Dye your own yarn – How to dye self-striping yarn at home!

Following on from my earlier “Dye your own yarn” experiments here I’ve been dying some more yarn, this time experimenting with a hand-painted striping technique.  Meet my new yarn “Bonfire “Sparks”.

If you want to dye your own yarn at home, but aren’t sure where to start, then I’ve posted some things I learned from my very first attempt here… They might be worth a read if you’ve not done any before!

This is a striped yarn.  To dye this yarn I used the following tools.

tools to dye your own yarn

To dye your own yarn this way you will need:

  • Acid Dye or Food Colouring (for colour)
  • Mask (if you’re using Acid Dye, not necessary for food colouring)
  • Gloves (to stop your hands getting coloured)
  • Flat pan (to soak yarn in)
  • Large Plastic spoon (optional, you could use your hands!)
  • Citric Acid (to set the dye)
  • Guar Gum (to make the dye thick enough to manipulate)
  • Plastic sheet and cling film (to cover your kitchen work surfaces!)
  • Mixing Jug (for dye and citric acid) plus some jars or pots to put each colour of yarn in
  • Measuring Spoon (to measure dye and citric acid)
  • Cloths (for wiping up spills!)
  • Colander (for cooling yarn)
  • Microwave (for zapping the yarn to “set” the dye)

Step 1 – Make a MASSIVE hank of yarn

I wanted my yarn to have random stripes and a few of them so I needed to make the hank much larger.  This means that there is much more “space” to dye into and you can add more stripes than in a smaller hank of yarn.  I made this hank 4m circumference (2m wide)….

To do this, I first wound the hank into a ball to make it easier to handle, then put two chairs at either end of my dining table and wound the yarn around the chairs to make a very large loop.

Step 2 – Tie up your hank of yarn

Because the hank is so large, make sure you tie it up well, I used 10 ties on my piece to stop it getting all tangled.  I use figure-of-eight ties and its easy to do before you take it off the chairs.


For this one I used the same yarn as the yarn I was dyeing, my top tip though is to use some cotton yarn, this is especially good if you are “immersion dyeing” (more on that later) as the cotton doesn’t take up the dye in the same way as the wool and so it is easy to find the ties again later!

Step 3 – Soak yarn in citric acid mix

Now you have prepared your yarn, soak it in a shallow tray for 15-20 minutes.  I used 20g of citric acid dissolved in 1l of water.  Pour in your citric acid mix, lay your yarn in and “squish” it into the water until it is saturated….like this…


Step 4 – Prepare your work surface for dyeing

Put plastic sheeting down on the area that you are going to work (I used bin bags but anything will do!  This WILL get messy so make sure everything is covered.

Lay some cling film on top of the plastic sheeting, wide enough that your yarn will sit on this.  You will use this later to wrap up your yarn to “bake it” in the microwave.

Step 5 – Prepare your dyes

Mix up your dye of choice using citric acid instead of water.  This will help the dye stick instantly to the yarn.  Add some guar gun to make it thick, this helps make it easier to manipulate on the yarn later.  I added 1tsp of guar gum to 300ml citric acid.  Whisk well to get all the lumps out!

Step 6 – Wring yarn and lay out ready for dyeing

Gently squeeze the yarn out so that it is still damp but not wringing wet and lay it out on your prepared work surface.  You can see my dye in prepared jam-jars at the back of the picture.


Step 7 – Get stuck in with dyeing your yarn

Decide where you want to different colours and get dyeing.  Start with the lightest colour first and work through to the darkest.

You can use a brush or your hands (I just used my hands to scoop up the thickened dye and massage into the yarn).

Place the colours a little way away from each other and then massage it towards and over each other as desired.  My hands were WAY too messy to take a picture of this bit sorry!

Step 8 – Lay extra cling-film and wrap for zapping!

Lay another piece (or two) of cling film on top of the yarn and then carefull fold the entire piece in half lengthways.  Then gently roll up into a parcel, put on a microwaveable (and if you are using acid dye, non food!) plate and zap in the microwave for 10 minutes, in 2 minute increments with 30 seconds wait in between.

Step 9 – Remove from microwave and allow to cool

This yarn parcel will be HOT, only slightly cooler than the surface of the sun…so move carefully using oven gloves to somewhere that it can cool.  I put it in the (now empty) stainless steel tray I used for soaking the yarn at the start.

Step 10 -Remove cling-film

Once the yarn is cool enough to handle, remove the cling film and let the yarn cool down further.

Step 11 – Rinse Yarn

Because of the Guar Gum, you will want to give the yarn a good wash to get all that stickiness off.  Wash once (or twice!) using soapy water, then again using clean water.

Step 12 – Dry yarn

Gently wring the water out of the yarn and then leave somewhere to dry completely.  Once it has dried completely (likely to take overnight or longer, be patient!) you can wind into a smaller hank or ball ready to use in your knitting or crochet projects!

I used yellow, orange, red and black Jacquard Acid dyes to create this bonfire sparks yarn.  I’m a little bit in love with it and have already started crocheting a swatch with it!!


This is a swatch I’ve crocheted, using first double crochet (Single Crochet US) and Treble Crochet (Double Crochet US).  I’m really pleased with the way that it turned out!!


I hope you have fun if you try to dye your own yarn at home too!!! 🙂




10 Responses

  1. Very pretty! I’ll admit that yarn painting is the kind of dying that interests me the most, but I’m still not going to get into it because I suspect it would take over my kitchen. For now, at least, I’ll let the pros or more ambitious amateurs than me dye yarn. 🙂

      1. I don’t think Mr. Wyrm would like it if I took over the kitchen with my yarn… he’s very tolerant that I’ve turned the guest bedroom into my craft room, but the kitchen might be another matter. 😉

  2. Your yarn came out gorgeous!! I’m already going over in my head how I can start doing this without disrupting my whole kitchen and dining room!! 😀

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