Food-Colored Sock Blank!

I am SO excited to be participating in our Dye-Along!
Dyeing fiber is one of my recent hobbies, and I’m looking forward to
sharing lots of my experiments with all you talented people! First on
the slate is my sock blank. I mentioned last week that I typically don’t knit socks two-at-a-time,
but a few months ago, I had an inspiration which was too thrilling to
ignore. I wanted a pair of socks that looked good enough to eat:

And that’s exactly what I’m getting!

My dye method of choice is food dyes– which means Kool-aid, food coloring drops, icing gel dyes, easter egg tablets–anything that’s edible. There can be a learning curve with these dyes, since the colors are rpemixed, they don’t always come out the way I expect them to, and hue and intensity of the same colors may vary from brand to brand. But the great thing about this particualr dye project is that my inspiration WAS artifcially colored food–so getting a match with food coloring drops was not terribly difficult!

Here’s what I wanted:

1. A sock blank to match the colors of the rocket pop, with relatively even sections of blue, white, and red.

2. “Frosted” colors that would look “icy” to evoke the frosty snack inspiration.

3. A short section of shaded transition between the colors.


And here’s how I got it:

I used McCormick’s food coloring drops in red and Neon blue in 2 separate enamel bowls. I measured the sock blank and immersed the first section in one bowl and the second section in the other, leaving the white section hanging between the two bowls. That took care of my wish #1.

When using food dyes, an acid is needed to “fix” the dye to the fiber. Heat is really helpful too. So I put a good deal of white vinegar in each bowl along with the dye. (If you can’t stand the smell of vinegar, citric acid crystals work, too.) Vinegar helps the dye “strike” which means that the fiber will soak up dye faster in an acidic environment. If you are going for mottled, semisolid looks, then a lot of vinegar will help you acheive this. If you want more even color, then you’ll want to use less vinegar, and stir frequently, so the dye is absorbed uniformly by the fiber. Since I wanted a “frosty” or uneven look, I chose to use a lot of vinegar, hoping that the dye would strick the exposed parts of the sock balnk first and leave the inside white. This was the firstt thing I did to acheive wish #2.

The other way to ensure this happened, and also to ensure that the color transitions between sections was short (wish #3), was to dye the blank DRY. I know this runs counter to conventional dyeing advice. Typically, you want your fiber to be uniformly damp when it enters the dyes bath because then it will all absorb dye at roubghly the same rate. When fiber enters the dyebath dry, there is surface tenion that the dye must overcome in order to penetrate the fiber. But, dyeing wet fiber  many colors means there is great potential for bleeding between the color sections, and I wanted pretty clear transitions between my colors without a lot of blending. So, I put the blank in dry, snapped on some latex gloves, and squeezed the dye into the sections I had immersed, so the dye struck only where I wanted and the white section stayed very white.

You can see what I mean about “the inside staying white” on the finished blank:

This is the purl side of the fabric, and you can see how the purl bumps dyed much darker than the backs of the stitches between them.

On the knit side, you can see how the fronts of th stitches took up the dye vividly, while the ladders behind them remained white.

After the dye baths were almost clear (you can see them in the background; almost all the color had been absorbed), I laid the blank out on plastic wrap

Then wrapped it in the plastic lengthwise (to protect the colors from bleeding) and the coiled it up and steamed it on the stove to finish setting the dye.

I’m still working on the red section; here’s what the yarn looks like in the strand:

Pretty much exactly what I was going for!

I’d better get moving! I have a lot of socks on the agenda!