Thursday, March 11, 2010


Introductory note: I have modified some of the photos in this post, including the one for the cute little bookmark above, to be linked to the pattern. Just click!

About a year after I had been successfully selling my hand dyed wool yarn on ebay (under seller name “shbknits”), a crocheting customer (you know who you are!) contacted me about putting pretty colors on crochet thread. At that time the variegated crochet thread available at the craft stores was pretty boring- pink and white, yellow and white, or blue and white. I was very hesitant to branch out in that direction for several reasons. For one, crochet thread is cotton. Dyeing cotton is a whole different process from wool which would call for new and different dyes, and vastly different techniques (which I wrongly assumed would also involve lots of boiling water). Furthermore, I couldn’t imagine what vividly colored crochet thread would be good for. In my naive and limited experience, crochet thread was used to make lace or doilies, and I had already learned the hard way that vivid colors tend to distract and obscure fancy stitchwork. I had already wasted part of my life knitting beautiful cabled sweaters out of brightly colored hand dyed yarn, only to find that the cables were all but invisible.

I decided to have a go at it anyway. I bought a tie dye T-shirt kit at a craft store, and tried my hand at a few cotton T-shirts just to get a handle on the process. It was quite disappointing at first. With the silk/wool process you put the dyes on the fiber until it looks “just right”, then set the colors with heat. After the dye is set, hardly any color will rinse out. With cotton dyes you have to put WAY TOO MUCH dye on the fiber, and then wait, wait, wait. Then it is rinse, rinse, and more rinsing. With T-shirts you can rinse in the washing machine, but not so with yarn or thread unless you want to end up with a big tangly mess. The rinsing must be messily, splashily, and sweatily accomplished in a big laundry sink or tub. You can only hope that 1) you put enough dye on the fiber to end up with the color you originally intended, which will probably (but certainly not always) be much lighter than the color you started with, 2) the colors that you end up with (which may not be the ones you intended) will actually look good together, 3) that you can get all of the splash stains out of the sink, floor, cabinets, clothing, etc, 4) that your elbow length heavy duty waterproof gloves don’t leak, and 5) that the local wastewater treatment plant never finds out where all that dye is coming from.

Thanks to Ellen for the photo at right.

What did I learn? People do use pretty crochet thread to make doilies, but the colors must be light and subtle or, if not, at least used sparingly. There is also a very specialized market for people who use crochet thread to make doll clothes! It is also great for baby blanket edgings, and even beaded jewelry!

Thanks to Janet for the photo at left, and to Sondra for the one at right.

To purchase hand dyed crochet thread from Sara’s Colorwave Yarns, click on the banner above.

Special appreciation is extended to my web genius guru, John Baldwin!

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