Red Cabbage Dyed Yarn

by Cynthia

This week I had fun experimenting with dyeing some superwash yarn. I wanted to try out a few things with dyeing the yarn with red cabbage. I have read in several places that red cabbage is not a dye but a stain like beets. But then other places I read do not mention it being a stain and talk about it being a dye. So I wanted to find out for myself. I dyed two separate skeins of the superwash yarn with red cabbage. Both these skeins I plan on knitting into pairs of baby socks for my daughter. They are bound to go through lots of washings if I knit them for her! Each time they are washed I plan on taking note on if the dye fades out or not.

I also played around with the ph of this dye. To begin I started with a whole head of red cabbage which I chopped up and placed in my dye pot. To this I added rainwater to cover it. I brought this “cabbage soup” slowly to simmer. I tried to keep the temperature under 200° F for an hour. I then allowed it to cool for one hour before I strained it. After straining it, I divided the dye in half. To one half, I mixed in some vinegar to make the bath more acidic. It was pretty cool because the dye immediately changed from being an eggplant purple to a cranberry red. Chemistry can be fun!

before and after vinegar was addedThis picture shows the color change. The cup on the left shows the before vinegar and the cup on the right is after vinegar was added.

To the cranberry red dye I added a skein of yarn that I had mordanted with alum. I brought it once again to a simmer and kept it around 190° F for one hour. I then left it to cool over night.

For the second half of the red cabbage dye, I dissolved some baking soda in warm water and added it to the dye. Now instead of being acidic this dye bath was more alkaline. The baking soda turned the dye an almost turquoise like blue-green. I followed the same procedure with this dye as I did with the previous one: I used superwash yarn that I had mordanted with alum and brought it slowly to a simmer. The only difference was I simmered it for 45 minutes instead of one hour. I wish I simmered it even less then that though because I actually liked the color better after it had been in simmering for about 30 minutes instead of the color it achieved after 45 minutes.

One funny side note about this dye: my house smelt like sauerkraut for quite a while after adding the vinegar to the first dye bath! Not too bad if you like that smell….but it was starting to make me feel a little sick!

So, the final results after being rinsed, dried, and re-skeined? The first skein, the one with the vinegar, turned a really pretty, pale lilac color. The baking soda skein ended up a soft sage green color.

Final Results

They are both such soft colors and look really nice together. I am very curious to see what happens to them after several washings.

I am hoping to be able to cast on some socks out of them this weekend. So, be on the look out for future updates on these two yarns!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

LaWanda July 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm

I would like to know if the color was fast or faded. I really like the colors. Thank you


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