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Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece

Dyeing without Fear

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Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece

Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece by Gail Callahan.

Storey Publishing.

Gail Callahan is best known these days as the Kangaroo Dyer, who has a line of yarn with WEBS. But once she was a beginning dyer, just like a lot of us are, and she brings that perspective to her book Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece: Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing and Other Creative Techniques.

As the name suggests, this book covers a lot of ground and offers those new to dyeing -- as well as those with some experience -- a lot of options, techniques and inspiration that will make you want to pull out some food coloring or order some acid dyes and get playing.

About the Book

  • Pages: 168
  • Format: hardcover with interior spiral binding
  • Illustrations: full-color photographs

Warming Up to Dyeing

The first part of Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece is all about getting readers comfortable with the idea of dyeing and the materials that will be used. This book focuses on animal fiber (wool, silk and the like) and acid dyes, but it starts out offering lots of basic information and experiments you can try just with things you buy at the grocery store.

I really liked that part of the book because I'm a big fan of dyeing with things like Kool-Aid and strawberries, both because those things are readily available and because they're food, you don't need special equipment to work with them. (When you get into acid dyeing, you'll need separate vessels for cooking, stirring and measuring your dye, and if you use a microwave method of dyeing you'll need a separate microwave, too, though you can use your regular stove.)

After a good discussion of safety tips, environmental responsibility, pH levels, supplies, record keeping, basic methods, types of fibers and how to prepare them, the book gets down to the business of dyeing.

Callahan covers different kinds of dyes and why you might find leftover color in your pot after dyeing. She then offers some "warm ups" including painting food coloring on different kinds of paper, making mini-skeins with food coloring and making a monochromatic yarn with acid dye.

Getting Comfortable with Color

A chapter on color suggests finding your comfort zone when it comes to color (because no one wants to spend the time dyeing yarn they aren't going to want to use) but not being afraid to step out of that zone a bit, too. In this book you can see the beginning of Callahan's Color Grid, a small version of which is found in the book.

She suggests making your own yarny color wheel by dyeing small amounts of yarn in Mason jars using food coloring as the dye. This fun experiment certainly will teach you a lot about how colors mix and doesn't need a lot of special equipment (this would be a fun one to try with kids, too).

There's some discussion of color theory here, but it doesn't get too terribly technical, and this is helpful information when considering what colors to use together and in what quantities when dyeing multicolored yarns.

Plenty of pictures make it easy to see these concepts in action, and the text makes it seem easy to get such beautiful results in your own kitchen.

Other dyeing projects in the book include dipping for shades of the same color, multicolored dip and dye, handpainting silk and wool roving, injecting color into the fiber, dyeing a cone of yarn, immersion dyeing, tie-dyeing and more. Each tutorial suggests the colors you might want to use to try a technique out, but of course you can use any colors you have on hand or that strike your fancy.

The book also includes knitting patterns you can try out to use your newly dyed yarn.

Bottom Line

If you only wanted to dye protein fiber and you only wanted to buy one book about those dyeing techniques, this would be the book that I would recommend. Even if you are a completely novice dyer, this book will walk you through everything you need to know, buy and do to make beautiful skeins of hand dyed yarn or lovely roving you can spin.

Callahan is not only an expert dyer, she's an expert teacher, and Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece will make you feel like you can complete every project in the book. And you can.

Publication date: February 2010

Publisher's website

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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