Painting Yarns in Your Microwave

Painting Yarns in Your Microwave
Have you ever wanted to delve into the are of dyeing your own fiber, but didn’t want to make a huge investment in equipment that can’t be used for any other purpose? There is a very easy solution. Try skein painting!

What you will need:
Skein or skeins of yarn, wool, alpaca, or other animal fiber, wound in a hank that is at least 15” long, and tied loosely in a few places.
Dye (I really like Pro-Chem Wash-fast Acid dyes) they do sell directly to the public, and offer small quantities and color samplers
Mordant - either white vinegar or citric acid
Dawn dish soap
Solid bottom nursery tray, or transplant tray
Old newspaper
Sponge brushes 1 per color
Rubber gloves
Safety goggles or glasses
Small plastic cups or bowls 1 per color
1 Glad Steam Fresh bag per skein of yarn
A microwave oven
A microwave safe bowl with a glass lid, or plate to cover the top (I use a Pyrex one, that cannot be used for food thereafter! Yard sale finds are great for this.)

To begin, wet out your yarn by soaking it in hot water from the tap with a bit of dish soap added to the water after it is run, to prevent forming suds. Allow the yarn to soak for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the dye solutions by adding ¼ tsp. dye powder and either ½ tsp. citric acid or 2 tsp. vinegar to one cup of very hot water. Stir carefully until fully mixed.

In the nursery tray, lay several layers of newspaper to completely cover the bottom, this will allow the excess dye to fall into the channels in the bottom of the tray and not mottle the yarn.

Remove the yarn from the soak, and squeeze it thoroughly. This is contrary to what other sites will tell you, but I like to have more vivid color separation in my yarn. Make sure the yarn is not dripping before you lay it out in the tray to be painted. Arrange the yarn in the tray. Think ahead to how you want the color to be distributed.

By now, be sure you have your gloves on. Begin painting the yarn using the sponge brushes to apply the dye solution to the yarn. Turn the yarn as you work to ensure even penetration of the color. Remember, leaving portions of the yarn unpainted can also be a design element which often makes the yarn more vivid.

Once you have achieved the desired color on the skein, carefully lift it by grasping the lightest color in the yarn, and lower it into the steam fresh bag. Seal the bag, and place it in a microwave safe bowl and cover it. Microwave it on high for 5-7 minutes. Carefully open the bag, and lift the skein from the bag carefully. Allow the yarn to cool somewhat, and dip it in a rinse basin of hot water, try to equal the temperature of the yarn to avoid shocking it. If the color holds and does not run into the rinse, the dye is set, if not, place it back in the bag and process for another 5 minutes. Once you have finished processing and rinsing the yarn, hang it to dry.

This is a great rainy day project, and, with some care, is a fun activity to do with older children.

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