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Learning to Hand Dye Yarn

I love hand dyed yarn, but I was quite intimidated by the idea. After hearing from a couple of alpaca breeders that it could be done with Kool-Aid, I decided to try it myself. I read a bunch of other blogs, watched a few YouTube videos and decided to try myself. I got some beautiful yarn from Rogue Suri Alpacas, a local Alpaca breeder in town, and tested out dying the fawn colored yarn. Turns out it's super easy and fun!

The reason Kool-Aid works well is because it has food dye and citric acid. If you get sugar free, there's no need to worry about sugar making your fiber sticky. I couldn't find any powder Kool-Aid in the store in colors I wanted so I got Hawaiian Punch. It had the same basic ingredients, but I could only find these little packets. I estimated these 5 single serving packets were about the same as 1 standard size Kool-Aid packet. I was going for a deep blue, and I thought a little purple (ie red) would help make the color richer.

How to Dye Yarn

Step 1: Open the hank and put a zip-tie handle around the yarn. The zip-tie will let you mess with your yarn and not get burned by hot water or any dye on your hand.

Step 2: Soak yarn water for 10-15 min. I added a little citric acid left over from another craft project into the water to supposedly make it take dye better. I'm not sure it made a difference.

1st dip into the dye water to test. Water looks opaque

Step 3: While soaking the yarn, boil water in a pot, about enough to cover the yarn. Dissolve the drink powder and turn off the heat. You can add extra food coloring to get the color you want. I ended up adding a bunch of blue dye later in the process.

Step 4: Add the fiber. It soaks up the dye super fast. I dipped dyed it a few times on one side to see what it would look like. I didn't realize just how fast the dye would absorb into the yarn. I struggled a little with uneven color because I dipped dyed a few times before submerging all of it. Hence lots of more blue dye added after the drink color was absorbed. Leave the yarn in until the dye is all gone, or it's the color you want.

The water clears up as the dye soaks into the fiber

1/2 is clearly darker, and I'm running out of dye

I added straight blue food coloring, lots of it, and it was absorbed quickly, too

Step 5: When the water is clear or the yarn is the color you want, take the yarn out and rinse until it's clear.

Rinsed yarn. Still a little uneven but looks pretty anyway.

Step 6: Squeeze excess water out gently and hang dry. I was worried the dye would stain the towel I used to squeeze it, but it didn't. Seems colorfast so far, but I'm not going to test it in a washing machine.


  • The plastic zip-tie also ended up get dyed and is richer colored than fresh ones.

  • The I was worried it would get all tangled up. I was careful not to agitate it, but I think it wouldn't have tangled unless I agitated it enough to felt.

  • The yarn got a little fuzzier which you can see in this image. It didn't end up looking noticeably different when knitted with the undyed black yarn.

  • The yarn soaks the dye quicker in the beginning. My guess is that as the dye molecules bind to the fiber, the concentration of dye molecules decreases. The diluted molecules take longer to bump into and bind the fiber. This only matters if you do what I did and want a solid color but start with dip dying.

  • I found it smelled very strongly of Hawaiin Punch, and my kids complained a lot about how strong it was in the kitchen. I hung it to dry in my laundry room, and the smell slowly dissipated. Slowly as in weeks later, it still smelled faintly of fruit punch and florals when I started knitting the yarn. By the time I was done with scarf, the smell was gone. I'm not the fastest knitter. I only get a few hours to knit in a day, and it took me a couple of weeks to finish.

The whole experience was lots of fun and super easy! I think it took me a little over an hour in total. Maybe more... I don't really remember. I was having fun so time flew by. I really liked how it turned out. Fawn overdyed with blue ended up a earthy cyan color.

I didn't take a picture of the yarn ball, but here are pictures of the finished product.

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