Yarn Dyeing

Adventures in Yarn Dyeing at home!! (Gel Food Coloring vs. Kool Aid)

Hello  All,

I’m just going to jump right to it.  In my last post I talked about me wanting to dye my own yarn and how afraid I was of attempting to do it. I researched a lot of different ways to dye yarn at home and I felt better about using food coloring and kool aid at first and making my way towards using acid dyes. I’m not experienced at dyeing yarn AT ALL!! Plus, with all of the fun that goes into it, it’s not something you casually do when using more industrial products.

Last week I was at my local grocery store and I was looking for my favorite gluten free cake mix and happened upon the cake decorating section. I had already picked up the kool aid colors that I wanted so I just went ahead and picked up some gel food coloring as well. They didn’t have a great selection of food coloring and the only brand I could find was Betty Crocker. I was looking for McCormick food coloring but they didn’t have any of their products at all. I checked out and made my way home .

Betty Crocker Gel Food Coloring

I’ve been wanting to make some socks that kind of had a tie dyed feel to them, so when choosing the yarn that I wanted to use and I went to what has become one of my favorite yarn sites Knit Picks. I was scrolling through the site and came upon their Bare Yarn selection and at the time they were having a REALLY good sale on their site. I chose the Bare Rustic Wool Fingering and I also chose Bare WOTA Superwash Worsted just to test it out and see if I liked it.

Now onto the yarn dyeing (rubs hands with glee)!! I soaked my fingering yarn in luke warm water and unlike the first time I dyed yarn, I had to add vinegar to the water because I was using gel food coloring. As I stated in my first blog post about dyeing yarn with food coloring and kool aid, you have to add acid in the soaking liquid . This step opens the fibers of the yarn and allows the color to penetrate through the strands. So I in this case I added 3 tablespoons of plain white vinegar and let the yarn soak for 30 minutes.

As the yarn was soaking, I was getting my color mixtures ready. I measured and poured a half cup of luke warm water in disposable cups because I didn’t want to stain my everyday mugs ( I will be purchasing some plastic squirt bottles for future dyeing) and proceeded. I added proper amounts of food coloring to each cup ( I had 3) to make a dark blue, green, and what was supposed to be a dusty rose color but it ended up coming out purple…lol Hey, it’s an experiment and I just went with it.

Next, I poured the colors onto the yarn and pressed it into the fibers. Just a tip for you guys out there, don’t forget to put your gloves back on. I looked like a smurf for 2 days trying to get the dye off of my hands and still had a slight blue tinge to my fingers.

What my hands looked like after 2 days of vigorously washing them.

I waited for 20 minutes so the dye could penetrate the yarn and while waiting I started heating up my steamer pot to heat the yarn and set the dye. Next, I wrapped my yarn in plastic wrap and placed it in my steamer pot for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes was up I placed the yarn on my counter top to cool completely. This took may about 15 minutes because it’s super hot here in Michigan and I’ve had my central air on consistently for the last month.

Now the time had come to wash the yarn and dry it. I’m not going to say that I was completely please at how the colors came out but I definitely wasn’t disappointed either. I created a unique colorway just for me and I’m proud of that.

Fingering yarn after washing.

I let it dry and put it back in the hank it came in and set it aside. Then, this past Saturday I decided to finally dye the other skein of yarn that I purchased from Knit Picks. With this yarn I used the same method I used when I dyed my first skein of yarn with kool aid. I wanted to it to look like a sunset and I believe I achieved that.

Left: Knit Picks WOTA Worsted Weight Superwash Yarn Right: Knit Picks Rustic Wool Fingering Yarn.

Now that I’ve hand painted yarn with both food coloring and kool aid, I can say that I prefer hand painting with kool aid better.  Although the colors are beautiful with food coloring, they are a bit muted for my personal taste and that could be because of the type of gel food coloring I used. I’ll be going to my local JoAnn Fabrics and purchasing Wilton food coloring since they have more a of variety of colors that I can play with. The next time I dye with food coloring , I will  try dip dyeing the yarn or use the low immersion method of dyeing for a more tonal look. I can see myself  getting my confidence up and inching closer to using acid dyes by the New Year if I keep up this pace. I’ll be hinting to the people in my life what I want for Christmas this year.

Until next time,

Tacia – Creator of Joanna Crochet


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