Yarn Dyeing – single colour

Submitted by Nikki

Yarn Dyeing - single colour

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Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours


  • White or natural coloured yarn. This must be a protein based fibre which comes from an animal - wool, alpaca, silk, or can be a blend of up to 50% acrylic/manmade fibre. Plant based fibre like cotton, bamboo etc doesn't work with this method.
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Bowl
  • Synthetic food colouring (natural food colours do not work)
  • Scrap yarn that will not take up the dye eg 100% acrylic
  • Colander
  • Salad spinner


  • If your yarn isn't already in a hank, then turn it into one. For a smaller quantity of yarn, wind it round the back of a kitchen chair, for a larger quantity, use 2 chairs, being careful not to tighten as you wind thus pulling the chairs together.
  • Tie the scrap yarn loosely round the hank in 4 different places.
  • Place the hank into a bowl of warm water containing white vinegar. Use enough water/vinegar solution to cover the yarn. Ratio of vinegar to water is 1/4cup vinegar to 1 litre warm water.
  • Leave this to soak for at least 30 minutes.
  • In the slow cooker put a litre warm water and the quantity of dye you wish to use, the more dye you use the darker/stronger the colour will be.
  • Once the yarn has finished soaking, place it into the slow cooker. Let it naturally fall into place.
  • If yarn isn't covered with water, add more water until it is.
  • 1st hour on high (unless your slow cooker cooks hot) then down to low for 3hrs. The water is not to boil. Some processes talk about the yarn exhausting the dye, meaning that the water will become clear when the process is finished, if you use a larger quantity of dye this may not happen.
  • Remove the yarn from the slow cooker and place into a colander, leave to cool for 15 minutes. I use the colander part of my salad spinner for this.
  • After 15 minutes feel how warm the yarn is and run your tap water to that temperature. Rinse yarn until the water is clear - this can take about 10 minutes. It is important that the water isn't too cold or too hot as this can felt your yarn.
  • Place into salad spinner and spin out the excess water, stop and drain as you go if necessary. If you don't have a salad spinner then gently squeeze the water out of the yarn and then roll in an old towel to absorb as much water as possible.
  • Once the yarn has as much water as possible removed, hang it up to dry, this process depends on the temperature around and humidity. It can take up to 24hrs. I placed mine into my hot water cupboard overnight.
  • Yarn is now ready for use. Note that it may still lose a little colour when washed so wash separately from other items.
  • For this particular dyeing I used 25g of pure wool and had 1Tbsp of food colour in 1 litre of water.

1 thought on “Yarn Dyeing – single colour”

  1. I have been dyeing with food dyes for many years, using a slow cooker. My method is similar, though I place water, about 3 litres, with a good splosh of white vinegar and a squirt of dishwashing liquid into the pot and mix well before adding dry ingredients. Otherwise I soak the wool or silk to be dyed in cold water only for half an hour then squeeze thoroughly before adding to the pot, which must have come up to full heat and be simmering gently at the start of the process. I do not add vinegar at the end so I don’t have to start fiddling around with adding soap to restore the PH balance. I dye at least 200 grams at a time, more if I can fit it in, and happily add even more to the pot if the colour does not exhaust. I leave the cooker on high for an hour, checking the dye has worked its way through, then switch it off and leave overnight to cool, unless I am doing another bath in which case I transfer the cooker contents to a bucket to leave overnight. If the colour has not exhausted, I remove the dyed fibre or yarn or garment, add more vinegar to the bath and start the whole process with a bit more food dye, sometimes of a different colour to create a toning contrasting colour, like red to a blue dye bath if I want purple. I dye regularly both to handspun yarn that I sell at fairs, and to sell wool tops and silk tops or batts to make art yarns. I wash the dyed objects in hot water and a little dish soap and rinse until clear, then dry. This washing is when I would usually use synthrapol or some other dye-fixing chemical to remove any loose dye, but we are talking about non-toxic dyeing here which can be used with children and animals, so I use dishwashing liquid instead.
    There is no one method, as its not an exact science with food dyes, and results do depend on the brand one uses, but its fun and the slow cooker is the ideal tool for using any dye, and I also use it for dyeing cellulose fibres and yarns with fantastic results using the same method. The one thing to note is that if you fill the pot up too much, the items you are dyeing can scorch – ask me how I know, lol! I also do not use my slow cooker for food, its a dedicated dyepot, and the tools I use do not go near food either.

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