overdyeing socks

As part of a swap I offered to overdye some knee socks that had uneven colouring from a previous dye attempt.

As usual my keenness to solve a problem made me overlook all the practical obstacles. And there were some!

  1. these socks are already knitted. It’s very difficult to dye knitwear evenly. You need a big pan and lots of water and careful pacing of dye and acid to avoid spots or felting. My previous attempt failed horribly.
  2. it has previous stains. These will always show up in any overdye job. Luckily they are dye stains and not grease or anything. Still. It would be best to dye very dark and visually drain out the stain.
  3. this yarn is part acrylic. Acrylic doesn’t take acid dye. I will not be able to dye dark.
  4. these are not my socks. If I ruin these socks it’ll be terrible. Extra stress.

Luckily the knitter is a knitter and very lovely. She assured me again and again that whatever I do it will be ok. She’s open to surprises.

So I pulled out my dye pot and Ashford dyes and set about.

First: thoroughly wet the knitwear. I put it in water the day before. Squeezed out all the air. Kneaded it repeatedly. Every fibre needs to be wet.

This is how the socks look on the day of the dyeing:

overdyeing handknitted socks acid dye

The now thoroughly wetted socks display uneven colouring in a dramatic fashion, it’s not as bad as this in real life. But bad enough for the owner not to want to wear them. Which is a shame.

Second: make the dye bath. The owner had requested a half-blue colour as her favourite so that’s what I start with.

I take precautions so I can dye the fabric slowely, making adjustments along the way. For this I make the dye bath without the acid and I use lukewarm water, not hot.

I put the wet socks in the dye bath and manipulate them. I swirl them so the dye touches every part of the socks. I then stretch the knitted fabric, in all directions. I stop just short of pulling the socks inside out.
overdyeing handknitted socks acid dye

Stretching the fabric to make sure the dye reaches the inner part of the stitches:

I check and recheck the colour and the evenness. Pretty soon I put the wet socks aside and adjust the dye bath to a more intense colour:
overdyeing handknitted socks acid dye
Put sock back in. Swirl, knead, stretch stitches. Still no acid and no heat.

On the third bath I add a bit of red because the red stain will keep showing up. The rest of the sock will need a bit of red too. This time I keep the stained part of the sock out. It’s the rest of the sock that needs darkening. Dipping only part of the sock, keeping the stain out of the pot:
overdyeing handknitted socks acid dye

When I like the overal colouring I add vinegar. Pretty soon the colour drains completely from the bath. I’m pleased that the acrylic doesn’t pose a problem, it seems to be well blended into the yarn. I could probably go some shades darker too. But I don’t like the risk of heathered colouring or felting.

Now I put it on heat to fixate.
The pre-existing stain is still there. I’m hoping it will be less prominent once the sock is dry. Do that first, fixate and dry, and then assess. I can always give it another go.
overdyeing handknitted socks acid dye
This is right as I put the heat on. See how exhausted the dye bath is already?

Results:
overdyeing handknitted socks acid dye

The socks are nearly dry. They are not very blue, more of a jeansy blue.

The stain is still visible but acceptable:
overdyeing handknitted socks acid dye

Detail on the other side: dye right into the middle of the stitches:
overdyeing handknitted socks acid dye

but not through and through. I think this is as much as the acrylic content will allow. I hope the owner is happy with them and they get to see more wear.

 

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