smart dyeing

You will get confidence & spectacular results, flying by the seat of your pants! ..or you will get a ball of brown felted wool & berry blue hands!

The unpredictable & uneven results are what thrill me. Talk about that color is SO you, it couldn’t get anymore you! ..unless it turns out like total crap then it’s SO not you!

That fact that it’s kool-aid is remarkable & a bit troublesome (I lived on that stuff as a kid & now I’m using it as an acid dye!) I also use plain old dropper style food coloring (McCormick in the box) in assorted & neon colors.

Animal fibers work best, but watch the agitation & heat, don’t SHOCK the wool by drastic temp changes.

Keep it small & cheap at first, till you get your method worked out. You can just do one color or a bunch. Make it solid, hand painted or semi-solid, it’s all in your kool-aid stained hands!

A free ball of wool from the take a ball, leave a ball bin outside a local yarn shop (yes really & thank you to whoever left this for me!) ..look, I never work with dopey yarns..

I wound this onto my swift & loosely tied it up. I found the more places I secured it, the less tangles I got. Just be weary the more spots you tie the more likely you will get uneven dyeing (think t-shirts, tie-dye & rubber bands) but I like semi-solid coloring, so I didn’t care. (How big or little you make your hanks will affect the color repeats, mine were roughly 22” when laid straight/flat)

I put the hanked yarn in a generous sized roaster pan filled with warm water & left it to sit for 15-20 min, letting the fiber get fully saturated. Then I drained off most of the water, leaving just enough so the yarn could move around a bit,  added a few glugs of white vinegar to aid in setting the dye & turn the stove onto low to warm it up. (not boiling, just steamy HOT HOT HOT)

I dispensed the color straight from the drink powder packets & dropper bottles, sprinkling it on here & there. Leaving some spots speckled, other times I used a spoon to swoosh the color for a larger distribution or to drip some colored water on other areas. (you could tint all of the water for a solid color, or sections for some kind of stripes, I went a little CRAZY)

* NOTICE the low water level, that is how I got the intense color saturation & speckles to not get diluted, there were soaked sections of wool sticking up out of the water, that I could directly spatter with kool-aid powder & let sit. Those raised areas of wool also acted like a color containment fence, sectioning off areas & not letting the dye travel around. If you want more of an all over/even coloring or softer colors use more water & vinegar, just remember the more water, the more the dye will move.

I worked mine in stages, adding 1 or 2 colors, then hands off once I liked the look, letting sit undisturbed in the hot water to set the dye. The water will turn rainbow colors, but then as the wool sucks up all the dye, it will turn white cloudy/clear again, use a spoon to check and when it’s clear your ready to layer on the next color set or move to the next area of yarn. Every once in a while flop the scalding wool around to get at the underside & inside of the hank. There will be large un-dyed spots if you don’t get at these hidden spaces, which can add to its beauty! (This is where it can go seriously off track so mind your excitement & control your color enthusiasm)

Once I am completely satisfied or completely frustrated, it’s done! just move it off the heat & let it cool down to room temp. Then take it to the sink/bath and gently rinse with water the same temp as the wool, until it looks & feels good (water should be clear) you can use a wool wash if you like or a little hair conditioner if it’s a bit felted & rough.

Gently squeeze out most of the water, sometimes I lay it in a towel & step on it to press out even more water. Then simply hang it somewhere safe to drip dry. I usually hang it on my porch letting the sun & the breeze make quick work of it. Honk if you see a NINETEEN HUNDRED HOUSE with a porch full of drying yarn! (You’ll know you have the right house if you see a spastic basset hound/yellow lab mix barking his jerk head off at you.)

Once it’s completely & thoroughly dry, twist it into a pretty loaf and freak out at how marvelous you are!

There are many methods of dyeing, some people do the whole process in the microwave, crockpot, in jars in the summer sun or in a glass dish in the oven. Some mix their kool-aid with a little water and paint it on or put it in a squeeze bottle & apply it directly to a saturated hank. Anyway you want to work it is A-OK, just always REMEMBER to heat set the colors!

Here it is knitted up …yes, more honeycombs for the beekeeper & another merit badge!

Things of importance ..well sort of

* I’ve used cheap off brand, dollar store powdered drink packets with 100% success!

* I usually use light-colored wool yarns (whites & creams) but you can over-dye & intensify an already colored yarn or add layers of color & speckles to a boring yarn. (the chubby patons Natural Mix hank was a light taupe to start with)

* KnitPicks makes a 462 yard sock blank, basically it’s a knitted flat piece of wool/nylon that you can hand paint/acid dye. No more pooling colors, you can make excellent stripes or a perfect gradated pattern, then just knit it off the flat. They are double stranded so you can knit 2 socks at a time & they will match! They also have a few dyeing tutorials!

* Wear gloves & use tongs, if you don’t want muppet colored hands!

* I am partial to using tightly spun/low loft sock yarns, because I LOVE them, but as you can see the patons classic worked pretty good.

