young Asian hands winding pale yellow yarn, wearing light colored jeans and an army green zippered jacket
[ Natural Dyeing ]

The Finishing Steps: How To Dye With Natural Dyes (Part 3)

All of these stunning photos are by: Kellianne Jordan

Disclosure: Henlia Handmade is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites at no cost to you.

If you need a refresher on how to dye yarn, please visit Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Now that your freshly dyed skein of yarn is dry, what now?

If you don’t want to immediately cast on a project with it, there are a couple of things you can do with it. First, you can simply hang it somewhere as-is. The benefit of this is letting the beautiful spin of the fiber hang comfortably without any extra tugging or tension placed on it. Plus, it’s art. Show that baby off on a favorite wall! The other thing you can do with it is to twist it into a hank like how you see most hand-dyed yarn on the shelves of your favorite yarn shops. The benefit of this, of course, is mainly ease of storage. The other way it’s helpful is that when you have added it to the rest of your yarn collection, you can see how it looks with other yarn you already have in your stash. That just might launch you straight into another project.

Now if you DO want to begin using your yarn immediately, you need to either wind it into a ball or use a ball winder and swift to form a yarn cake. I have a video on how to help shake out any tangles before winding your yarn. You can watch that here.

Hand-winding into a ball requires the least amount of tools, but the most amount of effort along with a bit of creativity.

You’ll need either the back of a chair (or something similar) or a willing pair of extra hands. You could also use a yarn swift for this. We’ll discuss using a swift in a moment. Make sure all strands are aligned in one large loop and place it around the chairback or volunteer hands. Cut off the figure 8 ties holding the skein together and finally snip the knotted ends. Now you can begin slowly unwrapping the loops while winding a yarn ball around your fingers. There’s a great tutorial on how to hand wind a center pull ball here.

If you’d rather not hand wind your yarn, and you’re willing to obtain a couple of indispensable tools, you can use a ball winder and yarn swift. These are the tools you’ve likely seen in your local yarn shop to wind your new purchases for you. If you are handy or know someone who is, you can make your own yarn swift as I did. Here’s the tutorial I used: https://www.instructables.com/SewUseful:-Portable-Tabletop-Yarn-Swift-for-windi/

In case you’re in the market, my current ball winder is this one here. I started with the KnitPicks winder. It was an affordable choice to get me going, but it did eventually stop working. I haven’t used this umbrella swift myself, but this swift and winder set gets good reviews for a decent price. And here’s a clear tutorial on how to use these two tools: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8gi4WH3hEU

three yarn cakes stacked in one tall stack sitting on light wood table. dark pink on bottom, then white, gray yarn on top

Something worth mentioning here is that before you store or wind your yarn, you may want to reskein it.

Reskeining is the process of winding it from a hank into a new hank. There was a time at the beginning of running Henlia Handmade that I reskeined every single hank of yarn. The reason behind this was simply that I wanted to ensure my customers received yarn that had no tangles created during many steps of the dyeing process.

My confidence in handling wet yarn is now sufficient that I no longer feel it’s a necessary step. However, there are certain situations that warrant it. For example, the very rare occasions of noticing tangling while moving the yarn from pot to pot would be a reason to reskein. One time, I had the ends of a hank come untied while scouring. That one definitely needed T.L.C. However, the most common reason for a dyer to reskein is to better show off the colorway. 

For the home dyer, however, you might not need to reskein. However, if you do, I want to leave you with one more resource to help you do that. A niddy noddy is the most practical tool to use for this, in conjunction with a yarn swift. Yes, it is another tool, which is why you may choose to skip this step. My husband made a niddy noddy for me out of PVC pipe. This looks like a solid tutorial for making one yourself: https://mermaidsden.com/blog/pvc-niddy-noddy

Once you have your niddy noddy, assure that your yarn is thoroughly dry before reskeining. Pulling yarn off your shelf months down the road that turns out to have mold in it would be terribly disappointing.

Now I have to warn you, learning to use a niddy noddy has a learning curve. If you spin yarn, you’re likely a pro at this. If you’re new to using one, I suggest checking out several tutorials on YouTube. I needed to see how a variety of people explained it before fully understanding it. At some point, I will record my own tutorial so that I can hopefully help save others some time.

blue yarn partially wound on PVC niddy noddy. Sitting on table with knitting accessories in the the background

And that’s all there is to dyeing yarn with natural dyes.

It requires a few tools and other supplies. Mainly, however, it requires time and patience. Oh, and don’t forget your sense of humor. Not every skein will turn out as you imagined. Luckily, you now know how to dye yarn so if you ever pull a disaster out of your pot, you can always send it through the process again and throw new dye over it! 

So this wraps up our series on how to dye with natural dyes. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned! And if you give dyeing yarn a try, I’d love to see how your experiments turned out. Pictures are really great!

Email me using the contact form at the bottom of the page.

If you share on Instagram, be sure to use the hashtag #henliahandmade and tag me so I’ll see it @henliahandmade. Thanks!

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Mindy Kingery

When I'm not dyeing, designing or dreaming of yarn, you can find me painting, digging in my garden, hiking with my family or working on one of my many, many WIPs.

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