What is Yarn Dyeing?

Malcolm Tatum

Yarn dyeing is nothing more than adding color to the yarn that has been used to create a garment or item, or adding color to yarn that will soon be used in knitting or crocheting projects. While industrial yarn dyeing takes place before the product is ever sold, many persons like to add their own unique touch of color as well. Here are some examples of different techniques for yarn dyeing that can be done at home.

Newly dyed yarn should be placed on old newspaper outside to dry.
Newly dyed yarn should be placed on old newspaper outside to dry.

One of the basics of dyeing yarn is using what you have around the house. By looking around, you may find that you have some egg dye left over from Easter. If so, then you have the perfect medium to add color to your yarn. Using the dyeing process outlined for the Easter egg dyes — many include the use of clear vinegar — prepare the dyeing mixture in a pot or pan large enough to accommodate the yarn you wish to dye.

Knitting needles and yarn.
Knitting needles and yarn.

Before placing the yarn into the pan, make sure to don a pair of rubber gloves. While yarn dyeing, the goal is to add color to the yarn, not to your hands. Immerse the yarn into the dye completely. Instead of allowing it to set for several minutes, make sure that you move the yarn around, allowing all the fiber to be coated with the dye. Wring it out at least twice and immerse it again for several minutes. Allow the yarn to dry on old newspaper outside, then run it through cold water to make sure the dye content is fast and you have the shade that you want. Repeat the process as needed to get the hue you desire.

Hat made with yarn.
Hat made with yarn.

Using a tea rinse is another way to engage in yarn dyeing. Brew very strong tea and place in your pot or pan. Allow the tea to cool to room temperature, then immerse the yarn in the tea concentrate. Allow it so steep for several minutes, then wring it out and allow it to dry. Yard dyed with tea has the bonus of carrying a pleasing aroma.

Industrial dyeing allows customers to purchase yarn that has already been colored.
Industrial dyeing allows customers to purchase yarn that has already been colored.

Dyeing yarn with commercial dyes is also an option. Select the color you want and make sure to follow the directions on the package to the letter. As with all processes for yarn dyeing, make sure you protect your hands. Commercial dyes come in a wide array of colors, so you will easily be able to find the shade you like.

While trying one of these ideas for yarn dyeing, you may decide to try for a mix of colors. For example, you may choose to dip sections of the yarn in the dye instead of immersing it. This can allow you to create color schemes involving as many colors as you like. Keep in mind that yarn dyeing can be a messy process, but the end result can be worth all the time and trouble.

Rubber gloves should be worn when dyeing yarn.
Rubber gloves should be worn when dyeing yarn.

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Discussion Comments


One of the more popular types of hand dyeing yarn these days is kettle dyeing. Yarn dyed this way, as well as yarns hand dyed with acid dye, can be purchased from a great number of small and independent yarn companies as well as more mainstream brands. One of my favorite independent yarns is called Destination Yarn. The creator, a young mother and architect, designs colourways based on places she has gone in the world, making color stranded yarn of about 3-5 shades that she feels represent those places.


When using homemade recipes of natural ingredients to dye, remember that it can vary each time. However, it can also be a really nice thing to have a slightly different shade every time.


You can also hand dye yarn with many other types of food products, from onion skins to various spices. You can even use Kool-Aid mix, which is non toxic but comes in a variety of powerful shades. It only works on animal fibers, but if you immerse it long enough, the yarn will stay bright for years.


When you are dyeing fabric or yarn at home, make sure you have washed the object to be dyed beforehand, otherwise the color may not stay as well.


very informative

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