Intro to Dyeing with Idyes

Have you ever heard of idyes? Me, neither! Alison, our fearless Knit Picks Director, tells me that they’re acid dyes (like the kind Kim uses) but have a combination of cellulosic dye (for plant fibers such as cotton) and protein fiber dye (for animal fibers like silk), allowing you to use them on a large range of natural fiber projects. Inside each envelope is a little water-soluble packet (kind of like those dishwasher detergent nuggets) which you just pop into your washing machine and Vwalaa! You’ve dyed your own yarn.  I asked her to describe her process and take some photos. Here we go!


From Alison: “IDye packets can be a nice option for folks who are new to fiber dyeing or those who would like solid color results in a hurry. This week, I wanted a fast, easy dye project that would fit into my schedule and produce a subtle solid colorway, so idyes were perfect! The envelope includes instructions for either stovetop dyeing, or use in your washing machine.  I think the stovetop method produces the easiest, most consistent results, but the washing machine is a nice option for folks who don’t want to use a dedicated dyeing pot for the stovetop method.


Choose Your Yarn + Dye Color and Tie Up Your Skein: “I’ve been so excited about our new Bare Special Reserve yarns. They’re such a great price point for natural fibers and a fun opportunity to play around with different dye techniques. I picked up the Superfine Alpaca because I thought it would really take the idye color (I chose “Gunmetal Grey”), really well.” 


“Tie your skein in a few extra places.  I use a cotton yarn for my ties so that they don’t accidentally slightly felt to the yarn during the dye process.  Don’t tie your strings too tight or the dye won’t be able to penetrate those areas well and your skein might end up looking tie-dyed with white patches. And don’t skimp on tying your skein! I learned the hard way in the past with an ultra-tangled skein that, although beautiful, took forever to wind into a reasonable ball.”


Soak: “Presoak your yarn in cold water until it is thoroughly saturated.  This will help the dye penetrate all of the yarn.”

Into the Washing Machine: “Follow the packet instructions for adding the dye packet to the washing machine water along with either salt (for plant fibers) or vinegar (for animal fibers) to help set the dye. Use the hottest water possible for your dye bath.  For my washing machine, I used the warm water setting along with the Wool wash cycle, then added an extra soak and an extra rinse.  If I had been dyeing cotton yarn, I would use the hot water setting.


Drying: “When the wash cycle has finished, hang up your skeins to dry someplace where you don’t mind a few drips.  My favorite place to hang drying yarn is over the shower curtain rod so that any extra clear water drips into the tub.”


Result:  “I have enough from this dye project to make this great oversized herringbone cowl that will look great with my black wool winter coat.”

Additional Tips:

  • “Avoid agitation!  It can cause animal fibers to felt and can tangle any type of yarn.  The Wool wash cycle on my washing machine has almost no agitation so it works well for this project.”
  • “To make a pale shade, use a shorter wash cycle; a longer wash cycle means the yarn will be in the dye for more time and will get darker and more saturated.”
  • “Dye all of your yarn for a given project in one batch so that the yarn will all be the same color.  There are so many variables in the dyeing process that it is pretty difficult to exactly replicate a color later.”
  • I’ve used iDye and RIT dyes a lot and have never had a problem with dye remaining in my various washing machines.  If you’re nervous about dye hanging around after your project, you can wipe down the inside of the machine afterwards with an old towel and (if your washer has this setting) run a Tub Clean cycle.

Thanks, Alison! Who knew there were little dye nuggets ready for you to toss into your washing machine? Knowing that they won’t stain the inside of my machine, I might toss in some fabric with my fiber, too. Maybe it would give me a complementary yarn+fabric combination I could use to make a really cute outfit for one of my daughters!

Now that we’ve explored a few different dyeing techniques, which one are you likely to try?

1 comment

  1. Laura from beautiful West Michigan / January 16, 2015

    Wow! My friends and I decided at Christmas that we wanted to do a yarn dyeing mini-retreat and here you are teaching us how!!! Great posts, thanks so much!!