Wednesday, November 21, 2012

DIY Sock Blanks for Dyeing

Another one of my addictions has been dyeing yarn for socks.  I started out a few years ago with sock blanks and let me tell you that painting blanks is definitely addictive.  I came up with a pretty good  recipe to make my own blanks on my knitting machines so I want to share with you.  I usually buy my sock yarn on cones so I use either a postal scale or fishing line meter to weigh or measure my yarn while winding it off the cone.  The standard skein of sock yarn is 100 gr (3.5 oz) or about 450 yards, depending on the yarn.  Besides being cheaper, another advantage of winding off my own yarn from a cone is that I can put more or less yarn in the blanks, depending on the size foot I’m knitting for...bigger foot, more yarn; smaller foot less yarn.   
When dyeing for socks or mittens that I want to match, I knit my blanks with 2 strands of yarn so I will have an identical cake of yarn for each piece.  If I’m making one article such as a scarf that doesn’t need to match anything, I only knit one strand of yarn in my blanks. 
So here’s how I make my own sock blanks.  I start out with 6 rows of waste yarn and then change to the 2 strands of sock yarn, each strand run through its own tensioner.  Knit the sock yarn, then end with 6 rows of waste yarn again.  Then I run the yarn tail thru the live stitches on the needles and secure.  Do not use a permanent bind off.  Starting and ending with waste yarn allows me to ‘play’ with my blank while painting, such as straightening or pinning it in place.  And it’s easy to unravel after dyeing.
I use my Silver Reed SK860 or Brother KX350 midgauge machines for most of my blanks.  For a 2 stranded blank, I divide the total yarn in half if I’ve wound it from a cone.  Otherwise, knit 2 skeins of 50 grams together.
Sock weight on midgauge machine:
T6 or 7, Scrap CO 60 sts, K6R with waste yarn. Change to sock yarn and knit as far as yardage will go. Scrap off with 6 rows of waste yarn. 

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Sport weight on midgauge machine:
T8, Scrap CO 60 sts, then same as above, about 120 rows for socks. 

DK weight on bulky machine:
T6 or 7, Scrap CO 53 sts, then same as above, about 100 rows for socks.
No matter what yarn or what machine is used, make sure that the blank is not knit tightly. If too tight, the dyes will not penetrate all the nooks and crannies between the stitches and white or lighter spots will be evident in the finished yarn.
Here’re a couple things I do depending on what I want my result to be.  Most always, I pull out every other or third needle to hold position and slip across for just one row, say every 10 rows or so. That way if I want to keep my dye application in a straight line, the slipped row will act as a guide to keep me straight with the rows.  I get better absorption if I begin painting on the purl side so it's easy to follow the slipped row.  Then I flip the blank over and make sure I have good coverage on the knit side also.
If I want more defined stripes, I add in about 4 to 6 rows of scrap yarn (cotton or acrylic work best cuz doesn’t take up the dye) between my striped areas of dyeing.  Note that the pink rows in this blank are scrap yarn.  The dyes won’t bleed into each other in the  stripes with the waste yarn in there. The blank gets longer but I get better stripes.  In this picture, I’ve only put 2 rows of scrap yarn between the colors and I did get some color bleeding so I added more rows of scrap yarn on subsequent blanks for stripes.
After my blank has been dyed, rinsed and air dried, I then remove the waste yarn and unravel the dyed yarn into 2 cakes, ready for knitting.  Don’t worry about the kinks, they won’t be noticeable when knit. 
In my next post, I’ll show some of the blanks I’ve dyed and the resulting socks and/or mittens.  Pretty much fun and gratifying.   


  1. Fabulous, Thank you so much for the info, you are a legend!

  2. Really useful info. You have added some refinements to the typical sock blank that make it a real art!

  3. Great tips! I'm wondering what yarn you use, please and thanks!

    1. Thanks and you're welcome. I've used several superwash yarns over the years but right now I'm in love with Cascade Heritage sock yarn in natural color. It's very nice and won't break the bank. I've used Kona superwash fingering on cones but it contains no nylon content. However, it's a nice yarn but the price has gone pretty high. I also really liked Valley Franklin Natural on cones until they changed their manufacturing process earlier this year and the resulting yarn is far from being nice, for socks or anything for that matter. Opal has come out with solid colors now, which is great yarn, but kind of pricey especially after adding in the dyes and dyeing time involved. Oh, and I need to include Kraemer Yarns. I've been testing some of their superwash natural yarns for dyeing and I like Wilma and Leslie the best. Very nice 100% merino. And best of all, Kraemer yarns are spun in mills in PA. Hope this helps a bit.

  4. Thanks! The Cascade isn't available on cone, is it? While I do love 100% wool for mittens, I think I do like a bit of nylon for socks. I love how you've shown the blmanks and the finished results, especially the "tiger stripped" socks. I'm checking out the link is you sent me on Ravelry too. I'm afraid this might get addicting! I've done dyeing before, hut not a blank yet!

    1. No, Cascade Heritage isn't available on cones as far as I know. I'd love to be able to find a nice natural sock yarn on cones. If you do, please let me know. Addicting, you ask? Of course! But it keeps us off the streets, LOL. Check out the projects in 'Sock Blank Artists' and 'the grrreat tiger wool experiment' groups on Ravelry. Your head will be swimming with blanks you want to try.

  5. Thank you for the instructions, it's amazing what you can do!