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Getting started with overdyeing

Once you have the basics of dyeing sorted you can begin to experiment with overdyeing. This is where you simply re dye your yarn with another colour to create a third colour – a little like mixing paints. As the original colour shines through the second one you get beautiful depth which can’t be achieved by single dyeing alone.

To create colours which go together you can use different overdyes on wool that has all been dyed with the same base colour. You can also use the two dyes to create patterns on the actual yarn with a form of tie-die.

The photos show mordanted wool first dyed with broom flowers, which gave a mid yellow colour, it was then overdyed with onions to create a deep burnt orange.

Overdyeing is also a great way to rescue colours that are a little underwhelming – knowing that you can simply dye over insipid colours helps temper disappointment when things don’t turn out as you expect.

I would love to know how you get on with dyeing your wool. Please tag me on Instagram or use the hashtag #snapdragonlife.

You need:

  • Wool yarn, pre mordanted with alum. Mini skeins make this easier but you can use a larger skein and split it is you prefer.
  • Dye materials – a light coloured initial dye and a darker second dye.
  • Pan of water.
  • Plastic tub.

1) Dye pre mordanted yarn using the nettle instructions.

Pour the first dye into a plastic tub in case you want to use it again. Wash and dry the yarn. If using a single hank then wind the amount you want to keep as the base colour into a ball.

Loosely tie the rest of the hank with three or four bits of yarn.

2) At this point you can make a tie die striped effect by tightly binding sections of your hank so that the second dye cannot penetrate and the tied sections remain a paler colour.

3) Wet the hank of yarn again and then dye in the second, darker dye bath, again following the nettle instructions.

4) Rinse briefly, leave to dry and unwrap bindings if you have made them. Gently wash and dry before winding into a ball.

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