tutorial… dyeing yarn with food colouring

Let’s get straight to it, shall we?! This method of dyeing will not work on yarn that is plant based (eg: 100% cotton). I’m using Patons Big Baby, which is 60% Acrylic and 40% Nylon. It takes the colour well, but I’m sure 100% wool would be much more vibrant.

You will need: Yarn of your choice; Slow cooker; Food colouring; Measuring spoons; Paint brush; White vinegar; Stainless steel bowl; Small cups; Cling wrap.

1. Prepare your yarn by soaking it 4 cups warm water and 2 cups white vinegar, for half an hour. The vinegar helps the colour penetrate the yarn.

2. While you’re waiting for the yarn to soak, put some water in the slow cooker and set it to a low simmer. To make the dye, I used 2 teaspoons of food colouring and 6 tablespoons of warm water. You can add a small amount of vinegar to the dye as well, but I find it sometimes makes the colour split, especially if you’re mixing red and blue to make purple. Lay some cling wrap on your work surface large enough to lay the yarn on. After half an hour, squeeze as much of the liquid out of the yarn as you can, and lay it on the cling wrap.

3. Yay! The fun part! Painting the yarn! How you do this is completely up to you! I like to use an old paint brush and dab the colour on, then using a gloved hand, gently push and squeeze the colour into the yarn. Seeing as I didn’t have a lot of yarn, I chose two colours only, blue and red. I wanted to minimise the amount of purple at the colour join, so I left a large gap in between.

4. Once all the yarn is fully painted, wrap it in the cling wrap you have on your work surface. Try to wrap it so that the different colours don’t touch. Place it in the stainless steel bowl, and put this in the slow cooker. My slow cooker has a little metal rack inside it, so the bowl isn’t resting directly on the bottom of the pan. There should also be water left in the slow cooker. If not, add some more now. Whack it up to the highest setting, put the lid on, and let it cook for one hour. Try not to lift the lid to investigate, you’ll let all the hot steam out. It is best to clean up, and just walk away, go and do something else!

5. Once the hour is up, carefully (please be careful!) remove the bowl from the slow cooker and put it somewhere to cool down. Once the yarn is completely cooled, remove the cling wrap and rinse the yarn in cool/warm water. When the water runs clear, you can gently wash the yarn in wool wash, or like me, regular old shampoo. Squeeze as much liquid out as you can, and put it somewhere to dry.

Once it’s dry, wrap it in a pretty hank and ta-dah! You’re all done! Now it’s time to marvel over your freshly dyed yarn, take a million pictures of it, look at it in the sunlight, in the shade, and decide what on earth you’re going to make with it.

The colours aren’t as vibrant as I would have liked, but I’m guessing that has a lot to do with the fact that I am using rather cheap food colouring (99 cents a bottle), and the yarn is made up of mostly acrylic fibres. Anyway, I’m happy with how it turned out, and when I finally knit something with it, I’ll let you know!

Have you used this method of dyeing before? I find it works well for me, but if you have a slightly different approach I’d love to hear it! If you try my version, let me know how you go, and feel free to share photos of your marvellous creations!!


One thought on “tutorial… dyeing yarn with food colouring

  1. Pingback: dyeing wool with food colouring… | this girl has knits

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