Dying is a bit of an intimidating process; not many people do it anymore. Recently, though, my husband has become a spinner - not a crazy exercising cyclist, but a real spinner of fiber, straw into gold, and all that. Last spring he spun me some lovely soft gray yarn. He thinks it's lambs wool and mohair, but I think it's softer than that. To me it feels like lambs wool and cashmere.
I took one ball of yarn and wound it into a skein so the dye could more easily get at the fiber. I bought some "fiber reactive" dye at a local fabric store, then I searched the internet for instructions for the dye I had purchased. (Happened to be Jaquard Acid Dye. The instructions I found were here. ) Since the instructions talk about "pounds" of fabric and I only had a small skein of about 1 ounce, I had to do some math to figure out how much dye to use. In this case, the instructions said to use 1/3 to 2/3 ounce of dye for each pound of fabric. An ounce is 1/16th of a pound, so that's 1/16th of 1/3 of an ounce. Long math story short, I ended up putting about 1/4 teaspoon of dye in my pot. I was going for baby blue, but ended up with more of a royal blue, so I could have gone with much less!
In a nutshell, the method I used involves heating the yarn in water on a stovetop, and keeping it at a specific temperature for about half an hour. At just the right moment, you add vinegar to set the dye. As the yarn steeped, I kept the hole in the center of the skein from closing with a large spatula. (I should mention, when you skein your yarn, be sure to cut a couple of short pieces and tie your skein in two places to hold it together during the dying, or you'll have quite a tangled mess.)
When your yarn nears the end of the dying process, most of the dye has been absorbed by the fiber. This is pretty amazing to watch. As you can see below, the water is nearly clear and the yarn has become a dark blue.
Carefully remove the yarn from the pot of water, being careful not to scald yourself or let it tangle, and let it drain over the sink.
Then place it on a towel, roll it up in the towel and squeeze out as much water as you can. The yarn will be surprisingly dryer at this point. Because I didn't do a lot of stirring during dying, you can see that there are slight variations in the depth of color in the yarn. (I like it that way!)
Now hang the yarn someplace to dry for about 24 hours. I fashioned a crude hanger out of a small tube and heavy gauge wire. The cut ends of the wire are stuck into the ends of the tube so I could slide the skein onto the tube and then stick the end of the wire in the tube.
Next I knit a little sweater for my as yet unborn grandson.
It seemed like forever, but he can finally wear it!