Friday, June 24, 2011

Dye-ing to Tat

See? It's punny. I could have written "dying", but that wouldn't have been funny at all. As is most likely obvious, I've been a little hesitant about tatting lately. I have two "big projects" that I'm refusing to look at for a little while. But, I HAVE started tatting something little that I can finish within approximately one corny and not-mainstream-for-a-reason Hulu movie. My favorite movie in the world I did discover on Hulu, but still! Anyway, that tatting strike is almost over, and the other day I was craving work on one of the big doilies... But...didn't have my thread with me.... UGH.

Without tatting to keep me occupied, I've been dying thread. It's enjoyable, tatting-related, and almost instantly gratifying. Also, it's inexpensive and definitely rewarding. So, without much to show for myself, I'm going to share my dying process. I've come to the conclusion that once something is monetized, I lose complete interest, so I probably won't be a thread dyer (is that how it's spelled? eh!) on Etsy any time soon. The thread that I've gotten from the people who DO dye on Etsy has been wonderful, as they do most likely have years of practice, more complex processes, and expensive dye. That's my little disclaimer, as I don't completely know what I'm doing. Bear with me!

The thread I use is along these lines. It's not as smooth as Lizbeth, and is quite a bit more porous, which makes for easy dying. I haven't had a problem tatting with the dyed thread, the difference in texture isn't too noticeable. They're kinda like off-brands.

The niddy noddies are super cheap. At Home Depot, they sell 1/2" PVC pipe in 2 foot long pieces for about a dollar. Three pipes can make two niddy noddies. Someone at the hardware store will cut it for you if you only have a couple, but if you have 30 pipes (me), probably best to get one of the pipe cutters. There were some little ones for $10, and I got mine (a super fancy one) for 30ish, because it is not fun, I tell you what! One of the pipes is cut into half (2 12" pipes), and the other two are cut into four each (eight 6" pipes). Then, using a joint thing on each end, it's all connected as such. I did some measurements, and it's about 2 yards for a complete go-around. So it would be 25 go-arounds for a 50 yard skein.

Wrapping up the niddy noddy with thread is boring, but goes by quickly. There are a TON of videos on youtube.
This is a good one It talks about wrapping the niddy noddy and making a hank, which you do after the thread is dry. The PVC is slippery, so I wrap the ends where the thread will be with rubber bands (the hair kind or office kind) so it can grip.

After your thread is on. (I recommend about 20-25 yards at first), its dye time. This is the dye I've been using, simply because I really like it, it's permanent, relatively inexpensive, easily attainable, and lasts forever.
This is a hard part for pictures, so I'll explain as best I can. Don't mind the instructions on the back of the dye (do heed the warnings though), we're doing something entirely different than what they expect. What you'll need for the dying process is:
1. dye
2. sponge paintbrush (these are great and cost around a dollar for a bunch!)
3. bowl and cup, plus paper plate
4. water
5. salt
6. a surface that won't be dyed or you don't mind dying (garbage bag, mat, etc.)
7. gloves (optional: I don't mind having dyed hands for a couple days, but you might!)
8. clothes that can get messy

It's all easy to get, really. You most likely have everything except for the dye ($4 for a decent sized packet by the way).

Now, the bowl is filled with about a cup of water, or however much you'll need. A pinch of salt is thrown in. Now, start with a teaspoon of dye (around there, no need to take out the baking supplies) and mixed it up with a sponge brush, if it looks watery it might come out weak. Paint a little streak on the paper plate. Add more, less, or a different color if you want it a little different. Go easy on the added color though, it can change from light blue to black in an instant. Now that you have it right, we can get a'painting.

Let's just say that you want one color that fades into the white. The part where the color will be deposited is in the four areas that are in the middle of the ends. Ya know? Haha... Holding the niddy noddy on your lap or wherever is easiest, take a liberal amount of the dye onto the brush and paint on a 2-3" inch strip right in the middle, and do it again on the back, right where it is on the front. Without wasting time, dip the brush into a cup of water lightly and start fading out the sides. Remember to do it on the front and back. I usually only fade it a little the first time, and then do another dip and second fade. It's okay to dip more than one time. Make sure to pat the brush on a paper towel before starting the next stripe, because it may be diluted.