* Yes it will smell fruity, sadly for only a little while :(

* Most of all have fun, YOU CAN DO THIS and really, who cares what the hell happens right!?! This is exciting!

68 thoughts on “smart dyeing

      1. I haven’t a clue if it shrunk or how to tell if it had? The water is hot and you’ll need to not be really aggressive or rough when moving the yarn around, we don’t want to felt it into a large mass. My suggestion would be to start with small ‘samples” and do your own experiments to see what temps your fibers can handle and still retain color permanency.

        I look at it like having fun with a new art form, rather than a science, so even if sometimes I do something silly or reckless and get puke colored slightly felted wool, I will just laught it off (I atleast gave it a try and maybe had a little fun) all is not lost, ever! I could always knit up some actual fake puke :) or use it as contrast stripes in a pattern, or throw caution to the wind and just go for it, I’ve knit/crocheted up some pretty spectacular things with some pretty unspectacular yarns and loved the results! I’ve also noticed slightly felted yarn has a perfectly wonderful rustic look & feel to it!


  1. Did you leave a Dopey Yarn? LOL.. I think this is awesome! You can do it with Easter Egg dye too.. now would be a great time to snatch up those marked down egg dyes.


  2. thank you for this! This is my next project for the summer – first time dyeing, so I’m excited. I’m reading up everything about dyeing, so that I’m kind of prepared when I try it out. I was wondering how to dye 3-4 colors on the hank, but never thought to do it all at the same time in the pot, like you did.


  3. That is EXACTLY what I was looking for. Thank you so much for this. I just bought about a pound of “blank” merino yarn from Dharma Trading, and can’t wait to try this. Beautiful job.


  4. Can I just thank you so much for sharing your technique? It is absolutely lovely and I’ve been looking for sometime to find out how to get the lovely speckled look. I have some bare yarn purchased from knitpicks and yarn2dye4 that I have been itching to get try with! I’m not interested in selling anything just creating it for myself. Thank you, thank you for posting this!!!


  5. I have tried this on a few occasions, and I love it! My only problem has been with getting the speckles, as mine always seems to run and blur even when I have very little water. Do you have any suggestions as to how to acheive the speckled splendor?


    1. I am so glad you are having fun experimenting!

      What might be happening is your yarn is still too saturated with water, that it is still blending it too much. My suggestion is to try a smaller container or move it to a smaller container after the initial soaking.

      When you first put the wool in water it’s almost water repellent so the first lots of water soaking gets the fiber past that repelling stage and better able to absorb the dye but after that, you can drain out most of the water or move it to a smaller container so more of the yarn is above, up out of the water, allowing it to drain out some of that excess liquid. (You may think you don’t have much water, but the yarn is still swollen like a sponge, it’s the overly wet stuff that will tend to bleed).

      That being said, you can also press some of the excess water out between 2 spoons & kind of pile the yarn up on it’s self, then sprinkle on the powder (you might have better control if you take a pinch with your fingers, and sprinkle it on like a fine chief sprinkling on spice, the colors specks come from the individual granules) or you could make a color paste and with an old toothbrush dip it in the paste, then take your finger and run it down the bristles splattering it onto the yarn …this might (would) get MESSY :D


      1. I am sorry I never replied to thank you for your help! I am still having fun experimenting with this. : )


  6. Thank you for this tutorial!! The yarn I dyed is beautiful! I was also having trouble getting the speckles, but I am going to try some of the things you said above.


  7. Hiya! I just dyed some yarn (Patons) with Kool Aid the other day! What fun:) One of the colors I picked out was pretty good and the other was an utter *DUD*! “Scary Blackberry”… ugh. It was nearly black juice and turned my yarn a nasty dark grey color. It looked like a dead rat so I threw that one out:) The others that I did were Tropical Punch (red) and a teal food coloring which turned out pretty good!


    1. lol, yes somtimes sacrifices have to be made for the sake of experimentation! Even when you are so sure everything is working just right …things can go wickedly wrong :D …we’ve all had that “aww crud, I just made a dead rat” moment!


  8. I’m curious, how did you get that beautiful speckled coloring. Did you just fling it on to the yarn? or just sprinkling it will achieve that look?


  9. Thank you so much for this funny and awesome glance into your process! I’ve only just realised I don’t need to put all the colors in at the same time, but I can actually work in steps to prevent the brownish camo soup I was getting earlier today. You deserve a medal!


  10. Simply gorgeous!! Im
    New to dyeing my yarn and im absolutely in LOVE with this method!!! Think it would be just as good on cotton??


    1. I’m not so sure, it seems best on animal fibers. In the past when I’ve tried cotton it almost washes completely out :( but you could definitely play around and try to get it to set somehow!?!


      1. I’ve heard of running a hot iron over the still wet cotton yarn can help with heat setting. Definitely something you’d never do to animal fibers.


  11. Do you know about how many packets of Kool-Aid you used for one ball of yarn? I got ten for two balls of bulky wool not long ago and it didn’t seem to go very far.

