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Everything you need to get started dyeing with food coloring

By Amy Reader on June 4, 2021

Food coloring is a great introduction to dyeing your own yarn. Food coloring is nontoxic and kitchen safe, easy to acquire, and dyes up the most beautiful color! I started out dyeing with food coloring because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to fully commit a set of kitchen utensils to dyeing, so I wanted to test out how it all worked in a safe and easy way first. Needless to say, I was immediately hooked on dyeing overall and food coloring is what led me to it! So today I am going to walk you through everything you need to know to dye up your first skein of yarn using food coloring. 

 

SUPPLIES:

Undyed Yarn like EGRET, LATTE, MARSHMALLOW DK, or any Knomad yarn that meets your needs!

Food coloring – I personally prefer the gel based food coloring that is used to dye cake frosting, but the liquid coloring or even leftover Easter egg dyes will all work

Citric Acid or vinegar

Gloves

Slow cooker or large stock pot and stove top

Tongs

Glass cups or jars for mixing

Spoons

Measuring spoons

 

BEFORE YOU DYE

Make sure you’ve presoaked and prepared your yarn before prepping your dye setup. The yarn takes about an hour to fully presoak so you can come back about ten minutes before the hour is up and set up your dye station.

 

SETTING UP YOUR DYE STATION

If you are planning on doing an immersion dye so the skein is all one color, fill up your dyeing vessel about two thirds of the way with water and add a generous dash of citric acid or a glug of white vinegar. This is the same setup if you wanted to do an ombre dip dye with food coloring  or color pooling, or any of the other posts that we have on the blog that use traditional acid dyes you can sub in food coloring for endless possibilities!

 

get started dyeing with food coloring

 

PREPARING GEL FOOD COLORING

The gel food coloring can take a little bit of time to dissolve. You always want to have the dye fully dissolved before adding the yarn to ensure even dye application. The best way to get the gel dye fully dissolved is to fill a smaller cup with the hottest water your tap can manage and dissolve the gel dye into that. The heat helps the dye dissolve fully. You will likely need to stir for quite a bit to get it to fully dissolve. For an even color, I recommend about a quarter teaspoon of gel food coloring per 100 gram skein of yarn.

 

PREPARING EASTER EGG DYE TABLETS

Fill a cup with the hottest water your tap can produce and then add the Easter egg tablets. Allow the Easter egg tablets to dissolve fully. You may need to stir them a little. 

 

PREPARING FOOD COLORING DROPS

If you have the classic little plastic tubes of food coloring, this part is easier! If you are wanting to do an immersion dye, add the food coloring straight into your dyeing vessel and stir to mix the color fully. For one skein of yarn I recommend about a quarter teaspoon of food coloring per 100 gram skein of yarn. If you are wanting to hand paint, color pool, or another variant, dissolve the food coloring into smaller cups filled with water ahead of time just like with the food coloring gel or the Easter egg tablets.

 

get started dyeing with food coloring

 

DYEING YOUR YARN

Here we are going to continue with a straightforward immersion dye for an even, single color skein. If you want a different effect, you can swap out the acid dyes for food coloring and follow our other tutorials like the Space Dye Yarn  and the Color Pooling  posts, just to name a few. 

Add your pigment to the dye vessel. Earlier you filled the dye vessel about two thirds of the way with yarn and added your acid. Now add the dissolved food coloring and stir. 

Squeeze out the excess water from your presoaked yarn and add it to your dye vessel. At this phase, I always find it best to fluff the yarn a little with some tongs to make sure the dye bath is flowing freely throughout so the pigment absorbs evenly. 

 

get started dyeing with food coloring

 

Cover the yarn with a lid. Add heat by either turning on the slow cooker or turning on the stove top depending on your preferred heat source. Keep the heat on medium until the dye bath is exhausted. The yarn should be hot and steaming but not boiling. The dye bath is fully exhausted when the water is clear. This means that the yarn has absorbed all of the available pigment. 

 

FINISHING YOUR YARN

Once your dye bath is fully exhausted, turn off the heat and all the yarn to cool fully. Once your yarn is cooled, rinse until the water runs clear and dry your yarn .

Now your fresh new skein of yarn is dyed and ready to be gifted, knitted, or crocheted! Don’t forget to share your work with us on social media @knomad_yarn. We can’t wait to see what you make!

 

get started dyeing with food coloring

 

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Amy Reader

Amy Reader is a fiber artist based in Portland, OR. She learned to sew when she was six years old and quickly fell in love with textiles of all kinds. With the help of her grandmother, Amy learned to knit and crochet shortly thereafter. Amy started dyeing with kitchen safe dyes and was immediately hooked. She loves working with bold and playful colors and primarily dyes yarn for her line of hand-embroidered jewelry.

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