Overdyeing Day: Saving the stash one skein at a time

Way back when, when I was still a pretty new knitter, I – like many young knitters – discovered Kool-Aid dyeing. Whatthewhat?! You can make your own beautiful hand-dyed yarn, just like all those on etsy, with a packet of overly sweet drink mix?! Snort. As if it were that easy. But we all imagine we’re going to sprinkle some blue powder around and come up with magic – like a yarn fairy, if you will.

Of course, we kind of do, only maybe not as quickly as we like to think we will. I think any yarn dyer, professional or not, will tell you that even those early tragic skeins teach you so much about how the dye interacts with the yarn, how the colors interact with each other, and how to plan color placement on the skein. I’m absolutely not even close to a professional just a hobby kitchen dyer, dunking a few skeins every once in a while, but even I’ve come a long way since I first gave it a whirl.

My first Kool-Aid skeins have been wasting away in my stash pretty much since they came out of the dyepot – I think I’ve always known in my heart of hearts that they weren’t right. I didn’t know yet what kind of yarns I like to knit with (almost exclusively solids and semi-solids now) and I’ve given some of them a sporting try, but they all just obscured any pattern I tested and the colors were just a little too Kool-Aid. I got sick of them sitting around wasting space, so I finally set aside a whole day to deal with them. Get pretty or get out of my stash, enough was enough.

Here’s some before and afters, though I have to admit that this is a little bit like those weight loss ads in crappy magazines. Of course the after person looks amazing compared to the before, shown with limp, greasy hair, no make-up or styling in a grainy, gray photo.

First up – this used to be called Hawaiian Morning:

Hawaiian Morning Sock Yarn

But is now Jolene:

Overdyed Hand-dyed Yarns: Jolene

Ugh. I hate even having these ‘before’ photos on my pretty blog! The old colors don’t seem that offensive, this was more a case of the placement of the colors. I added ten tonnes of red, making it a nice semi-solid. It was still way too bright though, so I added, oddly, more red to make it deeper and then a little plum at a time to chill it out. I will, apparently, never get a nice photo of a red yarn with my simple little camera, but the photo up there is at least a close approximation of Jolene. This skein taught me to think ahead about what you’re basically going for and how to aim yourself in that direction. I’m not a big fan of red, generally, so I really had to think about what kind of red would be acceptable to me and then work myself there backwards.

This ‘before’ yarn, Take On Me, was definitely the worst of the bunch:

Take On Me Sock Yarn

But became my biggest win, Because The Night:

Overdyed Hand-dyed Yarns: Because The Night

Seriously, what the hell was I thinking?! Stripes might’ve been cute in these colors, but it was just a big splotchy mess instead. With that selection of colors, I knew the only way to save it at all was to just cover the whole damn thing in black, under the theory that plain black yarn is infinitely more useful than hideously ugly yarn. That worked pretty well, but it came out just slightly uneven with little touches of the orange showing through here and there. I threw it back in the pot the next day and dumped red and plum on it, which worked exactly as I’d hoped: a rich jet-black with a sort of purple-y glow. Overdyeing certainly takes time and patience, but does result in wonderfully deep and rich colors.

Amber Waves, a yarn that looks way nicer here than it had any right to:

Amber Waves

Became Grass Is Greener, this yummy grassy skein:

Overdyed Hand-dyed Yarns: Grass Is Greener

The ‘before’ photo is unfairly flattering – the real color was less canary-ish, much more highlighter-y. It was one of my first attempts with acid dyes and was actually almost nice; adding a little brown would’ve been a really simple way to make it more user-friendly. Um, if I hadn’t just bought a skein of Malabrigo Sock in that exact color. Dumping Jade over it did the trick just as well, but it still took the addition of some navy to defeat that highlighter glow.

Perhaps the yarn I most wanted to save was a batch of handspun laceweight, a merino/tencel blend that took me weeks to spin and ply. Man, was I disappointed when I tried to knit this yarn up into a Citron last year. Doesn’t it look like it’s going to be gorgeous in the skein? I thought so too, but in reality, I’d taken beautiful hand-dyed fiber (which I’d hoarded for a really long time as it was) and muddied up all the colors. Just to make matters worse, I’d somehow spun one skein to be self-striping and the other not so much. Just a sheer coincidence, where the colors met while plying, but it made them difficult to use together in one project. This problem yarn used to be called Starlite:

Starlite Handspun

The addition of blue fixed it right up, though it’s much more steel-y in real life, which is why I’ve re-named it Blue Steel:

Overdyed Hand-dyed Yarns: Blue Steel

What a relief to have saved it! Remind me to be more careful next time I spend so much time spinning laceweight.

And, finally, my very favorite overdye job. Valentine, as it was, didn’t seem so bad – not the worst yarn ever, but too much shade variation for my taste:

Valentine Sock Yarn

Plum – a cure-all, apparently – made all the difference. I think this one, now called Neat Little Rows, will be in my stash for a long time – not because I’m avoiding it again, but because I’ll be hoarding it.

Overdyed Hand-dyed Yarns: Neat Little Rows

This whole extravaganza was such an enormous success, I’ve gathered up two more bags of yarn with color issues for further overdyeing adventures!

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