Breaking Black

Breaking Black Yarn

I’ve been enamored with the notion of intentional spinning of late, which is to say, spinning yarn for a specific project. I spun several hundred yards of a Romney-Angora laceweight blend, intending it for a shawl. When I finished, I was quite pleased with the end result, and, overambitious soul that I am, I said, “Hey, why not dye this intentionally too?”

I have only played with dyeing yarns solid or ombre up until now, but for some reason, I thought my beautiful skein of handspun would be well served by my assassination of the handpainting process.


The color palette I was using for inspiration was this room design off Pinterest. I aimed to get two different shades of gray, a deep chocolate brown, and a pop of rich teal in medium color runs. What I got was this:

Breaking Black Yarn
So…not even close to what I was going for.

It’s not entirely hideous, but neither is it the carefully designed set of colors I was aiming for. Mangy is the word that comes to mind, but maybe it will knit up better?

I had watched this very good tutorial on using food colors and a microwave to do handpaint dyeing, and the gal mentioned the possibility of “breaking black,” which is to say, breaking black into its component pigments. I somehow thought she meant that this would be difficult to do, not difficult to avoid, and so I blunder blithely on, thinking I could just using differing concentrations of black pigment for the different grays.

I swear that the paper towel test gave me the exact colors I was looking for. Clearly, there is something more going on in how the yarn takes up dye and I have much to learn. Especially about producing gray, because I happy to love gray at the moment, and I would like to be able to produce it consistently.

I think my next approach will be to try doing a gray ombre, with teal at one end and foregoing the brown. Hoping that the immerson bath will keep the dye more consistent and less broken. Any advice, you veteran dyers?