Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Yarn dying for dummies.

Last week I had some days off (I know, it seems strange to me as well). I was itching to start a new knitting project. The sun was shining, it was warm, and the neighbourhood was quiet (tourist season hasn't begun yet). I decided that a walk to my Local Yarn Store (Yarn Forward and Sew On) was in order. I didn't know what I wanted or what I wanted to cast on.

The store is packed with colour (what yarn store isn't?) But I settled on some undyed Cascade Heritage Solid sock yarn. It's so soft and bouncy. It's actually one of my favourite yarns. I'm a junky for merino wool. But, I never buy white. Ever. I never knit with it.

Then it hit me. I could dye it! And it's super simple too. Here's my quick guide for dying yarn.

1. Get some undyed yarn (it has to be animal fibre -- wool, alpaca, llama, for example -- for this method to work). Make sure it is still in skein-form (it is also called a hank. It's one of those regional things like soda and pop). Also make sure that the skein has been tied a few times, this makes it easier to wind when it is time to knit with it.

2. Get some white vinegar and food colouring -- both available in any grocery store (it was even in the same aisle at mine).

Easy right?


3. Undo your skein, so it's a big loop. Soak your yarn in COLD water and vinegar for about 20 minutes. I use a 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar ratio. To be honest, I pour in just enough vinegar, so I can smell it. I'm not really good at measuring.

4. In the meantime, prep your dye. I pour a glass of water and add a bunch of food colouring. Remember that the colour will dilute, so if you want a dark colour, add more. The best part of this method is that all these items are food safe. This means that you can use your pots for cooking food after. I know many knitters use acid dyes to dye their yarn. I would love to, but I don't have room for a whole new set of pots. I also cringe at the thought of cooking something totally toxic in my kitchen. If I had the room and money for a dye studio, I would totally have one. But I still live like a student, so I stick to this method. It's easy, and it's safe for pets, kids, and oblivious boyfriends.

5. Once your yarn is saturated with water and your dye is ready, fill a pot with COLD water, add your dye and plop your yarn in. I then push down the yarn with a spoon. I add more vinegar at this point too. Just to be sure that the dye will remain colour fast.

This is a whole bottle of yellow food colouring, with a few drops of neon pink.

6. Throw a lid on the pot and turn the burner on to LOW.

7. Let the mixture warm up. DO NOT BOIL IT! I let mine hang out in the pot for about an hour. Check the water, when it is clear, all the dye has been soaked up. Turn off the heat and let it sit until the yarn is cool.

8. You now need to rinse the yarn. It is vital that the yarn and the rinse water is the SAME TEMPERATURE. I let my yarn cool completely before I rinse (sometimes over night). Once rinsed, let the skein dry. And voila! New yarn!

Here's how mine turned out.

2 new skeins of yarn!

The most important things to remember in yarn dying is that you need to keep things at a consistent temperature or it will felt (that means that it will shrink and turn into a huge mess... ask me how I know!)

Now I have two awesome skeins of yarn and I have no idea what to make with them. Any suggestions???



  1. I have wanted to dye yarn for a while now! I guess I just need to go do. I stocked up on a bunch of Easter egg dye pellets on sale this year with dying yarn in mind.

    Great blog so far gals! Thanks for sharing. I can't wait for the next post.

  2. Dying is so easy and fun! And you never really know what you will end up with!

    It's fun to dye the finished project too!

    Please show us what you've dyed up.