Dyeing with Long Colour Blocks

sunset cowl start

It isn’t difficult to dye yarn with long colour blocks (LCB – because the world needs a new acronym), just a bit time consuming in the preparation and  some thought has to go into keeping things untangled.  The first thing I did was wound my undyed skein into a ball.

Thanks to awesome sister I have the perfect swift for the next job, a Chiaogoo.  It has 4 arms with holes pre-drilled where you can place dowels.  I placed the dowels such that the swift was set at the smallest circumference available.

<disclaimer: My scale isn’t working, but I would suggest using a scale (place the wound yarn on it) to see how big the mini skeins are that you are making>

After tying the yarn to a dowel with a loose slip knot, I wound the yarn around the dowels 30 times.  Leaving a long tail (since I was kettle dyeing, I would have left a shorter tail if I was hand painting).  Tying the mini skein loosely on each side of the skein ( and removing the slip knot and tying the end of the skein to itself) I took the mini skein off the swift and skeined it.  Placing this first mini skein in the center of the swift I wound the next mini skein in almost exactly the same way (there wasn’t a knot at the beginning though).  Here is a picture to help you see what was going on:

set up for long color dyeing

The completed mini skeins are in the middle and a mini skein is on the swift ready to be tied.  Keep going until the entire ball has been wound.

eight mini skeins

I did the first 4 mini skeins as 30 wraps, but decided that was too small and did the next 3 as 40 wraps and the final one was 45.  (This is where a working scale would have been handy!)

Now what?

SELECT YOUR COLOURS!!!!  I cannot shout this loud enough.  I had 8 colours to think up and dye, this is a lot of work unless you have done some prior thinking. (Can you guess if I had a plan before I skeined this sucker up?)

There is virtually no transition between the mini skeins so plan for large colour blocks.  By keeping the same saturation and shifting the hue slightly you can achieve a gradient effect.  Be aware that each colour must be distinct enough or the difference won’t be readily apparent.  Also if the colours are too different (in hue or saturation) the difference can be quite jarring to the eye, leading one colour to be much more prominent than, perhaps, you planned.  Because this was my first time dyeing like this I wasn’t aware of these facts and just created 8 colours in the sequence I selected.  Of course you can achieve a gorgeous result without regard to these ‘guidelines’ as well (I did!).

Prepare the skein(s) as you would normally to dye.  Keep them untangled as best you can.  I had two turkey roasting trays and moved one mini skein at a time from one, into the dye pot (dyeing them as you would a full size skein), then into the other turkey tray.  Remember to dye the long tails between mini skeins as you go.

After the dyeing and drying my mini skeins looked like this:

eight mini skiens -dyed

Now for the rewinding.  Thankfully the Chiaogoo swift made this practically painless.  I just took one mini skein at a time (putting the whole pile of skeins in the center – tied together with some waste yarn) and wound them, slowly, on my ball winder.  I had to rewind the ball the make it pretty, but that was a minor inconvenience.


There you have it!  Not too difficult and very fun to knit with.  I’m making a cowl with my skein and I seem to be knitting faster so I can get to the next colour block.

Speaking of the cowl:

FO Post!:
cfc blocking

Project: Yay! Yarn (ravelry link)
Yarn: My handyed in Sunset
Pattern: Cabled Feather Cowl (ravelry link)
Mods/Comments: I could have cast on another repeat of the chart, but as it is the cowl is squishy and warm and will be perfect for the fall.

As you can see I didn’t get to the blue section of my skein.  I’m glad about that since I didn’t think it jived very well with the orange -> purple part.  I really like the look of this cowl (even with the screaming safety orange on it) ;).  I’m thinking about crocheting awesome sister a cuff from the blue part of the skein, since that was her favorite part. 🙂

cabled feather cowl
katie likes the cowl
maybe too much?
cfc on display

Hopefully this is helpful and easy to understand.  Feel free to ask me questions about the technique, I’m sure I’ll be refining it as I go.

Just so we're clear

4 thoughts on “Dyeing with Long Colour Blocks

  1. Helene Stuurwold says:

    Thank you so much for posting about this method of long color change dyeing! I am in love with the dye from Pokeberries and I want to dye a loooong gradient of just the pokeberry color. I had thought of an idea similar to yours but you have laid it out so nicely. I want to go from undyed cream/white all the way to rich dark magenta. I am now preparing (in my head) how ot use your method. If I ma successful I will post pics.

    Best regards,

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