Hand Dying Yarn with Food Coloring

This weekend we had another fun visit from my skilled knitter friend, Kate.  She had a couple gorgeous WIPs with her, and I hope to convince her to let me take pictures of them.  She was making stunning knitted lace with some silk lace yarn she had acquired at last year’s Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, and I can’t want to see what they look like when she’s finished.

While she was here, we thought it would be fun to dye some yarn.  We took some skeins of  romney worsted weight yarn and proceeded to the kitchen.

Using standard kitchen food colors, Kate decided to make her yarns in shades of blues and greens.  I selected autumn colors.   In order to begin, the yarn has to be soaked in water with white vinegar.  We used about 6 cups water with two tablespoons white vinegar.  The acid is what makes the colors bind to the natural wool fibers.  Some dyers also use citric acid to achieve the same result.  We allowed the yarn to soak in this solution for over 30 minutes. 

While this was soaking, we started to prepare our dying solutions and the work area.  To make the dyes, we used small dishes with 1/4 cup water.  To these we added between 5- 12 drops of food coloring, depending on the intensity that we wanted with each color.  This is fun to experiment with. 

To protect the counter we placed clear plastic wrap in a large hollow rectangle on the counter.  The rectangle has to be large enough to accommodate the dimensions of the yarn skein.  It is hollow so that it can be wrapped up around the skein once it is dyed.

Here Kate is almost done applying the colors to her skeins.  She has two skeins side by side so that each will have the same colorway.  She has been applying the dyes with a small syringe.  Please also note her gloves…this can be pretty messy business.

painting yarn

When finishes applying the dyes, Kate starts rolling the plastic around the skein from the outside it.  You want to enclose the skein so that one side does not touch the other and have color leaking into other parts.  You end up with a large hollow doughnut shape.  Kate placed this in a Pyrex dish, and put it in the oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.  The heat is necessary to “fix” the dyes.  (You can also microwave the yarn in two minute increments until it is steaming hot and the dye it set.)   After checking it, we decided another ten would help fix the colors.

 baking yarn

After removing the yarn and allowing it to cool, Kate has washed the yarn in warm water and a mild soap.  Wash until the water runs clear and be gentle so that the yarn does not felt.  Here she is showing the completed, yet still wet, product.

wet yarn

The two skeins turned out beautifully!  Some of the blue dyes separated and created spots of purple that add interest to the yarn. 

finished yarn


Kate has already swatched it.

kate yarn swatched

Here are the two skeins made in the autumn shades.  These two are available in our store.

 autumn romney


, ,

3 Responses to “Hand Dying Yarn with Food Coloring”

  1. Kate
    April 23, 2013 at 5:08 PM #

    Thanks so much for letting me dye yarn with you! I still have a couple of skeins of your fingering yarn that I’ve been thinking about…

  2. Jan HP
    August 22, 2013 at 12:33 PM #

    I love your autumn yarn. What colors of food colors did you use? did you use liquid or paste?

    • Meduseld
      August 22, 2013 at 1:25 PM #

      Thanks! They are so much fun to make. With August wrapping up, I think I need to dye some more. For these I used Ateco soft jell pastes. If you don’t mix them much, you get extra color separation on your yarns, which is a fun effect.

Leave a Reply

− 1 = seven

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private.