I was asked to take some pics of my dyeing process and I figured I might as well write a tutorial while I'm at it. First off, I'm NOT a professional, not even a very experienced self-learned dyer, but pretty much a beginner dyer with a couple of successfull dyeing batches under my belt. So there's much room to improve, but I think this is a nice basic technique.
Currently I use liquid reactive dyes and vinegar to dye wool. However, as soon as I get my hands on acid dyes, I'll drop the reactive dyes because I don't like working with liquids - they're difficult to measure and quite messy, but right now they're all I've got. The process with acid dyes is pretty similar.
This technique works on animal fibres such as wool and silk. This does NOT work on cotton or linen! So far I've used only superwash wool, so it doesn't felt during the process. On the other hand, this can be done almost without agitating the wool at all, so any type of wool should be fine as long as you handle it carefully.
So let's begin!
The first step is to soak the yarn in water+vinegar mixture. I don't measure the vinegar, but I'm guessing it's somewhere around 0,5-1dl vinegar/3l water. The amount doesn't seem very critical. I let the yarn soak for half an hour, so that it's completely wet.
Meanwhile I prepare the dyeing table. I use a large bowl with flat bottom and place a smaller bowl upside down in the middle of it. The reason for this is to make it easier to keep the yarn and dyes in order later. Finally I cover the bowl(s) with plastic wrap and mix the dyes.
I use the water-vinegar mix as a base for the dyes as well. As mentioned earlier, it's pretty difficult to measure the liquid dyes correctly so I'm pretty much just dripping the dyes into the water until I reach the desired color. You can always alter the colors during dyeing if you don't like the shades on yarn. So trial and error is the key here! ;)
Next I take the yarn, squeeze it as dry as possible and place it in the bowl.
And then to the fun part! You can use brush, sponge, spoon or whatever you like to add the dye on the yarn. I mostly use spoon or pour the dye straight from the cup (careful if you do this, you don't want to soak the yarn all the way at once!)
I also squeeze the yarn gently every once in a while to let the dye spread. If you don't use superwash yarn, you probably want to skip this step!
And the next color.
...and repeat. Squeezing helps the colors to blend nicely together, but again, DON'T do this if your yarn is prone to felt!
What makes things interesting, wool doesn't take all colors in the same way. Some colors seem to sink right in and others refuse to stay in at all. It seems that red is the first to run out and yellow is next, whereas blue sticks to the yarn best. So if you "feed" your yarn with too much dye, it prefers to ingest the blue and spit reds and yellows out as can be seen in the picture. If the amount of dye is good, the excess water dripping out will be clear. When it starts to get tinted, it means the sequence of yarn has had enough dye and doesn't really take any more. Unless it's blue.
When you're done with painting, gently squeeze the skein to get rid of the excess water (again, be careful to avoid felting) and wrap it in plastic wrap.
And then it's time to set the dye. It can be done in different ways, but I find steaming the easiest way. I use an old steam juicer that I bought from a local flea market. It's aluminum which usually isn't recommended for dyeing, but as the yarn or the dye doesn't really come to contact with the aluminum at any point, I don't think it matters.
There they are! Remember to poke some holes in the plastic wrap to let the excess steam escape. I steam the yarns for at least half an hour and let them cool down properly before opening the wraps.
So then all that is left is to wash the yarn in case of excess dye and let it dry. I usually just soak the yarn in cool water and if any dye doesn't escape (which usually doesn't), I leave it to dry. If the yarn does bleed some color, I'd probably soak it in water-vinegar mix and repeat the steaming process. So far I've yet to see any color bleeding from the yarns dyed with this method.
I hope this tutorial helps at least some fellow beginners along the way! Enjoy :)