Rainbow Dye Silk

Knit yourself this lightweight summer top, using a free knitting pattern made with handspun rainbow-dyed silk

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Rainbow Dyed Silk

An easy-to-knit pattern that uses handspun silk yarn. A Dice Block design gives a simple but effective finished edge to the stockinette stitch, knit of rainbow-dyed shimmering silk, reminiscent of mother of pearl. The Dice Block is repeated across the shoulders of the back, adding extra interest to the design. A square neckline and short, set-in sleeves make this top a delightful addition to your summer wardrobe.

The tussah silk top was Rainbow Dyed prior to handspinning.

tussah silk roving

Hand dyed silk top

This method of rainbow dyeing can be used on wool, silk, mohair or other protein-based fibeers. For this sweater project, I used 8 ounces of tussah silk top.

  • Thoroughly wet the silk top. This will allow the dye to be absorbed more readily.
  • Fill a large pot with hot water.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the dyepot and stir.
  • Add 2 – 4 oz. of fibre or yarn into the dyepot.
  • Using the end of a chopstick, dip it into the dye powder and then place the dye into the edge of the dyepot.
  • With another chopstick, dip it into another colour of dye powder and place the dye into the dyepot on the other side of the dyepot.
  • If using 3 or more colours, repeat the previous steps.
  • If dyeing more wool, place another layer of wool into the dyepot and repeat, changing the location of dye placement.
  • Allow dyepot to simmer at least 20 minutes, or until all the dye has exhausted.
  • If the dye is exhausted before you have sufficient colour, you can add more dye, by gently lifting the edge of the fibre and adding more dye. Simmer for another 20 minutes, if you have added more dye.
  • If there is still dye in the dyepot and the fibre isn’t absorbing more colour, then add a bit more vinegar.
  • When you have achieved the colour that you want, turn off the heat and allow the dyepot to cool.
  • Remove the dyed fibre from the dyepot, squeeze out excess moisture and let dry.



This was a good quality silk top, and easy to spin, but the dye process caused the fibre to be a bit sticky and more difficult to handle. A gentle teasing and pulling apart of the fibre before spinning made it easier much to spin. For really sticky silk, you can use hand cards or a drum carder.

Pull the roving apart into shorter sections, lengthwise. Feed it through the carder, a small amount at a time. As this was good quality, spinnable top to start with, all of it can be used. If some silk fibre sticks to the front roller of the carder, gently brush it off and feed it through the carder again.
dyed silk
drum carder

(Note: Although the silk sweater in the project is pink, the sample of the dyed silk is blue – I dyed more silk in order to take this photo)


I spun the silk using the smallest whorl on my spinning wheel. 20:1. Silk should be spun with a fairly tight twist. I spun this yarn as a 2 -ply at 12 tpi and 1200 ypp.

Silk Top Knitting Pattern

Books – Dyes and Colour
Color by Accident: Low-Water Immersion Dyeing
The Yarn Lover’s Guide to Hand Dyeing: Beautiful Color and Simple Knits
Yarns to Dye For
Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece: Custom-Color Your Favorite Fibers with Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing, and Other Creative Techniques
Yarn Works: How to Spin, Dye, and Knit Your Own Yarn
Tie-Dye: Dye It, Wear It, Share It
Prepared to Dye: Dyeing Techniques for Fiber Artists

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Author: Paivi Suomi

I've had an interest in weaving, looms, yarns and textiles since I was a small child. I learned to knit, crochet, sew, do needlepoint at my mother's knee. My grandmother was a Saami from northern Norway. I am very interested in studying more about tradtional Saami and Finnish style weaving and handicrafts. Paivi Suomi