April - Dye-It-Yourself: Scouring and Tools

Happy April! We hope spring is treating you well so far and that you and your loved ones are healthy. This month, in Dye-It-Yourself, we’re going to talk about scouring and tools, so you’ll be ready to dye when your plants are!



We really feel that it is best practice to have tools that are used only for dyeing and that they aren’t mixed in with your food pots, utensils, and measuring cups.  Of course you can go out and buy new but many of these items can be found readily at second hand shops and garage sales so you might start there!

Pots - In natural dyeing we use metals as mordants and to modify the colors resulting from various dyes so when you pick out pots for dyeing you need to be aware of what they are made of.  We use only stainless steel for our dyeing but another option is enamelware that is marketed as canning pots. These are iron pots that are coated in enamel and non-reactive like stainless steel as long as they don’t get pitted.  If you find an enamelware pot that is pitted (you can see the enamel has worn off and maybe see some rust forming where the iron is exposed) you can still use it to make mini dye bath in canning jars (more on this later). 

The size of pot you pick is wholly dependent on how much dyeing you are going to be doing.  You want a pot that is big enough that your yarn or fabric has room to move around freely.

Measuring - It is really handy to invest in a scale for dyeing.  It can be an electronic scale or a triple beam balance scale - whichever you prefer.  Having a glass measuring cup can also come in handy.

Utensils - I find it is really handy to have a few stainless steel spoons, a whisk, and a pair of tongs in my dyeing kit.

Kettle - You'll need some way to heat water and either an electric kettle or a stovetop one can be really handy.

Misc. - Glass canning jars in a variety of sizes are great to have in your dyeing kit.  You can store dried dyestuffs, dye yarn or fabric, extract dyes, or dissolve mordants in them.  Feel free to use clean pickle and jam jars instead of going out and buying new canning jars!  Plastic yogurt cups, both big and small, can also be handy.

It’s also great to have some rags at hand to sop up spills and a dyeing notebook on hand to make notes.

Preparing your yarn

First thing you need to do is weigh your yarn and make a note of how much it weighs.  

Second if your yarn isn't already in a skein you are going to want to make it into a skein.  Once your yarn is in skein form you will need to make sure it is tied in 4 place around the skein very, very loosely.  


Either fill your sink or your top-loading washing machine with hot water. Once you have the right amount of water to completely submerge your yarn add a few drops of dish soap and submerge your yarn in the water. Leave the yarn for at least a half an hour before you either spin it out or gently squeeze it out. If there is too much residual soap in the yarn repeat this process omitting the soap on the second round. Be gentle; you want to avoid agitating the yarn.

Since we aren't ready to talk about mordanting quite yet you can either wait and scour your yarn right before you mordant or let it dry out and mordant at a later date.

Planting (more?) Seeds

Depending on where you live this month might be the perfect time to start your seeds indoors if you are in a colder climate.  Check your calendar, the frost predictions, and see if this is you. If you are, it’s time to plant! You can refer to the previous posts for tips.

For those of us in warmer climates now might be a great time to get your first round of seeds hardened off and maybe start a second round of seeds after you've planted out your first round.