How to Make a Gradient Dip-Dyed Shawl, Scarf or Wrap
I have been wanting to show you this since Christmas, as it was a present I made for my mom. But you know how time can just get away from you and things get pushed to the back burner.
Well, no more! I love this gradient shawl so much that I had to stop everything today and finally get a post written, showing you this ombre gray-to-cream shawl/wrap/big scarf thing. 🙂
Isn’t it beeeeautiful beyond? I think so.
My mom thought so. But of course, she’s so loving and supportive that if I handed her a box of horse doodoo she’d exclaim how nicely I placed it in the box and what a lovely shade of brown it was. LOVE YOU, MOM!!!
Wondering how I made it and how you can make one similar?
Here’s How! (I’m regretful that I didn’t take step-by-step photos… but hopefully the final pictures are pretty enough to inspire you to give this a go!)
Step 1. Knit, Crochet or Weave a scarf or shawl in the size and length you prefer.
I wove this one, using my Schacht flip loom. I didn’t measure the shawl, but it was about 2 feet wide, I think… and a few feet long. Sorry… rough estimates, I know.
I used an undyed version of my fluffy and squishy (one of my all-time favorite yarn bases) aran weight superwash merino. It can be machine-washed (but hand-washing is preferable as it keeps your item looking new longer), is warm but not sweltering and is just so darn squishable. Ideal for projects for all ages too. Really, I love it.
Note: Weaving is really awesome if you have hand or wrist pain from knitting or crocheting. If you have a smidgen of extra space in a closet somewhere, you can store your loom there. So it doesn’t take up much extra space. And then you can just plop it on your lap, sit the back of the loom on a stool or something and go to town weaving. It’s REALLY fast (compared to knitting and crocheting) and just gives you another creative outlet.
I’m a HUGE fan of knowing multiple crafts, so you don’t get bored with one, or worse (like I did) develop really severe wrist pain.
IF KNITTING: Most stitches will be fine for over-dyeing, but really just a basic garter stitch or stockinette type stitch will work fine. I find simple patterns are best for this type of thing, as you want the dyeing to take center-stage and not be overwhelmed by a crazy stitch pattern. But whatever floats your boat.
IF CROCHETING: You can over-dye crocheting, but since it’s generally tighter than knitting or weaving, you’ll want to make sure to either crochet loosely, or do a test swatch first. Crochet a small bit, dye it like you would the real thing and see how it turns out. If you crochet too tightly, you might end up with undyed bits inside each stitch. You might like that look, though. Up to you.
IF WEAVING: I really didn’t experience any problems, as my weaving was pretty loose. So just weave away.
Step 2: Dye It!
Here’s what I did. I should have taken pictures, but didn’t. But trust me, it’s pretty easy!
1. Fill a large pot (mine’s about a foot tall, but you can use whatever you have) with COOL or LUKE WARM water and set it on the stove to start heating up. Very important! If you start with boiling water, the dye has a tendency to stick immediately to your project and create a harsh, dark area, rather than subtly spreading out like shown in this wrap.
2. Add your dye. You can use Kool-Aid, Wilton cake dyes (plus add a few splashes of vinegar or the dye won’t set), food coloring (add vinegar like with the cake dyes), Rit Dye or professional wool acid dye, like I used. These will work on ANIMAL fibers, including silk. For plant-based fibers like cotton or linen, use Rit Dye. I chose a lovely gray tone, but you can pick any color you like. Do some test swatches first to make sure you like your color before dunking your final piece in! How much dye? I did about 1 tsp of acid dye for mine… use LESS than you think, as you can always redye it, but you can’t take dye off! Try starting with one packet of Kool-Aid for example, for a scarf this size. (This took about 3 skeins/300g/10.5 oz of wool)
3. Soak your shawl/scarf/wrap in lukewarm water until thoroughly saturated (the more you let it soak, the more even your final piece will look). I soaked mine about 10 minutes or so.
4. Dunk! Decide how you want to dye your scarf. I folded mine in half (holding the tassled ends together) and began dunking the middle of the scarf into the dye water once it started to warm up.
5. Continue dunking little by little as the water continues to heat… The dye will soak into the initial part of the scarf, and then should appear lighter and lighter as you continue to lower it, raise it to check, lower it a bit more, raise it to check… etc. It’s a bit of an eye-balling/art type thing rather than a science. If you find the dye isn’t getting lighter as you continue to dunk, it probably means you’re going too fast (sloooowwww down cowgirl…. it’ll take awhile… anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour total, depending upon your fiber type, size of shawl and dye amount) OR you’ve added too much dye and it just won’t ever soak in. If you really feel like you’ve added too much dye, just remove your shawl, dump out about half of the dye water, refill with water, and continue to dunk. You’ll have diluted your dye enough that it should hopefully work for you!
Step 3: Rinse.
Once all the dye has soaked in or you’re satisfied with your new gradient/ombre (hombre?) shawl, remove it and lay it in the sink to cool. Keep undyed parts AWAY from dyed parts! Once cool, gently rinse with luke warm water to remove any excess dye, MAKING SURE to keep the dyed parts away from the undyed parts, just in case any remaining dye decides to transfer. If you lay a dark gray, freshly dyed section of wool onto undyed wool, the color WILL most likely transfer, leaving a blob on the fresh, undyed part. So just be careful.
Step 4: Dry.
Lay out how you want the finished piece to look and let dry. You can pin it into place if you like, but I didn’t. I just put mine onto our hardwood floors near a heat vent. It’ll take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to dry, depending upon your weather, humidity, temperature, fiber type, etc.
And voila. You should now have a gorgeous piece you are delighted with!
-DO A TEST SWATCH FIRST. I can’t emphasize this enough. Make a bitty square using your preferred technique (knitting, crocheting, weaving) and mix up a bitty amount of dye and TEST TEST TEST. Unless you like to fly by the seat of your pants and you don’t really care if the finished item turns out. Then just throw caution to the wind and go for the full piece right away.
-Each fiber will react differently. Even superwash wool reacts differently (usually takes up the dye faster) than regular wool. If you’re using cashmere, silk, cotton, alpaca, a blend or any other fiber, they will each respond differently. Dyeing is a bit like letting go of the reigns and just seeing what happens. But that’s part of the fun.
-No stressies allowed! You can always over-dye the final piece into a dark, solid color if you’re unhappy with how it turns out!
-You’re not limited to just a scarf or shawl! Try dyeing a sweater you thrifted, or a pair of wool socks, or dish cloths or kitchen towels. Lots of options!
-Just have fun with it! Yarn crafts should bring us joy, so just love the process, play and see what happens.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! I hope to do more for you soon.
(In case you’re wondering why I’m not grinning from ear to ear, it was about -20 F that day and we were, needless to say, rushing to get good photos. EEK! So cold!)
Let me know in the comments below what color YOU’D choose for an ombre/gradient look like this. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Until next time…