Saturday, September 15, 2012

mason jar dyeing

It must have been the influence of the canning process, because Thursday morning found me itching to try some dyeing in a few of the unused mason jars. It has been quite a while since I have done any dyeing; the bug just hasn't bit me. I think it may have been looking back at this canning post that lit the fire again.

I wanted to experiment with a handpainted effect, but I haven't done so to date because a lot of handpainting is done using saran wrap and a microwave. I have refrained for two reasons:

  1. I hate the thought of being so wasteful and throwing all that plastic away for basically no reason. I wash plastic bags and reuse them, to give you an idea of my mindset, so this would have had me twitching.
  2. I don't have a dedicated microwave, and I really didn't want to put wool and dye into the microwave we use for food.

The mason jar method had promise though, because the jars can be reused, and I could use my dyepots for the heating vessels. I thought the grey yarn I just got back from the mill was a little uninspired, so it was my dyepot victim.

I started out mixing up two different colors, each in two jars. (The wet newspaper on the bottom of the sink is to catch stray dye powder.) I started with pint jars but quickly realized they might be too small once I added the yarn, so I went with quart jars filled 3/4 full with boiling water, whisked well with the dye powder. Each jar also has its own glug of vinegar to help set the dye.

I put the jars into a dyepot with a hot water bath—like a double boiler—to provide a nice steamy atmosphere. Wearing rubber gloves, I was able to move the yarn from color to color to blend them along the length of the skein. Once the entire skeins had color, I put the lid on and let it simmer and steam for 45 minutes.

Because I was dyeing on grey yarn, I was hoping for a nice muted color with a little of the grey showing through in parts to provide an even tone throughout the skeins. The results were beyond my wildest expectations. 

I repeated the exercise the next day to see how close I could come to duplicating the colors. As with all handpaints, it is almost impossible to get a complete match, but I came close. The bottom two were my first attempt, and the top two were done the next day. I'm not sure which set I like better.

I was so pleased that I immediately pulled out more skeins and more colors, and got to work. This was the result of using three different colors, instead of two.

The mason jar method definitely has potential.


  1. Those are gorgeous!! This is a great idea. Thanks for posting.

  2. Beautiful!! I've been wanting to try dyeing that way!

  3. Those are fantastic! You made some great color combinations.