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Dyeing Yarn At Home

Updated on October 30, 2013

Beautiful Yarn Colors

I keep a lot of bare yarn in my yarn cupboard. This way, if I need a small amount of yarn for details of a knitting project, I can dye the color myself rather than spending the money on a whole new ball of yarn.

In this lens, I am going to share my favorite dyeing projects. The yarn is beautiful on it's own, it almost doesn't matter what the final knit object was!

Dyeing Yarn Purple

Dyeing Yarn in Your Kitchen with Kool-Aid
Dyeing Yarn in Your Kitchen with Kool-Aid

Dyeing Wool/Acrylic Blends

I started off dyeing yarn at home because I had a lot of off white Lion Brand Wool Ease Yarn. This yarn is composed of 20% wool and 80% acrylic. The method I use for dyeing yarn will not work for acrylic fibers, but it did work on the small amount of wool fibers. If I used the same recipes with 100% wool yarn, the colors would be more vibrant than they appear in the picture on the right.

My favorite part about dyeing Wool Ease Yarn is that the colors come out looking heathered. If you take a close look at the fibers, you can see the bright colors in what had been the wool fibers.

Natural Dyeing

A Dyer's Garden: From Plant to Pot, Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers
A Dyer's Garden: From Plant to Pot, Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers

All of the dyeing that I have done is based on kitchen products, Kool-Aid, vinegar and food coloring. To dye yarn using plants and other organic materials, you will need to add certain metal salts (called mordants) for the color to take to the yarn. This would make the dyeing process not kitchen safe. That being said, there is something magical about using your back yard as the inspiration for your yarn colors. This is something I hope to try someday.

 

When I am dying yarn in a single color, I like to dye yarn on the stove top. This method is great, especially when you are working with a larger quantity of yarn. I remember that in the case of this particular pink color, when it was simmering it looked like the pot was filled with ground beef! You want to be VERY careful when heating wool. If you agitate the yarn too much while it is in hot water you run the risk of felting the wool.

When I am dealing with small amounts of yarn, I use a microwave as the heat source to avoid wasting dye. (You can get away with a smaller volume of liquid in the microwave.)

Heathered Effect of Dyeing a Wool/Acrylic Blend

This method of dyeing yarn is more similar to tie-dyeing than some of the other dye methods. In this example, I dyed the entire skein yellow, and then dipped on end slowly into a pink bath. The resulting yarn has a gradient of yellow pink through various oranges. The end that was in the pink bath the longest absorbed the most red dye.

Gradient of a Single Color

Hand painting yarn is a little more complicated than dip dyeing yarn because you have to take more precautions to keep your colors from combining completely. When you make up your dye solutions, they are more concentrated than they would be if you were going to use a dye bath. You apply the dye to the pre-soaked skein of yarn in sections, and then wrap the yarn up with saran wrap like a doughnut. Nuking the yarn in the microwave will help the dye set, giving you a stunning and ordered variegated skein of yarn.

Read more about hand dyeing yarn

Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece: Custom-Color Your Favorite Fibers with Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing, and Other Creative Techniques
Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece: Custom-Color Your Favorite Fibers with Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing, and Other Creative Techniques

Hopefully this lens has tempted you to try dyeing yarn in your own kitchen. There are many great books that can teach you different methods of dyeing yarn, and the following is an excellent resource.

 

Does looking at my pictures make you want to try dyeing yarn?

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    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 6 years ago

      Love how colorful your lenses are- eye candy -:)

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      @ChemKnitsBlog2: Wow! Now that is truly awesome and fabulous! Thanks!

    • Craftyville profile image

      Craftyville 6 years ago

      Love the multicolor yarn, blessed by an angel.

    • ChemKnitsBlog2 profile image
      Author

      ChemKnitsBlog2 6 years ago

      @Sylvestermouse: If I'm using KoolAid as the dye, then I don't use vinegar (Citric acid works similarly to help set the dye.)

      The color is really stable. I've felted yarn that I've dyed (into oven mitts) and I don't see any color leaking with soap and hot water.

    • ChemKnitsBlog2 profile image
      Author

      ChemKnitsBlog2 6 years ago

      @Sylvestermouse: If I'm using KoolAid as the dye, then I don't use vinegar (Citric acid works similarly to help set the dye.)

      The color is really stable. I've felted yarn that I've dyed (into oven mitts) and I don't see any color leaking with soap and hot water.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      Oops, forgot to say angel blessed and featured on Squid Angel Mouse Tracks in Crafts.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      This is a pretty cool trick! Can you wash your finished project without the color washing out or fading? Do you recommend setting the color with vinegar? I have never actually tried dying my own yarn, but I like the idea of being able to do that, especially for things like doll hair when it is so hard to find a true, or good color in yard.