cormo · craft · dye · dying · food color · handspun · orange · spinning · vinegar · water · wool · yarn

Craft Adventure – Dying Yarn with Food Coloring

I have always wanted to try dying wool! I enjoy making yarn with my spinning wheels and spindles, so I thought it would be fun to try dying some of my handspun.  I do not have professional dyes at the moment, and the koolaid I bought to dye with has long been mixed and consumed by my children:0)
So, I looked into dying with simple food coloring and I only need 4 ingredients:

~yarn
~water
~white vinegar
~food coloring

For my little experiment, I used some hand spun and plied Cormo wool from my stash, approximately 75 yards. Cormo is extra soft and squishy when it’s spun. I love it!

I also used a store brand set of liquid food coloring.  In my research, I read that food color gel can produce somewhat richer color, but I wanted to use what I had.

how to dye yarn with food color
yarn dying ingredients

I mixed the color with warm water and a splash of  vinegar.  The vinegar helps the fiber accept the dye more quickly, so I soaked the yarn in a vinegar/water mixture for approximately 20 minutes before actually applying the dye.

I used apple sauce cups to mix my dye. These are sturdy and have many uses around my household. I filled each cup a little more than halfway with warm water, added a glug of vinegar to each one and then added my red and yellow food color.  The cup on the left has more red than yellow and the cup on the right is mostly yellow with a small amount of red.

After my yarn had soaked, I squeezed out the excess water and laid it in a 9×11 glass baking dish. This is where I applied my dyes.  This works well as it keeps the mess to a minimum.

how to dye yarn with food color

I was pleased with the way the yarn accepted the darker hues and lighter hues as well.
So my yarn has a mottled effect throughout of dark and lighter orange, which is what I was going for….Yay!

After that, I had to heat the yarn.

I moved it and the remaining dye water to a smaller dish that would fit in my microwave.

I should point out here, there are two things that cause wool to felt, heat and agitation. Since I was using a 100% wool and had to use heat to set the dye, it was important to keep agitation to a minimum. That’s why you should gently squeeze and not twist the yarn as you work with it.

dye yarn with food color

This dish worked well because each section allowed for more dye water and it is easy to see that there is still more orange in the water/vinegar mixture that the yarn has not absorbed yet.
I placed it in my microwave for 2 minutes.  When it was finished processing, I took it out and allowed it to cool down completely. I then microwaved it again for 2 more minutes and checked the water.

dye yarn with food color

As you can see, the water is clear, meaning all the dye has been absorbed by the yarn.  I allowed that to cool and then rinsed my newly dyed yarn in some cool water and gently squeezed as much water out as possible.

I hung it to dry for a few hours and, voila!

Hand dyed, hand spun yarn!