Progressive/Gradiant Dyeing Part 1: Long and Slow Control

In the past few years, one thing I’ve really enjoyed doing is dyeing yarn using food-safe dye in my kitchen.  I mostly use food coloring, though I’ve also done some work with Paas easter egg dye.  Recently, I heard about Fresh from the Cauldron, and learned that the dyer there does some progressive dyes, that is, skeins that transition continuously from one color to another across the length of the skein.  I don’t know how she does it, but I did know that I wanted to try for myself.

The first way I thought of to do it was to dye yarn and then pull out a little bit at a time, similar to the third method detailed in this article on food color dyeing from  I’d done that before and it was pretty simple, but instead of winding a hank and pulling out parts of the hank, I would just pull out parts of the yarn.  I started by coiling my yarn into my crock pot in the hopes that this would prevent tangling, which for the most part, it did.  I got a few small tangles while I was pulling the yarn out, but not many, and they were all basically slip knots that came undone easily.

I decided that I wanted a blue yarn that transitioned to green, so I started out dyeing the yarn blue, and then added yellow.  More yellow, I reasoned, would make the yarn more green.  This turned out to be true, except that when my yellow dye was exhausted (after about 4 hours), I realized that the yarn was about as green as it was going to get.  After that, I simply mixed some green dye so that I could end up with more of a forest green towards the end of the project.

Now, I said before that I started out inspired by that Knitty article, but wanting more gradual transitions between colors, I decided, somewhat arbitrarily, that I was going to pull out 1-2 yards of yarn every 5-10 minutes.  For approximately 100 yards of yarn (50g of Patons Classic Wool), this ended up taking me nearly 8 hours.  In order to prevent tangling and provide the yarn some space to dry, I wound it around my swift as I went.  In the end, I had a ball of yarn that did transition from blue to green quite nicely.

I would do it differently if I did it again, however.  For one, I don’t think it was necessary to move the yarn quite so often.  5-10 yards every 20 minutes would probably get a nice effect and require a lot less babysitting, though it would still require being home all day.  More importantly, I dumped in all my yellow at once, trusting to time to keep it all from turning green, but I underestimated the speed of the transition and the yarn turned green very quickly, within the first half-hour.  To get more blue blue-greens, I’d recommend starting with only a small portion of yellow dye and waiting for it all to be absorbed before adding more.


I am happy with how the yarn came out and I will definitely try this again, just hopefully with slightly less babysitting.  I got a lot of cleaning done but not much else.


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