Hand-Dyed Cotton Socks

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Cover courtesy STC Crafts/Abrams
Kristine Vejar demystifies the magic behind natural dying in “The Modern Natural Dying” with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions.

You can produce a limitless rainbow of colors with tree bark, fungi, flowers, plants and even some bugs. In The Modern Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen and Cotton at Home(STC Craft, 2015), Kristine Vejar offers user-friendly DIY techniques for producing consistent and long-lasting color for a variety of textiles. The following excerpt from Chapter 5, “Dyeing with Extracts,” will teach you how to make colorful, hand-dyed cotton socks.

Skills Learned: Basic dyeing on cellulose-based goods, Using a wheat bran bath

Use this project to become acquainted with the process of using extracts on cellulose-based fibers, and refer to the Cellulose Shade Card to make these socks in the colors and shades of your choice. Remember that the extracts listed on the Shade Card can be combined to make even more colors.

These socks are perfect for a first project dyeing cotton because the knit fabric soaks up dye easily. If you are using new socks, wash them several times before dyeing to prepare the fibers. Or dye some comfy old socks to brighten them up. Seeing a pop of color under a pant leg is nearly always uplifting. Use a teaspoon of the following dyes (or use the Shade Card for Cellulose-Based Fibers, available with book purchase, if dyeing by weight) to create the colors shown—weld (yellow), cochineal (magenta), or madder (red).


• White 100% cotton socks, 64g, scoured and mordanted, dipped in wheat bran bath (I used Maggie’s Organics Socks)

Dyeing Materials and Tools

• 1/4cup (60mL) hot water
• 1 teaspoon (5mL) dye extract
• 10 cups (2.4L) water
• Kitchen scale
• 5-quart (4.7L) stainless-steel pot with lid
• Measuring cup
• Measuring spoons
• Stirrer, such as whisk or spoon
• Tongs
• Timer
• Thermometer
• Rubber gloves

Dyeing Directions

Note: The dyeing directions are the same for any color you choose. The materials at left will dye approximately one pair of socks.

1. Remember to dip the socks in the wheat bran bath before beginning to dye.

2. Add the 1/4 cup (60mL) hot water to a measuring cup. Add the dye extract of your choice to the cup and stir until dissolved.

3. Combine the dissolved dye and 10 cups (2.4L) of water in a pot. Add the scoured and mordanted socks.

4. Place the pot on a burner. Slowly, over 30 minutes, bring the dyebath to 200 degrees F (88 degrees C), turning the socks every 15 minutes. Simmer for an additional hour, continuing to turn the socks every 15 minutes.

5. Turn off the heat. Let the socks rest until cool.

6. Wash the goods and allow to dry.

Learn how to make these socks, and three more projects, withDIY Kits from Kristine Vejar.

Reprinted with permission fromThe Modern Natural Dyerby Kristine Vejar and published by STC Craft, an imprint of Abrams, 2015. Photography by Sara Remington.