Dyeing self-striping sock yarn

I have been drooling over self-striping sock yarn with broad stripes for quite a while now. I’ve really wanted it, but I kept myself from buying any. I’m not knitting so many socks at the moment, and I have plenty of other sock yarns already!

What I have been thinking was that I do have undyed yarn, and I do have dye… And it would be fun to try to make self striping sock yarn myself. It can’t be that hard, right? I would just need to figure out the right techniques!

My thoughts were these:

  • For yarn to make broader stripes, you need looong lengths of yarn in the same color. So you can’t just hang one end of a normal sized hank in the dye pot, as that would give shorter lengths of yarn in that color, though many of them.
  • Following the above, the yarn needs to be divided in even portions in a way that makes it easy to dye it in the colors I want, resulting in the stripes I want.
  • You do not want it all to tangle at any point.
  • I want my socks to be identical, and as I’m knitting 2AAT, I’ll need to take that into account. Making a simple stripe pattern (red-white-blue), I can’t then just knit from each end of the ball, because that would make the striping on the socks opposite.

So what did I do?

  1. I took a big bottle, and wrapped the yarn around it until I thought a stripe was broad enough. Knitting the yarn takes up some of the length, so I’m not sure my stripes end up being 1½ cm in width as the yarn wrapped around the bottle does – but that doesn’t really matter. I’m here to figure out how to do it in the first place!
    The yarn used for 1½ cm of wrapping around the bottle was exactly 4 wraps around the skein, as it was when I got it.
  2. I divided my skein into 2 portions, each 50g (one for each sock).
  3. Taking one strand of each of those two balls, I wound it around my swift again, tying the wraps together with a piece of contrasting yarn every 4th wrap. There were a lot more wraps than I thought there would be!!


    Contrasting yarn tying together the 4 wraps of the swift


    This is how to NOT do it.


    Did I say there were a loooot of portions there?


    Interestingly, I must have not divided the yarn evenly even though my scales said so… There was 3g left on one of the little cakes.

  4. I then laid out the portions of yarn I got into 3 groups, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, in order to make an even distribution of the colors:


    Yarn portions in 3 groups


  5. These 3 groups where then again tied together (this time with another color of contrasting yarn), so I knew which portions belonged together:


    Groups of yarn portions


  6. Finally I tied together the places where the groups were overlapping/travelling to another group:


    Confused yet?

  7. The dyeing process was as usual: I soaked the yarn for a good half hour in luke warm water, then dyed one group at the time, with the other hanging over the side. Choosing colors was hard, so I ended up just choosing red and blue, and keeping the third group in white/natural.
    Rinsing the yarn, it promised well!


    Freshly dyed yarn

  8. I was really hoping I could just place the whole skein on my swift, and then wind the balls from there. What I hadn’t thought of, was that I had actually been crossing the yarn over itself many many times in order to divide it all in 3 groups, so there was a woven part in the middle of it all:


    That knot in the middle? That’s yarn woven into itself. Yup.

  9. So now started the big untangling! Luckily (after some patience and very deeeeep breaths) I quickly figured out a system to wrap the portions apart and place it all in one big skein:


    This went very slowly, and I was lifting one group at the time to untangle the smaller portions from each bigger group. And no, I didn’t use those scissors, even though I was very tempted to ;)


    This is how you should NOT do it.

    Messy, but it’s a skein!


    Skein of stripey yarn! Still – didn’t use scissors!



    Finally, I wound the yarn off into a hand wound ball, just to avoid tangling and too much swearing.



    Next step? Knitting socks ;)
    I might just want to re-wind that ball into two balls (one for each sock), as I have bad experience with knitting “simultaneously” from one ball… Let’s see when it happens!

    One thing I do know: This process is not something I’d want to follow if I would dye to sell the yarn. It has all in all probably taken me about 3 hours, with all the tangling and untangling and such – and I would really need a good re-skeiner as well ;)