Breaking Black – San Francisco

I saw my lovely friends Carolyn and Kelly talking about “breaking black”, and sounding like “Breaking Bad”, awesome and dark TV show, I wanted to get in on the action. I decided to dye some KnitPicks Stroll Fingering yarn that I had in my stash, using Wilton Icing Color.

I started by soaking my yarn in 1/2 cup white vinegar and about 4 cups of water overnight. The next evening, I squeezed the liquid out of the yarn, but did not rinse it.

I wanted to use this project to test out different concentrations of the black dye. I wasn’t sure how to measure the dye, but decided to just stick a wooden skewer in the dye and count that as “one part”.

I made up four containers of 1/2 cup of water, and added 1 part of dye to the first container, 2 parts to the next, 4 parts to the next, and 8 parts to the final container.

I set the damp yarn out on two sheets of plastic wrap, and used a spoon to pour the different concentrations of dye over 1/4 sections of the skein. The dyed sections started as green in color, and turned purple almost immediately as the black dye reacted to the vinegar in the yarn.

I tried to press the dye mixture into the yarn as best as I could, and then wrapped the yarn up in the plastic wrap, and set it in a steamer, on top of boiling water. I left it in the steamer for about 20 minutes, until the water in the plastic wrap was clear.


The plastic wrap/steaming method is something I’ve used before, and I like it because it generally allows specific sections of dye/yarn to stay separate from each other – rather than immersing the entire skein of yarn in a dye bath. The downside of this method though is that some sections of the yarn can remain undyed.

Here’s how my yarn ended up:

I didn’t really love the color this ended up as, although the section in the upper right corner, which had 4 parts black dye to 1/2 cup of water is the most interesting, since both the brownish red and the teal colors are visible. I reskeined the yarn to get a better sense of what it would look like knit up:

I liked how this looked reskeined, but I still wasn’t happy with it. I decided to dye the yarn again, by immersing the whole skein in a dye bath, made of about 20 drops blue and about 5 drops of green of the Safeway version of McCormick Food Color. Before the immersion bath, I dropped a few drops of red McCormick dye directly onto the yarn. I let the yarn simmer at about 180 degrees F, for about 20 minutes until the water was clear. Here’s my final result:

I really like the final yarn. I like the result of doing two different batches of dye – I’m not sure if I could have gotten this result through just one method or the other. Now the question is just what to do with this…it’s only about 175 yards. I’m thinking stripes? Maybe combined with some red sock yarn I have in my stash?

I just finished another two step dyeing process, and I’ll post pictures and an explanation of that soon!


4 responses to “Breaking Black – San Francisco

  1. Ummm, is that a pink plastic hospital basin in your yarn-soaking photo? I use one of those too! Dead useful. I soak all my knits in it and presoak all my yarn for dyeing.

    • Guilty as charged! That is indeed a plastic hospital bin, a little keepsake from my ankle surgeries (well in addition to the 4 plates and 26 screws) :). It’s the perfect size!

  2. Love both versions, Super great instructions. I’m sending my niece a link, as I know she will find this a fascinating project for her 7 children.

  3. I liked your first result but love the second. Glad you persisted. Great stuff.

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