A few months ago, I got some beautiful Alchemy Bamboo in a trade on Ravelry. The yarn is gorgeous, the yardage is enough for a nice accessory (600 yards) but the color, not so much. So, when I made the trade, I did it with the intention of overdyeing the yarn (I have Kristy to thank for the idea).
I did some research online and I couldn’t find a resource that talked about handpainting bamboo yarn Handpainting (wool) yarn, sure. Dyeing bamboo yarn, sure. But nothing that talked about how to do it in a non-submersive way. Now that I’ve dyed my yarn, and I’m happy with the results, I thought I’d share with you all what I did.
ETA – the instructions I found for immersion dyeing bamboo yarn can be found here on Halcyon’s site
Step 1: Scour the Yarn
I soaked the yarn in hot water (140° F / 60&def; C) with Synthrapol and Soda Ash for about 15 minutes. I used 1/2 tsp Synthrapol and 1/2 tsp Soda Ash per pound.
To get the water warm enough, I started out with hot tap water in a stove-proof container, dissolved the Synthrapol and Soda Ash, added the yarn and cooked it on low for 15 minutes once it hit the right temperature. To check the temp, I used a candy thermometer locked in a Ziploc bag so it didn’t get any chemicals on it (I wasn’t sure if the Ziploc would hold, but it was fine!
Note: My yarn was already in hanks that were tied off in figure 8s in three places along the hank. If your yarn isn’t tied off this way, make sure you do so before getting it wet — wet fiber sticks to itself and makes it much harder to work with. You’ll have a big mess if you don’t.
While the yarn was getting cleansed, I mixed up the dyes.
Step 2: Prepare the Dye
I used Procion Dye in #78 Navy. I wanted a nice variation of color, so I mixed three strengths — 2 grams, 4 grams and 6 grams of dye for 1 cup of water. In the end, this step was completely unnecessary, as I found I could easily control the saturation of dye just based on how light or heavy I was with the paint brush, and how much dye I picked up with my brush. So, save yourself a considerable amount of dye and just mix up 2 grams for 1 cup of water.
Step 3: Finish Preparing the Yarn
After the 15 minutes were up, I rinsed the yarn. I was shocked at how much red dye came out in the rinse.
After that, I prepared a Soda Ash bath for the yarn by mixing 3/4 cup of Soda Ash with a 3/4 gallon of water. Note – I started with cold water this time and the Soda Ash hardened as soon as it hit the water. So, use hot water so it dissolves easier. Once the Soda Ash is dissolved, add the yarn and let it soak for about 5 minutes.
Remove the yarn from the Soda Ash bath, wring gently by hand, and place it on a protected surface (I used a double layer of kitchen garbage bags.
Step 3: Painting the Yarn
Put on some waterproof gloves, and using your paintbrush, paint the yarn. Use a heavy hand for very saturated areas, and a dry brush and lighter hand for a more mottled effect. Be sure to get the dye into the areas where the hanks are tied together, and once you’ve painted one side, flip them over to paint the other side.
You shouldn’t have any dye liquid pooling around your yarn — natural fiber has a wicking property, so if it finds any liquid it will soak it right up and you’ll be left with an uneven dye job.
Step 4: Curing the Dye
Wrap up the yarn in plastic (I used the garbage bags that I painted on as the wrapping). I folded it up into a nice package and let it sit for a few hours.
From what I read it only needed to sit for 90 minutes or so, but I ended up letting it sit for 8 hours or so. This didn’t seem to have any impact on how the dye set, although I’ve read that the dye needs to stay wet.
Step 5: Washing out the Dye
I unwrapped my yarn and dumped it in the sink (I have a black cast iron sink so I wasn’t worried about it getting dyed), and ran cold water on it to wash out any loose dye. Very little dye came off.
Next, I put the yarn in a stove-proof container with 1/2 tsp on Synthrapol and brought the temp to 140° for about 10 minutes. The water turned very blue. I rinsed the yarn and returned it to another Synthrapol bath. This second time the water stayed clear.
I rinsed the yarn, gently wrung them out by hand, and hung them on a hanger to dry. I was afraid of dye dripping from them so I placed a couple of old towels underneath them, but they didn’t drip at all.
Step 6: Admire Your Handiwork!
Step back and admire your beautiful work!
if anyone uses this tutorial and has an issue, question or suggestion, feel free to leave a comment!