Yes!! That’s right! With food colouring! 😄
I didn’t believe this would work when I first tried it oh-so many years ago, but it did and now I’m afraid to say that I may be a little bit obsessed! The first time I did this, I bought a few skeins of yarn from eBay, figuring that it probably wouldn’t work so there was no point in spending too much money on yarns.
There are several different ways that you can dye yarn with food colouring by simply using household equipment. And because it’s food colouring, it’s completely safe and you can use everything as normal in the kitchen. This means it’s a fun activity that Aimee and I can do together.
You will need:
💗 Yarn – this needs to be animal fiber (not acrylic)otherwise it won’t work. I’ve used superwash merino yarn (oh my goodness, it’s so soft!!)
💗 White vinegar
💗 Bowls – make sure they are ones that you won’t mind too much if they get stained
💗 A towel to protect your work surfaces
💗 Food colour – I used Wilton gel food colours. They are inexpensive, safe to use and come in a wonderful rainbow of colour!
💗 Small spoon – this is to measure out your dyes. I tend to use the end of a teaspoon handle as you don’t need to use a lot of dye
💗 Small sponges – or cut up a clean washing up sponge into smaller pieces!
💗 Gloves – unless you want to get dye all over your hands!
The first thing you need to do it prepare the yarn for dying. Mix a cup of white vinegar with water in a large bowl and submerge your yarn. Carefully press it down so that all the yarn is covered with water. Leave the yarn for at least 30 minutes in the vinegar/water mix. The vinegar will help the yarn to bond with the dyes.
While your yarn is soaking, prepare your dyes and work area. I always put a towel down to protect the counter tops and hopefully create less mess! Place the cling film on top of the towel, making sure that there is enough for all the yarn to go on.
Pour hot water into your bowls and, using the end of a teaspoon mix the food colouring until it has all dissolved. The more colour you use, the stronger the colour. Likewise, if you want a paler colour, use less food colour.
Remove the yarn from the water and place in a colander to drain the water from it. Don’t wring the yarn out, but gently squeeze the excess water making sure that it is still damp after. Place the yarn on top of the cling film and lay it out flat.
Now comes the fun part – dying your yarn! Use the sponge to paint the dye on to the yarn. Make sure that you turn the yarn over to get to parts underneath or you will have parts that don’t have much dye on.
Once you are happy with your yarn, wrap it up in the clingfilm and place it in a clean bowl. Make sure that none of your yarn is peaking out as this could cause it to burn. Place it in the microwave and cook it on high for 2 minutes. Once this has done, remove the bowl carefully and check that none of the clingfilm has come open. Make sure to be very careful – the will be a lot of steam inside the clingfilm and you don’t want to burn yourself!!
Pop the bowl back in the microwave and cook on high for another 2 minutes. Remove the bowl again and check the yarn. Repeat this process another 2 times.
Once the yarn has fully cooled, put the yarn in some room temperature water to rinse it. I use a drop of fabric conditioner to the water, it will give the yarn a nice fresh smell instead of vinegar! Carefully squeeze (don’t wring!) the excess water out of your yarn and hang up to dry.
Leave it until it is fully dry and then twist into a skein.
The possible colourways are endless, you can just let your imagination run riot! I have so many different colourways I want to try, the only problem is what to make with them afterwards.
I have found though that not all colours work well with this method. I tried to dye a nice pink and grey sock weight yarn but the grey wouldn’t hold. This is because the black colouring is made up of several components and it can ‘break’ under certain conditions. I am hoping that I can soon get a nice dark grey/black, it’s trying to figure out the best environment to achieve this!