Yarn Dyeing

These tutorials were orginally hosted at the FunKnits Yarn Shop website, which is no longer operating as Fun Knits closed its doors in March 2011. I have placed them here as a resource.

Colour in the Kitchen

Part 1

(The information presented here was learned from articles and blogs on the internet, starting with Knitty.com. , and my own experimentation. I am just an amateur who likes to play with colour. This kind of dyeing is totally addictive and fun, as well as being safe around pets, kids, food, etc.) 

The colour I’ve chosen to create this week is a variegated yarn. To achieve a semi-solid colourway, you can use colours close together on the colour wheel, or you can use different concentrations of one colour. You can also use one colour and not cover the entire yarn, giving you a white and coloured yarn of one colour. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

This week we are going to dye some yarn, using nothing more than some drink mixes and water. To begin with, I have chosen a delicious silk/cashmere lace weight yarn. This yarn is already delightful, but takes colour beautifully. All we need are kool-aid packs in our chosen colours, a glass dish, water and gloves if you don’t want coloured fingers. (Some people choose to use dishes set aside for this purpose, not because of the dye but because it is being used to cook yarn.)

The yarn came already prepared in a skein, which was perfect. I did add some extra cotton ties to the skein, to make sure it holds well. I use cotton as it won’t take up the dye (niether will acrylic). I use a light colour for my ties, just to ensure no dye bleeds from that yarn and so that they are easy to see against the coloured yarn at the end.

the base yarn

To begin I soaked the yarn. This yarn was quite resistant to the water, I had to push the air out and squeeze the water into it a little. I used lukewarm water, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.

 yarn soaking

After the yarn soaked I squeezed it out gently so that it was just damp. I put it in my bowl quite jumbled up, as I’m not going for any colour pattern, just a mix of my colours.

damp yarn in the glass dish

Next I mixed my dyes. The rule of thumb is one packet to 50g of yarn, but that can vary a lot. It really depends on how dark you want your colours, and if you are mixing colours together to achieve a different colour. For this yarn I used four packets to get three colours. I addedwater to the dye until it was the colour I wanted — this can be tested on paper towel.

 lemon-lime, ice blue and mixed grape and ice blue

Then I applied the dye. I did this carefully — not dumping it all at once so that it pooled on the bottom creating muddy colours and also making sure it was worked right through the yarn (this is where the gloves are handy).

 first the green    then the rest

Once the colours were done, I put on the lid (you could cover it with plastic wrap as well). I ‘cooked’ the yarn in the microwave for two minutes on high. I let the yarn rest for about three minutes (in the microwave) and then cooked it again for two minutes. I repeated this for a total of three cooking times. I knew the yarn was ready as there was no coloured water left in the bowl when I gently pushed on the yarn (with my gloves on and carefully as it was hot). I then let the yarn sit and cool. The longer you let it sit, people say, the better the colour will take.

letting the yarn cool is important

Once the yarn cooled I rinsed it. This yarn didn’t need a lot of rinsing as the water ran clear immediately, but rinsing is important just to make sure the dye has set. You rinse until the water runs clear.

 clear water means it’s done!

I squeezed the yarn so that it no longer dripped, and then hung it up. As it was a warm sunny day I hung it on the rack outside, but you can hang it anywhere inside, as long as you put a towel under it to catch drips.

  so pretty in the yard

All wound up and ready to use: 

I thought I’d knit up a bit of the yarn to show how it looks worked up.

This is the lacy scarf pattern that was on the yarn label.

So there you have it. I took a nice skein of soft yarn, and turned it into a one-of-a-kind colourway — the perfect gift for myself or someone special!

Colour in the Kitchen

Part 2

(It should be pointed out that this information comes from my own research and experimenting. I am just an amateur who likes to play with colour.)

So the key to creating patterns in the yarn is in how you skein the yarn. If you use it as is (as I’ve done this week) you will get very short colour repeats. If you want a longer repeat, say for a striped sock, you will need to re-skein the yarn. The longer the yarn, the longer the colour repeat can be. Some people pre-knit the pattern they are going to work and measure how much yarn it will take to create the stripe pattern they want, and then wind their skein to those measurements. Most people will simply wind a long skein (perhaps around two chairs more than a metre apart).

For this week I used an undyed sock yarn, the 80/20 merino nylon blend. This is a great base for colour, and a really nice sock yarn.

Once my yarn was nice and damp from the pre-soak, I started with my dyes. This time however I mixed the kool-aid with water and then poured it into glass jars. I sat the glass jars in a glass dish (in case of spills) and then placed my yarn into the jars. I chose three colours this time: 2 tropical punch, 2 orange and 2 lemon-lime plus one strawberry-kiwi.

 putting the yarn in to the dye

In hindsight it would have been easier if the jars were all one height, but I was happy with white in the pattern.

(There is another technique to doing this. The skein can be set out on cling wrap and then each section can be dyed. The skein is then wrapped to prevent the colours from mixing and placed in the microwave. There are more tutorials on the internet for this method, a good web search will turn up all sorts of ideas and suggestions.)

I cooked this yarn again in two minute intervals, resting in between. This time I squished the yarn in each interval, creating some variegation as the dye weakened each time and the yarn was moved around a little.

cooking the yarn in the dye

It took six cooking sets before I was pleased with the yarn. I could tell the yarn was ready when the water was almost clear (or milky depending on the colour/flavour) in each jar. You can see in the picture below how I was moving the yarn over to get more dye between the red and olive green.

 dye exhausted

Once the yarn had cooled I rinsed it in the sink. To avoid any colour mixing, I rinsed each section before rinsing the skein as a whole.

 rinsing each section

The yarn was left to dry outside and then I wound it up.

 yarn is ready to use

I knit up a small sock to get the stripe action (marigold bloom included for size). 

I also started a diagonal knit scarf to show the colour repeat. I like a diagonal or a chevron pattern for striping yarn.

 Playing with colour repeats can be as exact or inexact as you like. Stripes for a sweater, for a sock, or just fun colour repeats — all can be created as one-of-a-kind colourways in your kitchen!

Colour in the Kitchen

part 3

(A reminder that this information is based on my research and personal experimentation – I am no expert.)

This week we will look at dyeing non-animal fibre natural yarns. These are lovely yarns, making great bags and clothing items (great for babies as well). I chose to dye some bamboo yarn.

Although dyeing these fibres isn’t quite as safe as using food products, done with some care it is safe and fun and certainly can be done in the kitchen. A little more preparation of your work area may be required – setting down plastic and paper and having rubber gloves is a must.

I started with a dye kit purchased from a craft store. These are sold as natural fabric dye kits, and so will work well on plant fibres. There are many colour options to chose from. These kits are perfect, as they come with squirt bottles, which make mixing the dyes a simple task. You simply follow the directions included for preparation of the product.

my kit and yarn

I soaked the yarn in water and washed it with a little detergent to make sure it was clean. The yarn does not need to soak as long as animal fibre does to take up the dye.

I used yellow and blue dye, and squirted at will.

I started with the yellow…

then the blue comes in on top…

keep playing with the dye until you are satisfied!

The dye needs to set, and I taped a plastic bag over the top (you can wrap it in plastic wrap instead) and put it outside for 24 hours (the weather is very warm, otherwise I would have put it inside in a closed room to keep it away from the pets).

tucking in the yarn

After 24 hours I rinsed the yarn (again with my gloves on) until the water ran clear. This took about 5 minutes. Then I hung the yarn out to dry in the yard.

love the yarn in the sun! Total tie-dye.

all wound up — the colours are brighter in person

this is the beginning of the bag pattern that came with the purchase of the bamboo yarn

So although this dyeing requires a little more care, it is still easy. You just follow the directions on the fabric dye for mixing and then get creative with your yarn!

Dyeing Sock Yarn

One of the things I wanted to revisit was dyeing sock yarn in long enough colour repeats to get striping on an adult sock.

The yarn I chose to use was a 80% merino wool / 20% nylon blend undyed sock yarn. You could use any of the undyed sock yarns with this method. Wool, nylon and silk will all take the drink mix colouring and the small amount of bamboo in the other two sock yarns will not affect the absorption enough to be noticeable. Because these skeins are 100g you can dye one skein all the same and get a pair of socks from it.

To begin I wound my yarn out into a very long skein. To do this I put two kitchen chairs about 12 feet apart and wound around them.

my giant skein

I prepared my dye in four large jars, which I placed into a glass dish to avoid any spillage and to keep them all together easily in the microwave. Then I placed a portion of the skein into each jar. I let it soak for a few seconds, and then jogged the bits in between the jars so that they were all coloured.

juggling the yarn so it is all dyed

I ‘cooked’ it in the microwave for two minutes on high, let it rest for two minutes, then repeated. I knew that the yarn was ready when the water in the jars was clear (or milky in the case of the pink and teal).

clear water means all the dye is absorbed

After rinsing in tepid water, I hung it on the dryer rack outside.

yarn drying

The colours aren’t exactly what I wanted – I didn’t have enough blue and it went more green than I had wanted when I mixed the packets together. But that’s ok, it is fun and vibrant and best of all – it stripes!

stripey goodness

Dyeing yarn with drink mixes is fun, safe and creative. For an inexpensive cost I can create my own one-of-a-kind colourways — and so can you!




  1. Hello! I just found this website, and it is so informative! I am just getting into dyeing my own yarn. I haven’t found any undyed yarn yet, so I have been overdyeing some pale pastel yarn. I can’t wait to try out your techniques. I especially love the orange, green and tropical punch one. Thank you for putting this on the web!

    • Thanks Janet! Unfortunately I got all my blank yarns at FunKnits, which is now closed. I believe KnitPicks does a nice undyed yarn. I really love playing with the dyeing, and pale yarn works as well. I did a tan one with cherry and it came out a lovely red colour. Have fun!!

  2. Hi! I was searching for information on dyeing wool and came across your site. Thanks for sharing your tutorial as well as photos. I love the self-striping sock yarn!

    • Hi Sheryl, glad you found these of use! Was a lot of fun putting these together.

Welcome! I always like to hear what people think of a post, it often leads to a great discussion! I am now responding to comments and questions right in the comments themselves, so other people can follow the conversation.

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