DIY Yarn Dyes

So, I’ve got a few more new projects in the work. Again. ^_^ Hopefully by the end of this week you’ll be able to purchase a few new patterns. I have one done that I’m delaying the release on for just a little bit and another I’ve just got to get the pictures and finish the PDF. I’m so pleased with them and I hope everyone else will be, too!

Besides patterns, though, I’ve also started working on a few completed items to purchase. Those are for when I reopen my Etsy shop. (I’m not really keen on Etsy because of their policies, but for right now I will have to deal with them as they are the most affordable option at the moment.)

Anyway, part of the step in making those finished items is a bit of yarn dying! How exciting!! I only did a little bit of it today, but I photographed the process for anyone who is interested in Kool Aid or tea dyes.

First of all, it is important to remember that I did this with cotton thread. Cotton takes dyes differently than other natural fibers– such as wool– do. So when you dye cotton, you have to realize that the color is going to be much lighter than you think.

Materials I used:

  • Size 10 cotton thread
  • 2 packets Lemonade Kool Aid
  • 2 packets Orange Kool Aid
  • 2 packets Black Cherry Kool Aid
  • 2 packets Mixed Berry Kool Aid
  • 2 packets Lemon Lime Kool Aid
  • 15 black tea bags
  • White vinegar

Alright, first step was to measure out my cotton thread. I wanted roughly 50 yards each color, so measured that out from my larger ball of yarn (I have one of those 1000 yard skeins of white cotton in my stash). I don’t have a knitty noddy yet which would probably be the easiest way to measure, but I made it work with a yard stick and wrapped it around it 25 times (1 yard each side = 2 yards per wrap, so 25 wraps = 50 yards. Make sense?)

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This photo is a little blurry, but it gives you an idea of what I did. I tied the threads in a few places to keep the wrap from coming undone while soaking.

After that, I finished preparing the thread by soaking it in a vinegar water solution. Now, I’m lazy so I don’t really measure these things. I think there’s supposed to be some sort of ratio, but I just add warm water and a hearty splash or two of white vinegar. Soak your thread/yarn like this:

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While that’s all soaking, I got my dyes going. I added the Kool Aid to my pots of water and brought them up to a boil on the stove. Doesn’t have to be a rolling boil, just a boil. I added two packets of each color to the pots. (I didn’t add the orange yet, though. I’ll get to that later.)

Once boiling, added the yarn!

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You can hardly see it in the yellow, but it’s there. I took the heat down to just leave the pots to simmer and set the timer for 30 minutes.

While that was going it was time for the tea dye!

This time, I didn’t soak the yarn in vinegar, I just got it damp in the sink by running lukewarm water over it. I set my tea pot to boil and started snipping tags off the tea bags. Dollar Tree tea bags work perfectly. I just used one of my mixing dishes since this is all supposed to be human safe anyway– not that I particularly trust that tea to drink…

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Once the water boiled, I poured it over the tea bags. It only filled the bowl about a quarter of the way, so I set the kettle to boil again while the tea soaked. IMG_4611

When I added the second kettle worth of boiling water, I took the tea bags out and added the thread instead.

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I stirred that very carefully and then checked on my other pots of dyes. (It still wasn’t 30 minutes yet, but you do have to remember to stir them carefully every so often to help the dye set more evenly. For other fibers that felt, be certain to cause no agitation or else they will felt. Stir very, very carefully!)

Here’s how it was going so far: (notice that the color in the pot is a little lighter)

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I checked on my yellow pot too, which was hardly absorbing any color. So I decided to darken it by adding the orange. Mixing the color caused it to be softer orange/yellow color than just orange itself would have been.

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I finished letting those soak for a while longer until after the 30 minutes had passed. I did let them soak about another 10 minutes or so then finally took them out when I liked the color– remembering that a little of the color will wash out and will be slightly lighter than the color it is in the pot. For other natural fibers, normally the yarn will absorb all the color from the water leaving your water clear– which is the indication it is done. But for cotton, it doesn’t seem to work quite that way.

I carefully pulled the thread out of the pot, rinsed them under water briefly, pressed them dry with a towel and hung them to finish drying. We have a “utility bathroom” in our house that we use for drying or washing projects, etc. This is where I hang all my yarn. I’ve jerry-rigged a place for my yarn to dry in the bathtub using a second shower curtain rod, shower curtain rings and wire clothing hangers.

Here you can get an idea of what I’m talking about:

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This also shows you the colors I got. From left to right: black cherry, orange/lemonade, mixed berry, lemon lime, tea dye.

I really love how the lemon lime and mixed berry turned out. I think they are going to work perfectly for the projects I have planned! In my next blog entry I will try and get a picture of the yarn all wrapped up in balls so you can get a closer image of how they look!

And that’s all for today! Have a fantastic President’s Day!

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6 responses to “DIY Yarn Dyes

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  5. I was under the impression that koolaid doesn’t stay color fast on cotton, and that you need a procion dye for cotton. Have you washed your cotton thread yet? I’m curious about your results when you do.

    • I haven’t washed-washed it. However I have wet blocked a few items and didn’t have any color running! I wouldn’t suggest it by any means for an item that is going to be washed repeatedly, but so far none of my colors have faded or washed out– and like I said, I’ve used them for some motifs and the barefoot sandals and blocked them all. :)

      Edit: I forgot to mention, it is true from what I’ve read that it doesn’t stay colorfast to repeated washing, but for single wash (meaning like a single wet block or amigurumis, etc) it should be fine. Perhaps if you left them for an extended time in the sunlight they would fade, but I’ve not yet tried it!

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