Monday, 9 April 2012

Food colouring... Not just for food.

A while ago I read something about dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid, an American powder drink. I found several tutorials and a fantastic colour chart online as well as a Ravelry group. It appealed to me as it was like cooking... no chemicals, no complicated equipment or materials and it was easy for small quantities...

Perfect for socks!

I acquired some sachets... Thanks to my brother... And looked into getting some undyed wool. And then the shop happened and such frivolities took a back seat... But then the shop acquired some undyed 4ply Blue Faced Leicester...

And so I returned to my research and uncovered some tutorials for dyeing with food colouring. I do have habit of over researching and getting ahead of myself... So this time I limited myself to only a few tutorials and just got on with it.

This turned out to be a good strategy as it seems that these dyeing recipes are a bit of a glug of this and a dribble of that.

So... One Sunday afternoon, armed with supplies bought from the local Spar and a helpful 5 year old, I dyed yarn.  Here is my recipe... Please remember I am not an expert or even experienced, results will vary and could do so considerably. But it's inexpensive, safe (be careful of the hot water!) and good fun.


50 g of undyed yarn. I used 75% Blue Faced Leciester 25% Nylon (£5.95 for 100g in the shop). It has to be wool... Not sure if it matters which animal. Cotton (and I assume any other plant yarn) will not work. You will obviously need more yarn if you are actually going to knit a pair of adult socks, but I was just experimenting so 50g was fine.

I wound the yarn around the back of a chair and tied the strands together around the hank using a figure of eight. Try and use the same yarn for this tie, so the dye penetrates through it.

2 shades of food colouring. I had Dr Oetkers natural food colouring in red and yellow. I mixed them together to get orange... a suggestion by the 5 year old. The red seemed very strong so I used more yellow than red.

Some vinegar... This is you mordant... Which basically makes the food colouring, your dye, stick to the yarn. To be honest I wasn't actually sure what I was buying as it didn't say VINEGAR! But it was with the malt vinegars...

A big pot (mine was 25cm in diameter), water and something to measure liquids....I don't do a glugs or dribbles.

I followed this video which I found on You Tube. This user has created a range of videos which give different effects like dip dyeing and space dyeing. I chose to do the kettle dyed option (inspired by our great range of kettle dyed Manos Lace).

There are lots and lots and lots of videos and tutorials available online!


I added 5 cups of water to a large pot and stirred in 5 tablespoons of what I hoped was vinegar. I added the yarn. Taking time to submerge it. I turned on the heat and got the water up to a simmer. Then I turned off the heat and added my food colouring using a pipette which I found in my kitchen drawer.  I suppose you could just dribble it off a teaspoon too.

left to absorb

I dotted it around the yarn, then worried I hadn't added enough, so dropped on some more. In all I think I used about 40ml of food colouring.

I then left it to cool.

Once cold I took it out and rinsed under a lukewarm tap, then hung up to dry.

the results

At first I was surprised by the colour... It was more patchy than I anticipated... More yellow!

I knitted a wee sock to see how it looks... And I think it looks pretty good!

I wonder if the dye bath, i.e the pot, stayed hot enough for long enough for the dye to be absorbed? If I had heated it up again then left it to cool, I wonder if the colour would have been more vibrant?
All these questions may be answered when I dye the other 50g of yarn leftover from my 100g hank!
I'm also eyeing up the shop's white Patons 100% wool 4ply and the white Debbie Bliss 100% Merino laceweight in the shop... And I've got some not natural blue food colouring too... And I still have the Kool Aid sachets... Not that I'm getting ahead of myself...