If you are fading it into another color, do the darker one first and then do the lighter in the same way.

When you are happy with your thread (or not happy, hey, it's the first time!), let it dry. LEAVE IT ALONE. I know you want to touch it, but don't! When it is 100% dry, you can touch it. They say you should leave it for 24 hours to let it cure, but once it's dry, it's dry. It's like charging a phone for 100 years, once it's charged, it's charged, and the extra time isn't going to make it an everlasting phone. The blow drier can speed up the process.

To tie it off, cut the end of the thread (assuming you tied it) and unwind it twice. Starting about 5 inches from the other end, start tying the thread so that it won't go stray. The only thing I can think this is like it a blanket stitch about 5 inches from each other. Or, OR OR the second half of a double knot! YES Tatting reference. You see? When you get right before the other end, cut that end (the part you tied to the niddy noddy when you started) and tie it them together tightly, now, trim. If you aren't going to be washing them right away, go ahead and make them into hanks. It is very hard to tat with thread that is full of dye, so do resist.

To wash, turn the sink up to a super hot temperature (as hot as your hands can stand... wear gloves!) and fill a big bowl with hot hot hot water. Take your first skein (loose and tied, not in the hank) and carefully fold it so that it can fit in your fist. Rinse it out gently by squeezing and getting the water in good, you mustn't tangle it! Put that thread in the bowl while you do the others and then, go in order, give every one a nice rinse until you are sure it is clean and then squeeze the water out. There might be some kinks, so stretch it out and then lay it down on a towel. When that is completely dry, or not, depending on your patience, you can make them into hanks. And, there you go.

I think most serious tatters have gotten HDT, but if you don't have a method of tatting from them, you can either wind it onto a bobbin, or just keep it in hank form. I just keep it in the hank and undo it to tat from it, then redo the hank. It looks neat. I can see though how that might be a problem, so, its up to you!

I hope that wasn't too boring! (:

Just some more pictures, I went to the craft store today... YEEEEE!
Everyone is always doing their wonderful bead tatting, so I thought I'd join in. Hopefully there will be something to show next time!

Ummmmm thank you! ^_^
Have a wonderful day!


  1. hi there. i've done fabric painting and dyeing, as in batik, but not skeins of thread. you did a pretty good job describing the process. i get the idea now, although i'll not bother with dyeing any thread for the moment. :)

    get craft supplies is always so exciting isn't it? enjoy them.

  2. One of my favorite things to do with dye is to premix the primary colors, then mix those into the secondary colors and go from there. It helped me learn how to make different shades of purple, to tell you the truth! lol

    Nice idea making mini niddy noddies. Hadn't thought of that! I tried making a skeiner for myself, but it failed after a few skeins..

  3. Brilliant- thank you for the great, clear explanation!!! Makes me think even I could do it!

  4. Thanks for posting how you dye your threads. I'm not familiar with dylon dyes, do they have the fixer (sodium carbonate) already mixed in the dye?
    Your niddy-noddy is pretty cool, I think I will try using one.

  5. Thanks for the instructions, Anika. Your HDTs look lovely.

  6. What a super post! Thanks!
    Fox ; )

  7. This is a great post, very informative, and makes the process approachable. Thank you.


  8. Nice blog created by the blog owner it’s looking so attractive and have a quality to attract a visitor very easily. I like your post to its very effective and your blog template is according to your blog. Pvc Strip Door, Flexible Pvc Strip

  9. I have been investigating dyeing threads for a while now but have never seen it done on a niddy noddy. I was prepared to dye the hanks i made instead, have you tried it this way? Or, do you think its better to do it on the niddy noddy?

    I like the little niddy noddy you made i will have to see if I can make a few of those and try them...