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Hints & Tips

Frequently asked questions

With time and practice you will develop your own favourite techniques. In the meantime, here are some tips based on my experience which you may find useful. I've also mentioned some of the pitfalls to avoid (most of which I found out the hard way).

If you have a tip or technique you'd like to share, let us know and we'll include the best ones on this page. If you have any questions contact us by email, telephone or post and we'll do our best to help you out.

How do I get clearly defined colours?

For clearly defined colours and limited blending (e.g.. for a “colours of the rainbow” yarn) use well-squeezed yarn and apply dyes slowly and in small amounts to discrete areas of the yarn. Handle the yarn as little as possible. If you want more discrete colours, the steamer method tends to be more controllable, particularly if you paint the dyes onto the yarn. I find this the easiest way to produce a yarn in which you can see all the colours of the rainbow.

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I'd like a well-blended yarn. How should I apply the dyes?

If you want a well-blended yarn, don't squeeze out too much water when you remove the yarn from the soaking bath and the dyes will blend more thoroughly. If the dyes are not blending enough, you can always sprinkle on a little extra water. Overlapping the dyes when you apply them will encourage the dyes to blend more.

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My yarn came out a muddy brown shade. Where did I go wrong?

Too many dyes can create a muddied yarn, especially where the dyes blend. Limiting yourself to three base colours reduces the risk of this happening. It is also fair to say that the more you mess with the dyepot, the more muddy the result is likely to be. Try to resist the urge to poke around too much!

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My yarn has white patches. Why did this happen?

Assuming you didn't want undyed patches in your yarn, it is important to ensure that the dyes have fully penetrated all the yarn. This is especially important where yarns are tightly-packed in the dyepot, or for yarns which have been spun with a high degree of twist. Some yarns, particularly cottons, can also be slower to absorb dye. Try using clear dishes as you can see more easily whether the dye has fully penetrated the yarn. You can then lift the dish to check that the bottom and sides of the yarn have no white spots. It is also a good idea to gently separate the yarn (try to disturb as little as possible) to check for undyed areas. If you do find undyed areas, apply more dye or squeeze the undyed section gently.

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My dyebath looks completely black!

Don't despair! Some of the least promising dyepots I have made have produced some of the best results. Finish off the process, including washing and drying the yarn before you write it off as a disaster. Remember, the colour of the bath is not always indicative of the colour of the yarn. This is particularly true of a rainbow yarn where the exhaust is usually a dark brown which can really dull the actual colours of the yarn in the dyepot. It is not until the yarn is rinsed that the jewel colours shine through as the brown is washed away.

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My yarn has come out too pale. Can I re-dye it?

If you don't like the colour of your yarn, you can redye it, providing it is not too dark. Finish the process, including drying, then soak in a new bath with new solution and repeat the whole process. Once the yarn is soaked you can apply different colours or darker shades of the same colours then set and finish as before.

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I've got some dye solution left. How long will it keep?

There will be times when you simply don't need all the dye you made for a project: Don't throw it away! If you don't want to save it for a future project, soak some extra yarn and use it to experiment with a new technique. A small amount of leftover dye will go further by diluting it – using progressive dilutions of a single shade can produce some really interesting pastels. You can also use small amounts of leftover dye to colour tension squares or other items. If you don't want to use your solution now, keep it in a cool, dark place and it will keep its original strength for approximately a month. After that time, it will still be useable but the strength of the colour will fade.

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[All images and text © Debbie and Peter Tomkies 2005]