Hand-dyeing with food colouring: Stove top method

hand dyeing yarn with food coloring on the stove top by hookabeeThis is the third post in a series I am doing on how to hand-dye yarn using food colouring. Previously, I harnessed the heat of the sun to dye a small skein of yarn bright yellow and slow cooked my yarn in a crock-pot until it was a gorgeous pink. This time I am going to show you how I used the stove top to dye my yarn teal.

If you missed the first post on hand-dyeing, make sure you read at least the first section on the basics of dyeing with food colouring and how to prepare your yarn.

Hand-dyeing using the stove top:

Unlike the sun and slow-cooker methods, the stove top method needs more of your attention during the process. You need to continuously monitor your yarn and dye solution to make sure it doesn’t get too hot while on the stove – you don’t want it to boil! Once you have dyed your yarn this way several times and know the temperature level on your stove that will give you a hot solution that doesn’t boil, the method is pretty simple.

This time I chose the teal dye from my box of 12 Wilton Icing Colours to dye the little 25 g skein of alpaca wool yarn I had made during my first dying experience.

My stove top dyeing protocol: (using 25 g of yarn)

  1. I pre-soaked my yarn for about 30 min in a bath made up of vinegar (2 tbsp) and water (2 cups). I used these volumes because my dye is blue (so needs more vinegar than yellows and reds, see DyeYourYarn.com), and the total volume was able to cover my yarn fully.
  2. In a small pot, I mixed 2 cups of water with 2 tbsp of vinegar and some Teal Wilton icing dye. I just estimated the amount of dye, but used no more than 1/4 tsp because I didn’t want extra, and therefore wasted, dye that wouldn’t be taken up by the yarn. I based this on the info found on the DyeYourYarn.com site for Wilton dyes: “[Use] 1/16 teaspoon Wilton®Icing Gel on .2 oz Lion Brand® Fishermen’s Wool. This amount of gel produces a saturated dyebath. Using more gel will leave food color in the dyebath that will not bond.” I then whisked the solution until most of the gel clumps were gone and dissolved.
  3. Next, I transferred the wet yarn from the pre-soak bath into the pot. Before you transfer your yarn, make sure that your two baths are not drastically different in temperature. This reduces the chances of your yarn felting. I then topped up the dye solution using some of the water from the soak bath until the yarn was fully covered. Finally, I turned the stove element on to about medium-low and allowed the solution to heat up, but not boil. Make sure the water doesn’t boil, otherwise your yarn may felt!stove top hand dyeing of yarn with food coloring by hookabee
  4. I then kept checking the dye solution every 5-10 min or so to make sure it wasn’t boiling and to see how much dye was still in the water solution (a clear water bath indicates that all the dye has been taken up by the yarn). I had my solution heating for quite some time (over an hour) and the dye bath was still not clear , so I started to wonder if I had used too much dye. I decided to just turn off the stove element anyway, placed a lid on the pot, and let the yarn sit in the dye bath as it cooled. Once cooled, the solution was almost clear! I am unsure whether I needed to heat the yarn for so long before letting it sit (and tutorials online have mixed directions) – more experimentation is needed!
  5. Once cooled, I removed the yarn and rinsed it to remove any excess dye. You don’t want to suddenly rinse your hot yarn with cool, or even warm water, because this may cause your yarn to felt, so make sure your yarn is completely cooled before this step.  Once rinsed, I gently squeezed the excess water out and hung the yarn to dry.

Done! I LOVE how my yarn turned out this time. The teal colour is gorgeous!stove top hand dyeing yarn with food coloring by hookabee

How does it compare to my other dyeing experiences? Because I was unsure of how long to “cook” the yarn before letting it cool, this method took longer than I anticipated. I had expected it to be faster than the slow-cooker, but more labour intensive (ie. you had to monitor it more), but it took almost as long as the slow cooker! I think that was an error on my part, however. I think it would have been fine heating the yarn for a shorter amount of time (either 30 min or until it almost boiled) before turning the element off and letting it cool in the dye.

And the yarn? I think this method dyed the yarn just as wonderfully as the previous two methods. Because I was monitoring it more, I did stir the yarn around a bit in the pot (unlike for the slow cooker), so the colour came out more uniform and solid than my pink skein did. If I had wanted a more mottled look, however, I could have easily just let it sit in the pot and not touched it so that some edges remained slightly out of the dye bath.

Stay tuned for a future post on the next, and last, method: Microwave dyeing!

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Until next time,
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