When presented with a deadline, I always start out with the best of intentions, and can even claim to have some pretty solid habits. I’ll come up with inventories of tasks and resources and identify interim milestones that I want to achieve. I’ll make lists, take notes, sketch or outline as needed. But in the middle of this process, when I’m far enough from the beginning that I no longer feel the thrill of starting a new project and yet too far from the end to be able to visualize how things will turn out, I tend to veer off the path and into the woods. You could call it a lack of discipline; you could call it a lack of focus. Maybe it’s denial about how invested I really am in the work.

But if you ask me, the answer is a lot simpler: I get bored. And when I’m bored, I get distracted. It doesn’t matter how much I like the project, or how dire the consequences are for missing the deadline—I have a complete inability to motivate myself to work on this project because I need the novelty of doing something, anything, that is not this project. I’d rather learn about grog, go virtual window-shopping for sheets, or find out if my city will allow me to raise chickens and bees.

Luckily, my survival instinct usually kicks in about 24 hours before a deadline (48 hours if it’s a work deadline, since those inevitably involve FedEx overnight shipping) and I put on a sudden burst mental speed and go briskly walking sprinting to the finish line. I never failed to turn in a college paper on time (although there is a strong correlation between “number of college papers assigned” and “number of nights I didn’t sleep”) and—knock on wood—all of my work proposals have reached their intended clients by the due date.

Unluckily, this power apparently doesn’t apply to self-imposed deadlines.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that I have not finished my Outfit Along 2015 ensemble. The cardigan is done, but the dress is still in pieces. I stalled when I realized that there was no possible way I could get away without underlining it, and despite having heaps of cut-up white bed sheets, I didn’t have enough fabric to do the job. I have the fabric now, and the pattern pieces pinned thereto, but stalled again.

So, in an effort to not be completely unproductive while shooting furtive glances at the cotton sateen engulfing my dining room table, I decided to take this…


…and turn it into this:


Pretty, no? I accomplished this in about two hours, if you don’t count the time spent running back and forth to the computer consulting tutorials for fear that I’d somehow turn my yarn to mud or melt it or something—I don’t know.

This isn’t a tutorial, however, just a little photo journey through my own process. If you want a tutorial, there’s a fantastic Ravelry group called What a Kool Way to Dye that has compiled a list of tutorials tagged by heat source, color source, and dye application method. I used one from PieKnits for temperatures, timing, and vinegar amounts. I relied on an old Ravelry post for color amounts, but more on that in a minute.

For the record, there was nothing wrong with this yarn per se, but it was an impulse buy (on sale, pressure from the husband) and as soon as I brought it home I realized I had no idea what to do with yarn that looks like watermelon, sort of. It has long repeats at least, but none of the projects using it convinced me that there was a place for it in my wardrobe, so it sat unloved for about two years. I thought about overdyeing it before, but imagined that it would require special chemicals or something. Hint: it does not. All it took was normal kitchen tools, water, white vinegar, and two pots of Wilton Icing Colors concentrated gel food dye. Yep, food coloring. Yarn made from 100% animal fibers can be dyed with ordinary food coloring and an acid. (Coincidentally, those are the two key ingredients in Kool-Aid, which is a popular way to transform yarn on the cheap.)

I chose to overdye some of the yarn with yellow and some with blue, since basic color theory (and a memorable childhood moment involving a fuzzy poster—remember those?—and markers) indicated that using either red or green would just turn one-third of the yarn brown.

The first step was unwinding the ball, winding it into a hank, and then dividing the hank into quarters and tying it off to prevent it from tangling when immersed in liquid. I meant to split my 100-gram ball into two 50-gram hanks, but the yarn had other ideas, so I ended up with roughly a 67-gram hank and a 33-gram hank, minus a couple of yards due to snarls (of my own making, blegh.)

I soaked the yarn in water to make it more receptive to dye and more likely to absorb it evenly. I hadn’t intended to soak it overnight—I’m not that patient—but ended up doing it anyway. A long soak certainly doesn’t hurt.


The next day, I gathered up my supplies, and silently thanked my mom for buying me a candy thermometer one year for Christmas. 2015-08-13_3_Dyeing-Supplies

Not pictured: said candy thermometer, and the quarter-teaspoon I used to measure of the dye. Not needed: the plastic knife, which I thought would be necessary to get the dye out of the canisters. I really need to work on staging actually accurate supply photos.

I was skeptical about the amount of dye called for in the PieKnits tutorial, so I went back to Ravelry and found a post from the very prolific user NekkidKnitter, who recommended using about 1/4 teaspoon per 50 grams of yarn. I figured that 30 grams is close to 50 grams (ha!), and more importantly I wanted a nice saturated color, so I used 1/4 teaspoon of Wilton’s Lemon Yellow for my smaller hank.


I added about a cup of hot-from-the-tap water to it and stirred it up. For the record, the quantity of water doesn’t matter, just the ratio of dye to yarn. Our water isn’t especially hard or soft, so I wasn’t worried about using filtered or distilled.


Because I didn’t break up the gel blob first, it didn’t completely dissolve in the water no mater how much I stirred. I was a little worried that it might leave abnormally saturated spots of color on the yarn, so I made sure to stir the blue dye before adding the water as well as after. For the blue, I used 3/8 teaspoon of dye. I figured 67 grams is approximately 50% more than 50 grams, and the recommendation is for 1/4 teaspoon for 50 grams, ergo use 50% more than 1/4 teaspoon, or 3/8 teaspoon. (That right there is some questionable math and/or logic. Hope my dad isn’t reading, he would not approve my slapdash mathery…)


I added the water and dye mixture to the pot and then filled the pot with cool water from the tap.


I gently lowered the yarn in the dye bath, being careful to avoid jostling it since it seemed prone to felting without any water involved.


I immediately lifted a sliver back out to see if it was taking dye. It was, but only barely. That’s why heat and time are important. I clipped my candy thermometer to the pot, and then cooked according to the instructions.


When time was up, the dye bath was nearly clear, and the yarn had taken on a yellowish cast.


I was a little concerned when I took the yarn out that the yellow wasn’t pronounced enough, but I think it was just the poor quality of the light in the kitchen giving that impression.

I followed the same steps for the blue overdye, then hung both hanks in the guest bathroom with a towel underneath to catch any drips. Here they are wet…

2015-08-13_12_Wet-Dyed-Yarn…and dry:


From there, all that remained was to clip the ties and wind them into cakes.


The orange/yellow/green one makes me think of citrus.


The green/blue/purple one makes me think of sour candies.

In case you need a refresher, they started out looking like this:


Isn’t the difference huge? It’s enough to convince me that no yarn is completely unsalvagable so long as you like the fiber content, and it’s nearly enough to drive me to rescue orphaned clearance skeins from my nearest LYS and give them new life. Somebody hold me back; my it’s-not-a-stash is big enough already.


Now all that remains is deciding what to make with them. Since there isn’t a ton of either color and it is only laceweight, I pretty much have to use them together in a single project. Should I color block it (knit all one yarn, then the other), or do some kind of alternating bands or stripes? Lace work, or plain fabric? Help me pick!