A little over a year ago on the Sock Journal we introduced our Crafty Bundle, a batch of five mis-matched socks to use as a catalyst for creation! Recently, as we have been rolling the bundles, we realized that there were a bevy of white and off-white socks, more than we could easily add to a bundle without overwhelming it.

Well, the logical thing to do is offer a white and off-white option of the Crafty Bundle, the Dyer’s Batch!  You still get five assorted socks, but they’re in easy-to-dye shades (and, since they’re all Dream Stockings and Dreamer Socks, easy to dye fibers too!).  What I’m especially excited about is that the Dyer’s Batch gives folks a chance to play with dyeing socks without the worry that they’ll ruin a favourite pair.  And, if the dye job turns out, it’s easy to whip them into something fun like arm warmers or any of the cool DIY sock ideas we’re pinning to Pinterest!

If you’ve never dyed socks before, don’t stress, it is super easy!  We’ll walk you through the basics, so you have the foundation to play to your heart’s content.

For just straight up dyeing cotton blends like the socks in our Crafty Bundles, something easy to get and use like RIT Dye works pretty well, especially if you’re just learning.  The common complaint with RIT is that you can’t get strong, vivid colour from it, so keep that in mind.  The RIT Dye site has lots of great tips and techniques that are worth checking out, no matter what dye you’re using.

You’ll need:

• A glass or plastic bowl or bucket that will easily hold what you’re dyeing •
(remember! Dye will stain plastic, so don’t use your favourite mixing bowl if it is plastic)
• Dye •
• What you’re dyeing! •
• Something to stir with •

Not shown here, because I am a space case:

• A smaller glass or plastic container to pre-mix your dye in •
• Hot water, think “as hot as tea”—doesn’t have to be boiling •
• Optional: gloves so you don’t stain your hands•

 

Once you’ve gathered your gear, meet me after the jump for the how-to!

Proportion is key with dyeing.  RIT recommends 1 package of their powder and 3 gallons of hot water to one pound of fabric.  But how much is a pound of fabric?  Well, some of our heaviest socks are the Long Cuffable Scrunchables and they weigh in around 8 ounces.

With 16 ounces to a pound, you’ll want to use just a half package and 1-1.5 gallons of water if you’re dyeing just one pair of longer socks, on average.  I’m just dyeing a single sock here (a Ribbed M Stocking in Natural), so I’ll halve that again.

Before you do anything, get your socks thoroughly wet.  This will help the dye wick into the fibers and you’ll get a less patchy finish.

Mix your dye and a little hot water in the small container. Put your socks in the larger bowl with the rest of the hot water.  Mixing the dye separately avoids clumps of un-dissolved dye making dark marks on your socks. For example purposes, I've cut my sock in half, to show you two dyeing methods.

Add the diluted dye to the bowl with the socks, stirring well. You can see that there are specks of undissolved dye, so get right in there and mix it up so nothing makes a permanent speck on what you're dyeing.

Now, there are two schools of thought for the next step.  You can stir and agitate your socks for 10-30 minutes (depending on how pastel or vibrant you want the colour), or you can put something on top of what you’re dyeing to weigh it down and let it sit there for two hours untouched.  The result will be patchier, but if you're going to be adding more dye or embellishment to it later, it doesn't matter as much. Socks tend to be a mix of fibers and although dyes like RIT are made to work with fiber blends, the thickness of the sock and the mix of fibers can make it a little more difficult to get an even dye job with.

If you're just leaving it be, put something on top of what you're dyeing so that it doesn't float up.  A small plate works.

The bowl on the left I’m agitating and the bowl on the right I’m leaving be.  Remember, what you’re dyeing will look darker when wet and in the dye than the finished colour will be.  So if you’re trying to go dark, go a little longer than you think it needs.


Below are snaps at 5, 10 and 15 minutes in the dye bath.  There is a subtle difference, but how much of that sticks really does depend on how long what you're dyeing has been saturated.

I want these to be about middle-vibrant, so I only agitated for twenty minutes.  One they’d done their time in the dye bath, however long it is, rinse in warm water, gradually adding cooler water, until the rinse water runs clear.

On the left is the agitated sock (ha!) and the right is the one that just sat in dye.  This is why, if you want an even dye job, you have to agitate, as annoying as it is:

If you’re trying to dye pastel shades or are only going for a single colour evenly dispersed, the agitation method will work best, because you can better keep track of how much dye is taking hold.  If you're going to dye another colour on top of this one, then the patchier result of just letting it sit in dye may work for you.

Give your freshly dyed sock a quick handwash and let it dry, either on the line or in the dryer.  Once it is dry it’s ready to be turned into whatever your imagination demands!

There are a million variations for the dyeing process and we’ll go over some fun ones next week (including my favourite way to cover up a patchy dye job like the sock on the right!).  Until then— if you’ve picked up a regular Crafty Bundle or a Dyer’s Batch, or if you’ve taken the plunge and dyed a pair of socks on your own, please share it here or on our Facebook!