dumped a ton of snow on us. Aside from playing in the snow with my puppy, I always love to do some snow dyeing.
What is that you might ask, well, it’s a ton of fun for one.
Dyeing yarn feels a little like opening a present on Christmas day, always different and surprising, snow dyeing yarn is even more unpredictable.
If you don’t know anything about snow dyeing keep on reading, and if you decide to try it, feel free to share your results with me and everyone else!
I always love to see what creative minds concoct.
What you need:
A Couple of skeins of yarn
A plastic spoon
microwave or steamer
Prewash your yarn, I used a fingering weight SW Merino, with a little synaprol or mild wool wash in lukewarm water to get rid of all oil that might be present and could give you an uneven color. Then, rinse in lukewarm water by filling the sink up then submerging the skeins and gently squeezing them. If you are using a SW wool you can be a little careless, but for most fibers you want to stay away from too hot temperatures or a lot of agitation because they can felt.
Give them a good squeeze to get rid of the excess water.
Decide on your colors: I am using Gaywool dyes for this project which do not require an acid presoak. This makes it a little easier for beginners.
Gaywool dyes are made in Australia and are chemically based and complete, colorfast and come in a variety of colors. Find two to three colors, they can compliment each other or, what I personally love, use two that go well together and throw a stark contrast in.
We are ready to go.
Grab your yarn, dyes, gloves and a plastic spoon and find a nice spot in your yard, where you don’t grow anything edible, because dye isn’t meant to be consumed, preferably grass that is covered in a nice layer of snow, an inch is sufficient.
Lay out your skeins lengthwise on the snow, make sure that you spread it a little so a lot of surface is exposed. If you are using different colors on multiple skeins give them a little space, the dye can carry in the wind and can blow onto your other skeins, which can be interesting but can also cause your yarn to have a lot of unwanted colors.
Once you have laid out the skeins cover them evenly with a layer of snow, it doesn’t matter how much, just don’t go overboard in either direction (too little or too much), an inch or so is fine, so are gaps.
And you are ready to dye!
Put on your gloves and go crazy with your colors. Use the spoon to sprinkle your dye over the snow that covers your skeins, how you do it is up to you.
Be aware that if you overlap you will get mixed colors in places. If you use multiple colors clean the spoon before you switch colors to avoid mixing unwanted color combinations or contaminate your dye powder containers.
That is it!
Now comes the hard part: waiting until the snow is melted.
To get over your boredom, cover some space on the porch or in the house with some newspaper to protect your surfaces and lay out a layer of saran wrap (for each dyed skein) about two inches longer than the length of your skeins on each side.
Once the snow has finally melted, gently lift the skeins off the grass while squeezing out any excess dye and water (this can be a bit messy) careful again to not let colors run into each other unless you want them to.
Place the dyed skeins on your saran wrap, individually, roll them up like a burrito, fold over both overlapping ends and roll them into a coil (see photo).
The yarn needs to be heat set, which means you need a microwave that you do not use for food (for safety reasons you should not use any utensils you use for dyeing again for food preparation) or a pot with a steamer.
If you use a microwave, place the skeins (1 or 2 at a time) in it and heat them on high for 2 minutes, I do this twice.
If you steam it, bring the water to a light simmer, place the coils in your steamer basket and simmer for about 20-30 min. These stackable steamers below are great for dyeing larger quantities. You can find them in any Asian market, they work great on a camping stove outside.
Be careful not to handle the skein coils with your bare hands, they are extremely hot! Wait for them to cool completely before you unwrap them.
Once cooled rinse them one more time in some tepid water in the sink, not under running water (this can felt your wool), squeeze out the excess water and hang them to dry.
Even though this is a snow experience, if you live outside of Colorado, make sure you do this when snow melt is expected within the next few days or you will end up having a frozen array of skeins in your yard until spring.
Colorado is known for its erratic temperature differences, while you can find us in T-shirts outside in the morning, the day can end with a blizzard or vice versa. I have had my skeins frozen outside for up to 4 days (quite often weather forecasts have a huge error margin) with no problem other than the need to see the final product.
While snow is nice to have, if you want to do this during the summer months, simply replace the snow with ice cubes or ice shavings. Works just as well.
Here are some samples of snow dyed yarn:
You can find YARN PACKS in my Etsy Shop and DYE IT YOURSELF PACKS will be available soon!