How to Dye Roving for Ombré Yarn… Trust me, it’s gorgeous!


Ombré is ALL the rage these days… From hair to scarves to fingernails to clothing… Everybody is scrambling for that gentle transition of color that IS ombré.

Now… For all of us fiber artists out there, trying to find an ombré yarn that has a looooooooong color shift is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The good news is that you can make your own!  Yes… That means you! 😀

And here’s how it goes…

Step 1:  Get yourself some white wool roving. (This is some innexpensive Suffolk roving I have for sale on my etsy shop… it’s great for experimenting, and most of the veggie bits come out in the process)

Figure out how much you’ll need for your WHOLE project, then make it into a little roving chain.  ChemKnits has a great how-to video for making this.  Make sure your chain is a little loose so the dye can get all in-between the “links” in your chain.

I was doing this as a test project – so I am using 50 grams of wool roving – here’s my chain:

**Take and put pic here**

Step 2:  Soak your roving chain in warm vinegar water for about 30 minutes… Or however long it takes to get fully saturated.  Use about 1/4 c. vinegar per gallon of water.  You’ll know it’s ready when it all sinks down and stays under the water, and the color will be uniformly “wet” throughout the chain.

**take and put pic here**

Drain out most of the water, but keep your roving very damp, but not dripping wet as you prepare your dye bath.  I put mine in a bucket with just enough water to keep it all wet.  You’ll want it in a container that you can put next to your dye pot as you are dipping your roving into it.

Step 3:  Fill your dye pot with enough water to cover your roving and allow some wiggle room, then add in a few extra inches.   You want the wool to be able to move around in the water as you dip it.  Add about 6T of vinegar per 50 grams of fiber.  Heat up the water until is is steamy.

While the water is heating up, mix up your dye solution in a cup of water with a Tablespoon or so of vinegar.

I used Greener Shades Metal-Free Acid Dyes.  I purchased it from KnitPicks.com.  My not-so-scientific recipe was:
1/16 t. River Blue
1/32 t. Midnight Black
pinch Amethyst Purple
That is about 1/8 t. of dye powder for 50 grams of fiber.  You could multiply this amount of total dye for every 50 grams of fiber you are using to get the amount you would need.

If you aren’t using this brand of dye, you could use any dye you have available.  Just mix up a solution of about half the strength you would normally use for a fully-saturated color.  Some suggestions are:
Kool Aid:  1 packet per 50 grams of wool (don’t put vinegar in the water, the Kool Aid already has enough acid)
Food Coloring:  This varies depending on the type and color… but a good starting point would be about 1/8 t. paste coloring OR 15 drops liquid food coloring per 50 grams of fiber.

No matter which dye you are using, you should always test the color on a paper towel before you add it to the pot… then add more or less dye to get the color saturation you want.  Once you have it where you want it, dump it into the hot dye pot water.

Step 4:  The FUN part… and sorta scary part… DYE THAT WOOL!

Bring your bucket of damp/wet wool over next to your dye pot.  It needs to be close so you can keep all your waiting wool wet, but still transfer it over without getting the kitchen all wet.  As you see in the pics, my waiting bucket is just sitting on the counter next to the stove.  You want to keep your dye bath steamy hot, but not boiling, so keep an eye on it while you dip your wool.

Now, here’s the plan…

You are going to submerge your wool bit by bit over the course of about 12 minutes.  That is the time it will take for your fiber to exhaust (soak up) all the dye in there.  You will still have just a tiny bit of dye for the final bits to be just a shade off white.  To do this, you need to measure out your roving chain, then divide by 48.  This is the length of fiber you will be immersing every 15 seconds.  (mine was 2 “links” of my roving chain)  I had a little helper watching a timer, and every 15 seconds, she would say “bing!” so I knew to lower more fiber into the dye pot.  You can set your kitchen stove timer and just keep an eye on it if you want.  The bottom line is this… it’s not rocket science… it’s art… so don’t stress too much about it.  However it turns out will be just fine  🙂

Now it’s go time… start with your first measured length of roving, put it in the pot, poke it under the water, and start your timer!  After 15 seconds… lower the next measured length of roving into the pot, then poke it under the water.  Repeat for the 12 minutes.  Move the wool around every now and then to check on it and make room for the new roving tobe fully submerged.  Here I am at the beginning of the process:

Notice how DARK the wool looks???  I was totally freaking out at this point… but… about halfway into the process, I realized that it was indeed getting lighter and lighter… and then at the end of 12 minutes, it looked like this:

See how the last bit is almost totally white?  That’s what you are going for… almost all the dye has been exhausted (soaked up) and the water is basically clear.

Once it’s all in the pot, turn the heat off and let it cool.  The last bit of dye will be sucked up by the wool while it cools.  Once it is lukewarm-ish, drain the water, wash the roving in lightly soapy water, then rinse in weak vinegar water.  Lay it out to dry, and you get this:

See how there are some bits that didn’t get dyed in the knotted up part of the chain?  That’s why you should do it loosely.  But, guess what?  It didn’t make a bit of difference once I spun the yarn.  Thanks to the beauty of drafting the wool thinner before spinning, those white parts spread out and it created a nice little bit of heathering in the yarn.  I think it looks lovely!  Here is the spool about halfway through the spinning process:

You can see the ombre effect is fully evident in the lighter half of the yarn.  This was a small 50 gram section of yarn, so if you are making enough for a scarf or a shawl… your color change will be more gradual along your spool as you spin.

Here is how it looks on the niddy noddy:

And here is the finished skein… you can totally see the full spectrum of hues from deep, richly saturated, through the mid-saturated, and ending in the very lightly saturated, almost white on the other end:
  

If you are too nervous to try a large amount of fiber at first, just start small like I did… make a mini-skein to see if you like the color you get, then multiply out your dye and fiber to get the final amount you want to make.  This mini-skein is actually a great way to get a stitch gauge and know how much yarn you will need to make for the project you have in mind.

Have fun making your own Ombre Yarn.  Let me know how it turns out for you!!

Love and Peace,

Amy

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