How to Dye Yarn–Part 3

We’ve got out yarn picked out. We’ve got our dye picked out. Now, what do we DO with all this stuff!?

I am going to walk you through three methods of dyeing across the next couple posts that should work for several kinds of dye. Of course, you can always just follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the composite or acid dyes, but what fun is that really?

So, here’s what I did:

Protein Fiber Dyed with Food Coloring

The first step in any recipe SHOULD be to gather what you need. For this process, you will need:


  • A medium sized saucepan (this is the ONLY time it’s OK to share with food)
  • Paper towels
  • Food coloring
  • White Vinegar
  • Water
  • A 1/4c measure
  • A 2 c measure
  • Food coloring (or powdered drink mix)
  • A notebook or printout with your instructions
  • 50 g Pre-washed Protein Fiber yarn
  • A chopstick or other thin stick for stirring (optional)

Once you have all those together, put your instructions somewhere you can easily see them without having to touch them. Mine were in a notebook, so I left it open to that page on the table, but the fridge is a good place or pinned to the wall behind the space where you are working.

Since we have just washed our yarn, and we are using food safe ingredients, it should be relatively safe to share pots and measures with your kitchen gear. If you are unsure about ANY part of this process, it is ALWAYS safer to use craft gear over kitchen gear. DO NOT RISK YOUR HEALTH FOR THIS.

Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, lets get cooking:

In your saucepan, mix 1/4c White Vinegar and 1 qt water. Add your yarn and let it soak for 30 minutes. This will help the protein absorb the color later on (this works on Easter eggs too for those of you who are curious).

When your 30 minutes are up, remove the yarn. Gently squish any excess water into the pot and place the yarn somewhere clean so it can rest while you get your dye mixture ready.


With the yarn removed, move your pot to the stove and heat the vinegar/water mixture to a simmer. For those of you like me who struggle with what exactly a simmer is, here’s a video to help. The short of it is, once you see steam coming off the surface and a couple bubbles sticking to the bottom or sides, you’re good.


Now add your food coloring or powdered drink mix. Keep in mind that you will need more than you do to color food. If you’re combining colors, you may want to use a chopstick or other thin stick to stir the dyes together. I used 10 drops of blue and 10 drops of red to make the lavender color we came out with. If you are using powdered drink mix, you will need to decide how dark you want your color and add powder accordingly. The more color you add, whatever your dye choice, the darker the yarn will be (think on a scale from lavender to plum).

papertowelOnce you have added the dye, use the corner of a paper towel to test it. if you like the color you see on the tip, then you’re ready to go, if not, add more dye until you’re happy with the color. REMEMBER: You can always add dye, but you CANNOT take it out. During this process, DO NOT LET THE WATER BOIL.

Now we’re ready to add the yarn (you may need to use the chopstick here to help the yarn get all the way into the pot). Make sure the yarn is entirely covered in water. DO NOT BOIL THE YARN it will frizz out.

Leave the yarn on the heat until all of the dye has been absorbed. The dye has been absorbed when the water is clear or basically clear.  As a general rule, the longer is sits the more dye it will take, but there’s only so much dye in the pot and there’s only so much room in the fiber. Keep in mind too that as the water is cooling, the yarn will sit in the dye water and absorb more.


Take the pot off the heat (like not on the same burner anymore) and let the water cool to room temperature. Depending on your climate and the room temperature, this timing will vary. If the water still feels warm, let the yarn set. The color is setting right now and taking it out of the water too soon may result in a lighter color than you wanted.


When the water has cooled, remove the yarn and rinse it in cold water. When the rinse water runs clear, gently squish excess water out of the yarn and hang it to dry. Make sure you have something underneath it like a tub or bowl to catch any spare water that may come off of it. I used a spare hanger and the washtub for this part.

Again, depending on your climate and the room temperature, the time for this part will vary. I know it’s tempting to grab the hair dryer or put a space heater nearby, but please DON’T. Letting the yarn hang dry is generally best for this type of fiber anyway and the last thing you want is to get all the way to the end and frizz out your yarn.

Once it’s dry, wind or ball it up and it’s ready to use!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s