Yarn addiction turns into a business.

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.

Skeined Yarn

 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.

Move the yarn so you don’t end up with white bits.

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!

The beginning of gorgeous.


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. 

Kira’s yarn swift.

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.

Yarn prior to being skeined onto workable size hanks.

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! 

The bench!

Make sure you always wear gloves as well. Multi coloured hands can be a difficult look to pull off 😉

Who needs tattoo's?
Who needs tattoo’s?

Platypus:Can we buy your product? If so, where?

Kira:  I sell my yarns on my Facebook page (www.fb.com/teggletots) and also have a Ravelry group (www.ravelry.com/groups/teggles-tots) where you can find info about any stockings that are coming up.

Jade:  Thank you so much for your time Kira.


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Unlevel Dyeing of Protein Fibres -repair and prevention

Unlevel 2

You enjoy your crafts and home dyeing sounds interesting and fun,  so you think “why not give it a go”. Trouble is, the wool you dyed came out patchy and uneven, not the solid colour you were hoping for. Well, take heart, you’re not the first. You’ve produced an unlevel dyeing, and even in professional dyehouses this can still happen.

What’s happened is the dye has gone onto the fibre too fast (strike) and in the subsequent completion of the dyeing process the dye hasn’t dispersed through the fibre (migration).  Control and management of these two factors- strike and migration – are the key to level dyeing of protein fibres.

Repair of unlevel protein fibre dyeings

Can my unlevel dyeing be repaired?

Maybe. Firstly, lets look at the type of dye you have used.

If you have used reactive dyes (Lanasol, Procion, Drimalan) then I’m sorry, these dyes don’t shift, you’ll either have to use your item as it is or overdye it to a much darker colour. Typically, reactive dyes on wool are only used for very dark colours where a high wash fastness is required. I would recommend that you don’t use them unless it is unavoidable.

However,If you have used Acid dyes (Lanaset, Acid milling, pre-metallised dyes etc) then re-levelling your item is worth a try.

Re-levelling without a levelling agent.

Set a neutral dyebath (no vinegar/acid) using 35% of the original amount of dye. If you normally use salt in your dyeings, then add 5 to 10% on weight of goods (eg.5 to10 grams for a 100 gram item).

What you also need is a levelling agent that will promote the even migration of the dye throughout your item. You could try using a plain dishwashing detergent; 4 grams for every litre of your dyebath. For this method keep you liquor ration to 10 or 12:1 (eg. dyebath volume of 1.2 litres for a 100 gram item.)

So if you have  210 grams of yarn,  you will need about 2.4 litres of water, a little over 8 grams of detergent and 35% or less of your original dye amount. (Plus10 to 20grams of salt if you use it)

Heat your dyebath to a weak boil & hold for 15 to 20 minutes, then cool, rinse & finish as normal. Hopefully you have now got a level dyeing.

Re-levelling with a levelling agent.

I can’t guarantee that the method above, using dishwashing detergent will work.

A far better option, especially if the garment or yarn is precious, would be to use a purpose designed wool levelling agent. Use the above method but instead of the detergent use 3% on weight of goods of the levelling agent. Albegal SET is a very good product.

So, for  210gms of wool, use about 6.7mls of Albegal SET, 2.4 litres of water and 35% or less of your original dye amount. Heat your dyebath to a weak boil & hold for 15 to 20 minutes, then cool, rinse & finish as normal.

Please note; re-levelling may alter the colour of your item, it’s more likely to be weaker than darker. If this is a concern add more dye at the start of the re-levelling process.