    Thanks for the post!


    1. Hum.. I almost always do speckles, so it doesn’t use much of any one packet. I’m. With you, I would have thought 10 packets would’ve been enough (!) I’m wondering if you pre-soaked the wool in water to get it nice and absorbent, then in another pot get your dyes mixed, then dredge the soggy wool into the color pot and let it soak a good while before heat setting? …I can see the fun being sucked out of this trying to hunt down bulk quantities of drink powder!


  12. Do you have a video to watch??? I’m trying this tomorrow and your yarn is the only one I can find a tutorial on how to do and I just lovvvvvvveeee it!!!


    1. If you’ve used 100% natural untreated animal fibers and set the dye with heat, it is permanent. When you do the final rinsing (before drying) you keep rinsing until the water is clear, so any excess/unabsorbed dye will wash out at that step, or if you haven’t properly heat set the dye it would also wash out at that point. The wool I used was not superwash, so I wouldn’t recommend machine washing as it would most likely felt, hand washing is always best imo :) I make no guarantees on my methods, it was all for fun and a fun experiment!


      1. I would love to do this just have few questions.
        What juice flavours should I avoid? I want bright and fun!
        I want very speckled which I read through means less water, how do I set it in less water?if the dye is not in the water how does it set?
        Will the speckled part run and bleed when I rinse it out? I want very defined speckles! Thanks so much your patons yarn is very nice! Thanks


      2. I’m not sure if there are flavors that wouldn’t work as good? It sometimes is trial and error :) Less water just means there is less water for the dye to dilute in, less water hanging out above the wool. The wool will still be fully saturated, because it sucks up the water in the pan but if you keep the water line below the pile of wool, it will let some of the specks stay specks. the heat setting will still occur because the water temp will rise as it cooks and the water the wool absorbed will heat up too. My best suggestion start small and play around. I’ve even heard of people soaking their wool to get it fully saturated, then laying the saturated skein on a counter and dyeing with no extra water, basically letting the wet wool do all the work and then microwaving to heat set. I’m thinking this would work great if you only wanted speckles or splattered color as the dye wouldn’t really have any way to travel all over the skein (like in a water bath) ..I don’t know though I haven’t tried it :D Like I said make it an adventure!!!!


  13. I just ran across your website because I wanted to try a speckled effect with yarn. I have never dyed yarn before but you make it sound so easy and yes- fun! I don’t know why I was stressing it! Needless to say I have yarn dying in my pot right now, and thanks to all that unused food coloring I bought for my kid’s cupcakes and sugarcookies I’m hoping to have some lovely colors. Thank you for this tutorial and for making me feel that I CAN do this!


  14. I just dyed some chunky wool using your method! I used Wilton icing/food colouring and the result is just awesome! It was my first time to dye yarn, and I am really thrilled by the results!! Thank you so much for sharing this! :D


  15. Muchas gracias por tu publicación. Personalizar la lana ahora es fácil y todo gracias a ti. Que linda al compartir tu conocimiento. Abrazos y éxito para tus proyectos.


  16. off to buy some patons today I hope I can find some dollar store juice :) I love your yellows greens and reds, oh and the blue hahahaha thanks for the reply above :) I just LOVE the patons winter white you dyed ! gorgeous


  17. Oh my gah, I love you. This is the best tutorial ever written. Also, I just remembered that my husband and I carpooled today, so I don’t have a way to get to Walmart for yarn OR kool-aid and I am crying. :/ Okay, so crying is a bit overkill, but I’m definitely bummed. I cannot WAITTTT to try this! AHHHHHHHHHH! …also, is it cool if I share this link on my blog? Nobody reads it, but hey…


    1. Haha you’re far to kind, I am excited you are excited! Don’t get too discouraged when you end up with a brown wool lump (it WILL happen) we all must learn the ways of the Kool-Aid, wool and hot as hell water ..they don’t always get along together :D but once you learn the magic you will be hand dyeing like crazy!!!

      P.S feel free to share the link


  18. Hello. Sorry, but what kool aids is? I got food coloring (in drops), and I will try this, the thing is the other people dyeing yarn (and you) talked about it (kool aid). Is a kind of powder, a colourful and edible one?
    Thanks anyway, your work is wonderful.


    1. Hi Blanca thank you for you question, yes kool aid is a flavored colored powder, we can buy it in the grocery store. (it’s colored with something similar to what you have in the droppers)

      The kool aid powder when mixed with water and sugar, creates a colored sweet drink (orange powder = orange flavor, purple powder = grape flavor) it was a really popular drink when I was a kid in the 1980’s.

      Currently in America the FDA is now finding that these colored ingestable dyes used in many foods can be harmful and are passing laws and regulations regarding their use in food. (Many countries have already banned them, that’s why you might not have seen them or have access to them :)

      The liquid dye will work wonderfully, the dry powder dyes (kool aid) that I used were easier to get a speckled effect.

      Have fun creating!
      xo amanda


  19. Pingback: candy buttons |


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: