I know I have said this before, but it really amazes me how there are so many talented fibre and yarn people out there, and I must say that I feel it is a priveledge to be a supplier to such folk. I am a small step in the creation of great magic.
One of Platypus Yarns first ever customers was the lovely Kira from Teggletots, who purchased some undyed yarn from us to dye. I was absolutely blown away by the end results, and was thrilled when she agreed to this interview. You will find lots of tips and inspiration.
Jade: Tell us about yourself.
Kira: Hi! I’m Kira from Teggle Tots. I’m a stay at home Mum of 3, aged 2, 9 & 11. My home is currently in the North West of beautiful Tasmania. I am a self confessed yarn addict who loves knitting, crochet and dyeing beautiful variegated and semi-solid yarns.
Jade: Can you provide a brief outline of how you dye your yarn.
Kira: The first thing I do, once the yarn is skeined, is soak my yarn in lukewarm water with a glug (technical terms here 😉 ) of white vinegar.
If you are using a machine washable yarn you will only need to soak it while you are preparing your dyes. Non-superwash will need soaking longer, preferably a few hours at least, till there are no ‘shiny’ spots left.
While the yarn is soaking you need to get your dyes organised. The dyes I use are in powder form so need to be dissolved in water before using. You can be technical and measure out the dye powder if you want to be able to repeat the result or just go by feel and add a bit at a time.
Try to be a little restrained with the amount of dye you use. Remember if the result comes out lighter than you wanted you can always overdye it. If you use to much dye the yarn won’t take it all up and you will be rinsing the excess out and wasting your hard earned money!
You can either put the dye in the pot before the yarn or put the yarn in first and tip the dye over it. You will get different results depending on which way you go.
Turn the heat on and warm it till it is just simmering, you don’t want it to boil.
Once the yarn and the dye are both in the pot use a spoon to gently move the yarn a little to get the dye right the way through so you don’t end up with white bits.
If you have used the right amount of dye the dye bath should ‘exhaust’ (go clear) and you can then remove the yarn to let it cool. Be careful! The yarn will be HOT!!
Once the yarn is cool, rinse the yarn in cool water until it runs clear. Hang your yarn up to dry and marvel at your wonderful creation!
Jade: When did you start dyeing?
Kira: I started out dyeing yarns around a year ago now. I had seen all these gorgeous hand dyed yarns online and wanted to have a go myself.
I began with researching different techniques online and finding what information I could. From what I came across it sounded like food dyes were the best place to start. I got some food colour from the local supermarket and found some white wool yarn in my stash. It was the beginning of an obsession with playing with colour!
After a few tries with food dye, I went back online and found out about acid dyes. I got some Landscape dyes and the results were so vibrant, I decided not to use food dyes anymore.
Jade: Do you have favourite accessories, or equipment that have been a bonus for you?
Kira: I simply couldn’t get by without the upright yarn swift my Husband built for me. It has adjustable rods so I can change the length of the skein depending on what I need. It’s made from recycled timbers so it was reasonably cheap too.
The majority of my base yarns are Australian or New Zealand grown. If I can I buy direct from the mill. If this isn’t possible, I try to make sure I purchase from an Australian business to help support our local industry. The only issue with this is, because they are smaller mills, that sometimes they can run low on stock.
The dyes I use are Australian as well and are made by Kraftkolour, a local Australian business.
Jade: Where do your ideas come from?
Kira: Most of the time my inspiration comes from pictures. I also get requests from designers to create colours for their designs. For example the Leaving Kansas collaboration with Whirlsie’s Designs uses 3 base pictures, a field of wheat, a field of sunflowers and a tornado. I look at the colours in the picture and try to pull the yarn colours from that. Another collaboration I am working on is with Faithfully Yours Designs and is based around 4 characters from a TV series. The colourways were inspired by the ‘feel’ of each character.
On occasion I will have a colourway come to me and I then try to find a corresponding picture to go with it. I recently created a ‘Dragon’ colourway that came to me when I was laying in bed one night. I then spent the next day trying to find a picture that matched what was in my head so people could see where the colours were drawn from.
Jade: What is the best part- starting a project or finishing a project? Or halfway through? Or all.
Kira: The best part for me is seeing the colours in the dye pot. I love taking the yarn out and watching the colours as they dry. The freedom to play with colour and add a bit of this one and a bit of that one and just waiting to see how it turns out is extremely rewarding.
I also love seeing what people create with the yarns I have dyed. It feels very fulfilling to see a beautifully knitted or crocheted piece and know that you dyed the yarn that was used.
Jade:What are the downsides of what you do?
Kira: I think the major downside would be the preparation time involved. Most yarns come in bulk either on a cone or in a 1kg hank and have to put split up and skeined ready for dyeing.
It also takes a lot of room to dry the yarn, and being in North West Tasmania, the weather can be very unkind to yarn drying. When the weather is bad, I have to dry the yarn inside, which can be difficult with a toddler running around and wanting to play with the pretty yarn!
Jade: What tips would you give to someone wishing to try this?
Kira: Get some food dye, some white/ cream wool yarn and just have FUN!! There are no mistakes in yarn dyeing, just unexpected results!
( insert from Platypus yarn here -we sell undyed yarn on 112gram hanks, perfectly sized,ready to dye.)
Kira: If you like to plan and research then the internet is a wealth of information. There are also many groups and forums you can join, such a Ravelry or groups on Facebook, where you can ask questions, read other peoples experiences and get ideas.
For the more hands on learners there are a number of people who run classes on dyeing and the different techniques involved. Contact your state spinners and weavers guild who can give you ideas of who to contact.
Platypus: And what would you advise them NEVER to do?
This could be a story of experience, or a warning, or just a funny incident related to the specialty.
Never ever tip boiling water into a glass jar to mix your dye’s up!!! I made this mistake once, and only once, and ended up with a lovely black bench. Needless to say, I haven’t done that again!
Make sure you always wear gloves as well. Multi coloured hands can be a difficult look to pull off 😉
Platypus:Can we buy your product? If so, where?
Jade: Thank you so much for your time Kira.
The team at Platypus Yarn value our readers. Please feel free to comment, we gratefully accept all feedback, good and bad.