Prevention of unlevel protein fibre dyeings

  1. Pre-wash your items. Use a small amount of a mild detergent and hand wash your item in warm water (40-50’C) for 5 minutes. This will help to thoroughly wet out your item, remove any water repelling oils & in the case of machine washable wool, help neutralise the pH. No need to rinse afterwards, just squeeze out the excess water.
  2. Use Sodium Sulphate (Glaubers Salt) in your dyebath – between 5% and 10% on weight of goods. Glaubers Salt has a retarding/levelling effect when using acid dyes.
  3. Buffer your additions of acid (vinegar or citric acid). Instead of adding it all at the start, break it up into 4 or 5 portions and add it in stages throughout the dyeing process. Protein fibres require an acid pH (below 7) for the dye to bond to the fibre. The lower the pH the faster the dye will strike onto the fibre. Pale colours only need a mildly acid dyebath; very dark colours need a lower pH. Note: The process to make wool machine washable gives it a higher dye affinity, dyeing pale colours may not require any acid.
  4. Use a levelling agent. You could try dishwashing detergent – between 1 & 2 grams for every litre of your dyebath. Much better is a chemically product designed for the job. These work in two ways, either they join with the fibre or the dye. These bonds slowly break as the dyebath heats allowing even absorption of the dye onto the fibre. Use 1% on weight of the item being dyed.
  5. Don’t start the dyeing too hot and control your heating rate. Begin at around 38’C (starting cold is also okay) and heat to 96°C at around 1°C per minute. Use pauses in heating to achieve this. Be patient, slower is better.
  6. Some sort of movement of the dyebath is needed. Stir, shake or rattle, find some way to have the dyebath gently moving through the fibre.

Hopefully some or all of these steps will help you achieve a nice even dyeing of your items. If you have any specific questions pass them onto Jade (jade@platypusyarn.com.au)and I’ll attempt to answer.

Dr Dyer.



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Machine Washable Wool


Wool is durable and resilient.  The molecular structure of wool means that it can be stretched 50% of it’s length when wet, and 30% when dry, and still return to it’s original shape. Bend a wool fibre up to 20,000 times on itself; it still won’t break.  It is flame resistant, and hygroscopic (takes up moisture) so it is great for both cool and hot climates. In fact, it seems to be the perfect fibre.  BUT- it has to be treated like a queen, especially when washing.

The outer layer of each individual wool fibre consists of scales that interlock with the fibres around them, and this interlocking, we know as felting.  In many circumstances, felting/shrinkage is a desired characteristic – it can create a softer finish for a woven fabric, is ideal for shaping (hats, for example) and felted wool batts have many industrial uses.  Billiard tables use lovely fine- micron felted fibre batts – even if the billiard  green does seem more like a bilious green at times. (I do see they now make tables with different coloured felts, maybe I wasn’t the only one who found the green a bit bright).

However, one of the disadvantages of untreated wool is the extra care that it requires. You can’t just throw an untreated vest or jumper in the washing machine, and have it come out the same way it went in!  Felting of fibres is virtually irreversible, without some damage to the fibres.

Enter machine washable wool, also known as shrink resistant wool or, Superwash wool.

Machine Washable wool has been either treated with acid to remove part of the scales that cause the felting or, far more commonly  has been coated with a polymer to prevent fibre migration; that is, to stop the fibre from interlocking with the fibres around it.  This coating process -Sirolan BAP – is more commonly known as “Superwash” -and was invented by our very own CSIRO here in Australia.

Now to be honest, the superwash treatment is really quite a harsh treatment. The process, and the  residue produced as a result of treatment is not particularly nice.  But compared to what happens in the cotton processing industry, it’s not quite so bad. And the wool itself, after treatment, is not toxic.

Most superwash treatment is now done outside of Australia, (quite a lot in China),and other than cost, it is one of the reasons that so much Australian fibre heads overseas.  It may well return to us in yarn or as tops, but generally if it is machine washable, that process will have been applied outside Australia.

There are plenty of upsides to treated wool.

Machine washable, or treated, wool takes dye very well, and generally the end result is a more evenly dyed product.  Many commercial wool dyes are made specifically to work with treated wool.

It’s fantastic to use for blending, eg wool/acrylic  or wool/nylon mixes (such as  Platypus Sock Yarn).

Treated yarns generally have a softer feel than untreated yarns, so a knitted garment will feel much softer than an untreated equivalent garment.   (This is not quite the same for fibre however, there are some gorgeously soft fibres grown in Australia).

And of course, it is machine washable, so you can gift a treated garment without having to worry about whether or not the recipient knows how to care for it properly.

Sometimes, when I am looking at yarn, I am very surprised to see that some yarn-makers don’t specify clearly enough whether the yarn is treated or untreated. It’s an important omission, it could mean the difference between a cardigan that fits Little Miss Six perfectly, and the same cardigan fit only for Little Miss Six’s dolly.

And it may mean the difference between smiles and tears.




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