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Everyone has a favourite method.  Mine is to wait for a couple of fine days and do most of the work in the yard.  If you have never tried dyeing do give it a go. It’s great fun to go on a course but if you can’t there’s lots of instruction in the KEMTEX basic dye kit.

I always start by soaking the yarn in pails of water with a good splash of vinegar. Dyeing presoakDouble handled plastic containers are easy to lift and they don’t crack in cold weather. I put a kilo of yarn in the medium size and about 1.2kg in the larger, leaving them a few hours or overnight.  I spin out the water and return it to the pail.

The barely wet hanks are easy to manage and this is a good time to loosen the existing 4 ties and add more. I often dye large hanks (about 350g). If I’m using 100g hanks I tie 2 sides of the hank in a loose figure 8 to keep them close together to stop tangling. The dye company will give details about amounts of powder.  I mix it with a splash of boiling water till it’s no longer gritty then add more boiling water and mix again. It takes a good 2 minutes.

Over the years I’ve scoured the countryside for second hand laundry boilers but I recently discovered Buffalo 40 litre, one of the beer-makers’ favourites. BoilersThey are a dream to use: the temperature control is exact. I carry hot water from the house and stand the boilers on old garden chairs just inside the door of the barn. I put an ovenproof plate in the water  on the bottom of the boiler to stop the wool scorching. A handful of Glaubers Salt (from Amazon or the chemist) evens the colour. I find that the dye fixes at around 90% so I never boil the water. When it is clear I switch the heat off and let the wool cool a bit before I handle it. It suits me to have my  boilers close to a double socket and I alternate the heating so that I don’t overload the circuit. I do 8 or 10 batches in a day, keeping the water covered overnight for heating the next day. I add more Glaubers.

A camping style washing machine with a spinner (but no pump) is ideal. It has to be raised to drain by gravity. More garden furniture.  Cricket stumps are the best thing for lifting the skeins out of the water.

Finished skeins

As time goes on the dye batches may  get less evenly coloured but it’s easy to re-dip them. I always set aside the most shaded for my own patterns. There are interesting uses for uneven yarns.  I re-skein most of the large ones into 100g hanks for sale in the shop in Tregaron.  I wind the ends of hanks into small balls for selling by the gram or adding to knit kits. blacksheep-tregaron-28