Monday 5 March 2007

Acrylic Dyeing Experiment - it worked!

I have been interested in dyeing for some time but have never tried it.

Acrylic paint is pigment held in an acrylic binder - acrylic yarn is made of the same basic substance. "Could acrylic yarn be dyed with acrylic paint?" I asked myself. Only one way to find out.

So I soaked a half-skein of cream acrylic in clean water in a plastic tray. I removed the yarn and stirred in small amounts of acrylic colour to the intensity I thought would be right (it's just an experiment!). I soaked the acrylic yarn in the mixture - and soaked it - and soaked it - and soaked it. It took up a little colour but I wasn't impressed.

Hmm! I'd read somewhere about adding vinegar to the water to make it acidic - so I removed the yarn and added a capful of white vinegar then replaced the yarn. Suddenly, and I do mean suddenly, the yarn was a delicious orange colour. I gently squeezed the liquid out and put it on the back verandah to dry overnight. In the morning I pulled off about 20cm (8 inches) and took it in the shower with me - it had to be washed and I don't want to waste water - we are in the middle of a drought here! :-) Nearly all the colour washed out! I was sooooo disappointed.

So, back to the drawing board. I read the section on dyeing with Kool Aid from the Twisted Sisters' Sock Workbook again. You either have to heat the yarn before dyeing or heat it after adding the colour. That made sense - traditionally yarns are simmered in dye. Hmmm! What to do?

Fortunately, I hadn't thrown away the orange paint-water. I immersed the coloured yarn for a few minutes then rinsed it until the water was clear. I squeezed out most of the liquid then wrapped it loosely in cling film. I gave it 20 seconds in the microwave on high to steam it - turned it over then gave it another 15 seconds. Still hadn't seen too much steam, everything looked okay - ah, what the heck, I gave it another 15 seconds! After 7 seconds it started popping! Oops! I opened the microwave - the cling film had started to shrivel and who knows what was inside? I carefully removed the package from the microwave - it was really hot - and very carefully peeled back the cling film. Hmm! It had a slight boucle look to it! I hung it on the verandah again, this time with a bucket under it - it was pouring liquid.

Despite the hot weather, it took a long time to dry; when it was cool enough to handle WM suggested I spin the water out of it. After that, it dried pretty quickly, lightening slightly. I pulled off another piece and hand-washed it with soap. While it was wet it looked like it had lost its colour but after it dried the beautiful colour showed! Perhaps the first piece that I washed in the shower hadn't really lost all its colour?

From cream to apricot, a bit crinkled but still usable!

Success with the first experiment! Am I boasting or what? LOL

edited 6 March to add photo


  1. Showering with your yarn - the extremes that knitters go to! This is a well documanted journey of experimentation and discovery.

  2. I needed another soft colour to go with all the baby pinks, blues, mints and yellows I'm trying to use up. Since the original yarn had a hint of yellow, I didn't want to try to dye it mauve! My colour theory background tells me I would have ended up with brown!

  3. Have you ever dyed wool before?

    So much easier to dye 100% can use food colour, kool aid, landscape dyes...and get great colours that hold.

  4. That's fantastic, what a brilliant experiment!


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