As this blog transitions to include my journey as a maker, I want to occasionally share projects that anyone can easily make on their own at home. I am not a traditional crafty person. Much of what I have learned related to crocheting, sewing, and natural dying are skills I have picked up through Google, trial and error, reading books, and learning from others. I tell you this so that you can know that being a maker is possible with enough diligence and hard work!
Today’s DIY project is one of my favorites! Today is I Love Yarn Day and in honor of that, I am posting this crochet + dye tutorial!
In my shop I used to offer a hand-dyed and crocheted wool lovey. This tiny blanket measured approximately 10 inches by 10 inches. It is a simple design and process that anyone who knows the basic crochet stitches can easily complete. The dye process is also equally doable with the proper supplies and patience. I hope that it can be the perfect addition to a baby shower gift or that it can be a special item for your own sweet babe.
Let’s get started!!
- Un-dyed, naturally-colored wool yarn (this is the one I use)*
- Size N (9mm) crochet hook
- Post It notes (or something similar in size)
- Yarn needle
- Stainless steel pot (not to be used for food!)
- Stainless steel or wooden spoon (not to be used for food!)
- 2-4 clothespins
- 10 black tea bags
* Please be sure that your yarn is wool. The dye will not hold on synthetic fibers such as the more common acrylic yarns. It is possible that the dye would partially hold onto a synthetic/wool blend, but I have not attempted this and cannot say how it would work.
1. Row 1: Using your wool yarn and hook, crochet 25 chain stitches to form the bottom of your blanket. (The length should be approximately 10 inches.) Turn and chain 2.
2. Row 2: Double crochet across the row. Turn and chain 1.
3. Row 3-5: Single crochet across the row. Turn and chain 1. (Repeat for rows 4 and 5.)
4. Rows 6-27: Repeat this process (steps 2-3) until the height of your piece matches the length of your piece. (About 27 rows.)
Finishing: Single crochet around the entire square. Add one extra chain stitch at each corner as you go. (This process can be tricky on the sides of the square, but it will give the piece a nice, finished look. Simply do your best to space out your stitches evenly when an opening is not readily available.) Finish off with a slip stitch into your first single crochet of the border.
1. Wrap the yarn around a Post It notepad (or something similar) 20 times.
2. Thread another strand of yarn through the middle and tie a knot.
3. Remove the notepad and cut the loops at the end of the tassel. (Repeat 3x for a total of 4 tassels.)
4. Tie off the tops of 3 tassels. Leave the 4th tassel loose. (This will be tied after the dye process.)
1. Add 10 tea bags to your stainless steal pot and fill the pot about half-way with filtered water.
2. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.
3. Simmer, covered, until the water is a dark, amber color. The amount of time that you steep the tea depends on your color preferences. Longer times = deeper colors
4. Remove the tea bags and filter out any particles that may be floating in your dye. The dye can be used immediately or it can again be kept in the fridge until it becomes moldy.
5. Very gently, submerge your lovey into lukewarm, filtered water and soak thoroughly. (Because it is wool, it is important to avoid drastic temperature changes and to use minimal agitation to prevent accidentally felting your project!)
6. Remove and wring out excess water as well as you can.
7. Carefully drape your lovey over the edge of your dye pot so that the untied tassel corner is in the dye bath. You may submerge as much or as little of your project into the dye as you would like.
8. Use clothespins to hold your lovey in place while heating the dye bath on LOW heat.
9. Allow the project to absorb as much dye as you want. Remember that the finished product will be a few shades lighter once the blanket has been rinsed.
10. When you are happy with the color, wring out as much dye as you can and line dry the lovey out of direct sunlight.
11. Once dry, set it aside for a few days to allow the dye to affix itself to the wool fibers.
12. Finally, hand-wash (with a ph neutral soap) and rinse your lovey until the water runs clear. Once again, use cool water and minimal agitation to protect the integrity of your work.
14. Line dry your lovey one last time! (And don’t forget to finish tying your last tassel!)
* Please do not use your dye pots and/or utensils for cooking. Although this natural dye is safer, it is important to maintain separate equipment for these two purposes.
May be spot cleaned and/or CAREFULLY hand washed with minimal agitation in COLD water with a gentle detergent and then laid flat to dry. Do NOT place in a washing machine or dryer. Please note that due to the nature of natural dye, the color may change and/or lightly fade with additional washings.
I would like to note that while black tea can provide depth of color for a relatively long period of time, it is still considered a fugitive dye. This means that after exposure to washes and sunlight, it can and will loose some or all of its color. If this happens, feel free to re-dye it using the instructions above! As I like to say – “A naturally dyed product truly is alive and is meant to be enjoyed for as long as its lifecycle lasts. Its elusiveness is what makes it so alluring!”
Please be advised that none of these items should be used without parental supervision as the materials used could pose choking, strangulation, or suffocation hazards. Please do not leave any item with an unattended child. Do not allow children to wear or play with these products while sleeping or while riding in a car seat. Alex and My Lovely Things Co. are not responsible for any injuries associated with use or misuse of these products. Thank you!