How to Dye Yarn the Simple Way

Hello everyone! I had the strongest desire to dye some wool yarn the other day so I decided to just jump right in and give it a try. I researched just a bit first but knew I needed to keep this as straightforward and simple as possible or I would lose interest. Can I get an amen?! Here’s how simple it can be:

Supplies needed: Citric acid or vinegar, bare wool yarn wound in hanks, Wilson food coloring gels (primary or neon colors), mild soap, pipettes or eye droppers, glass mason jars, stainless steel pot or roasting pan, glass casserole dish, and cling wrap.

  1. Order some citric acid on Amazon. I bought a 16 oz. bag and it happened to be organic. It will cost you around $10-$12. Good news- you can also use white vinegar. It will take a lot more and will take a bit more work to get the smell out of the yarn, but it works!
  2. Gather up your white or off-white wool yarn. It can be a blend but make sure it’s mostly wool since my method will not dye acrylic yarn. The yarn I used was 80% merino, 20% nylon in a fingering weight. I ordered mine on eBay for about $7/hank.
  3. Unwind your hank(s) (if your yarn is in a ball or skein, you will need to wind it into a hank first). Put your yarn in a bowl full of warm water and 2 T of citric acid or 1 cup of white vinegar. Stir well. Let sit there for an hour or all day. It’s up to you. The dye won’t stay on the yarn without this step. When ready, remove from water and gently squeeze out excess water.
  4. If you want to test your colors, mix up about 1/8 teaspoon of food coloring gel in a mason jar 3/4 full of water and play around with it until you get a few shades you like. Cut off several small lengths of your yarn and dip them into your dye bath so see how each color looks. Once you’ve mixed up all of the colors you’ll be using, you’re ready to dye! Here are some samples I made before my last dye project.
  5. There are 3 ways you can do the next step; stainless steel pot on the stove top, stainless steel shallow roasting pan in the oven or glass casserole dish in the microwave. In my experience, they all work equally well.
  6. For stovetop method,  add enough water to be able to cover your wool. Add 2 T of citric acid or 1 cup white vinegar. Stir well. Add your wool hank to the water being careful not to tangle it. 
  7. Using either a pipette, eye dropper or by just pouring it, start placing the dye where you’d like it on your yarn. Be as creative and daring as you’d like- you might be surprised at what you can create. If you’re going for more of a solid color, add your dye to the water before you add the yarn. Once you’ve finished adding the wool, bring the water to a slow simmer. DO NOT BOIL or you will ruin your yarn forever! Let simmer for approximately 1 hour. Water should be clear, if not continue to simmer. Remove from heat and let cool down.
  8. For the roasting pan method, follow directions above except put in the oven at 200 degrees for approximately 1 hour. Water should be clear, if it’s not, put it back in the oven. Remove from oven and let cool down.
  9. For the microwave method, follow directions above except place cling wrap in glass casserole dish, followed by your hank of yarn. After you add the dye, loosely wrap up your hank in the cling wrap and put it back in the dish. Microwave for 5 minutes or until water runs clear. Let sit until cool.
  10. Once the wool is cool enough to handle, rinse well and soak in warm, soapy water. Remove from bath water and squeeze out excess water. Hang up hank(s) to dry completely. Once dry, wind your hank into a cake or a ball and enjoy!! 

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