Hand Dyeing Yarn At Home: A Low-Mess Option

Posted by MIchael Gallagher on

Have you ever admired a skein of hand dyed yarn and wondered if you could produce similar results at home? There are many methods of dyeing yarn: you can dip-dye, steam dye, kettle dye, solar dye, or even ice dye - but the basic principles are the same: heat is used to transfer dye onto fiber, often using a mordant or fixative to aid the process. 

two skeins of yarn - one is natural and one is hand dyed

Dyeing can be messy, and some dyes create harmful fumes that the at-home dyer may not want to invite into their living space. The good news is that there are plenty of safer options to try: Kool-Aid, food coloring, and even easter egg dye can be used to dye yarns and fibers at home.

While these are great options for getting your feet wet, there are some limitations in the types of colors you can easily create. That’s why we have fallen in love with Dye Tinctures by Abundant Earth Fiber. Each packet contains two “tea bags” of pre-measured dye and packets of citric acid (a fixative) to simplify the dyeing process. With tinctures, anyone can produce beautiful, professional results on their own - plus, they come in a sophisticated palette of colors. 

We put dye tinctures to the test using a skein of our own small-batch yarn that will be coming soon to the NKK shop! 

supplies for low-mess dyeing with nkk yarn and abundant earth wool tinctures


1 packet of Wool Tinctures from Abundant Earth Fibers (we used Plum)

1 large 1-gallon glass jar


Trivet or hot pad

Measuring cup

Tongs or stir stick

Yarn or fiber to dye

Optional: newsprint to cover dye area

Important Note: Make sure that anything you use to dye yarn NEVER gets used for food preparation.

If you have never dyed yarn before, the instructions included with the Tinctures will walk you through the process step-by-step. Here are the general steps you’ll follow, for this or when using any similar dye process: 

1. Prepare your skein. Unwind the skein and make note the ties that are securing the ends. If they are knotted too tightly, the dye won’t be able to penetrate all of the yarn strands; loosen these knots as much as you can. If needed, add 1-2 more ties to keep your yarn from getting tangled during the due process (scrap yarn works just fine!). 

2. Dampen your yarn. Soak your yarn in warm tap water - this will help it absorb the dye later on. Gently squeeze the skein to ensure that the water is completely absorbed. 
pre-dampening a skein of yarn to prepare for hand dyeing3. Prepare the jar. If you are using the glass jar method, pre-warm your jar by filling it with warm tap water while your dye water heats up (adding hot water to a cold glass jar could cause it to break). 

warming up the jar for hand dyeing yarn4. Prepare the dye bath. Place a trivet under the jar; when your hot water is the right temperature (between 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit), remove the warm water from the jar and replace it with the hot water. Drop in 1 Wool Tincture Bag and stir to dissolve. Remove the bag when the dye is fully dissolved.removing wool tinctures from dye bath
5. Add yarn.
Remove excess water from your pre-wet skein and slowly lower the skein into the jar. Taking your time with this step will ensure that it takes the dye evenly - allow it to soak for a few minutes.slowly add yarn to dye bath

submerge skein of yarn in dye bath6. Dye striking. Bond the dye to the fibers by adding the citric acid packet to the jar; stir gently while turning over the skein to encourage the citric acid to disperse. 
7. Exhaust the dye. The water around your yarn will begin to appear clear (or mostly clear); when this happens, the yarn is ready to be removed from the bath. Wait until the jar is cool enough to handle before removing the yarn with the tongs. remove dyed skein of yarn from exhausted dye bath
8. Cool, rinse & dry. Allow the yarn to cool, then gently rinse it in cold water to remove any excess dye. Hang or lay flat to dry. hand dyed skein of yarn
9. Enjoy! When you’re ready to knit or crochet with your beautifully dyed yarn, get out your heavy duty ball winder to wind the perfect center-pull cake of yarn! 

Want to be the first to know when our small-batch yarn is added to the shop? Click here to sign up for our monthly newsletter & you’ll get a coupon for free shipping on the heavy duty ball winder through 6/30/2020!

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Hand Dyeing Yarn At Home: A Low-Mess Option

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