We Tried It! Solar Dyeing Edition


red cabbage and yarn

In addition to her recent attempt at Kool-Aid dyeing, Twistedista Dawn also tried solar dyeing. And - wow - the results probably couldn't have been more different!

WHAT IS SOLAR DYEING?

Basically, the sun stands in for your stove-top to provide the heat needed to set the dye. Sounds simple enough... But (like sun tea) it's slower than the stove-top and is largely dependent on mother nature. 

red cabbage and yarnWHAT DO YOU USE FOR THE COLOR?

So many choices... Kool-Aid is an obvious one, as is food coloring. Kool-Aid has a distinct advantage because it contains citric acid to help lock the dye in the yarn. If you want to take a more natural approach, there is a wiiiiiiide range of things to be found in any kitchen or yard that can be used. You can find lots of ideas online! Here, Dawn ended up using red cabbage.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Gather your materials! 

  • A mason jar seemed like a natural choice. A quart size jar should hold an average skein of yarn pretty well.
  • Vinegar or citric acid to help set the yarn. For natural dyes you can also use a combination of alum and cream of tartar.
  • Yarn. Something undyed or white or cream will give you the blankest canvas. Dawn chose Knitted Wit Victory Sock, which is a superwash and nylon mix. Superwash is a great choice for those who are new to dyeing because it takes color more readily than other wools.

yarn in mason jarNext, assemble your jar...

  • For Dawn, there was the extra step of boiling the cabbage to get the color out. But otherwise, it is just a matter of adding food color to your jar along with whatever you are using to set the dye.
  • Add boiling water to your jar and mix it all up!
  • Add your yarn.
  • Lid it and find a nice sunny spot...

SUN TIME!

At this point, it is all up to the sun. You can let it sit as long as you want - longer generally means a stronger color. That said, know that natural dyes will take far longer to get a strong color than anything chemical.

When to add your setting agent of choice is as much art as science. Dawn ended up putting vinegar in after 2 days, which had the added chemistry lesson fun of changing the color from purple to pink! Then she let it sit another 2 days. So, 4 days total. Because mold was potentially an issue, she didn't let it go longer. 

Pretty, right?!

final resultBOTTOM LINE

Dawn says that solar dyeing was a really interesting experiment, but perhaps adding natural dye on top was not the best choice for the first time. "We didn't expect a rich color like we got from the Kool-Aid, but there is definitely a learning curve to natural dyes that is far steeper than you might expect. We will most likely try again, though, because dyeing yarn, no matter how you do it, is just so FUN!"