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Hand Painted Yarn with Food Coloring on Duo

By Amy Reader on September 2, 2021

Hand painting yarn is a great way to get really precise color application. Food coloring is a great option to try out hand painting because it is kitchen safe, affordable, and comes in lots of bright colors! Today we are going to be hand painting two skeins of DUO yarn with Wilton gel food coloring. Gel food coloring can be found at your local craft store in the cake section. Liquid food coloring can work as well but usually has fewer color options and the colors are not as vibrant as the gel.


  • Two skeins DUO 80% Superwash Merino Wool, 20% Recycled Nylon
  • Wilton Gel Food Coloring in VIOLET, TEAL, and LEAF GREEN
  • Three squeeze bottles
  • Measuring spoons
  • Glass jars for mixing
  • Funnel (optional)
  • Citric acid
  • Plastic wrap
  • Slow cooker with steamer rack or stock pot with steamer rack
  • Chopsticks
  • Gloves
  • Large bowl or chafing dish
  • Zip ties (optional)
  • Plastic trash bags/tablecloth/newspaper (optional)

Two skeins DUO 80% Superwash Merino Wool, 20% Recycled Nylon



Fill a large bowl or chafing dish with cool water and dissolve a dash of citric acid into the water. Loop zip ties through the yarn if you are using them. Zip ties make the skeins easier to manage while dyeing but are not necessary. Add the yarn to the dish with the water and citric acid and submerge. Allow the yarn to become fully saturated. This usually takes about an hour.


Fill each of the three cups with the hottest dye your faucet will produce. Dissolve one teaspoon of each gel dye color into the cups – one teaspoon of color per cup. Gel dye takes some time to dissolve so continue to stir until there are no clumps left and the dye is completely dissolved. Transfer the dye stock into the squeeze bottles. It is best to do this over a sink while wearing gloves. A funnel is useful as well to prevent spills. Screw the caps on and set these aside.


If you have a dedicated table for dyeing that can get stained, don’t worry about covering it. If you want to protect your table, cover it with plastic trash bags or a plastic tablecloth and lay some newspapers on top to absorb any dye spills.


Lay down several long layers of plastic wrap on the table overlapping the edges of each new sheet by at least 4”. The plastic wrap should be long enough to lay down a skein of yarn with several inches of wrap extended beyond the edges of the skein.


Squeeze out as much excess water as you can from your presoaked skeins of DUO yarn. This works best if you hold the yarn vertically in the sink and start squeezing it at the top working your way down the skein. The yarn should be damp to the touch but not dripping.


Lay down the two skeins of yarn side by side on the plastic wrap.



Now comes the fun part! Using the squeeze bottles, apply the dye to your yarn. For these skeins, I wanted to do a mix of thin and thin bands of dye with breaks of white in between. I marked off the end of the section I wanted to dye and then moved up to the top and filled it in with dye. This helped me plan out the sections and define clean lines where I wanted them.

The squeeze bottles can drip a little so work slowly and if you notice some drips you can try taking off the top and screwing it back on or placing a paper towel around the neck of the bottle to absorb the drips.

As you apply the dye, use a chopstick to move the yarn out of the way to work the dye deeper into the yarn for even color saturation. Continue applying the dye to the yarn as desired.


A note on the violet – the violet gel food coloring has a tendency to “break.” This means that the individual pigments that were used separate out showing multiple colors instead of one solid color. Personally, I enjoy this effect as it adds pops of pink into the yarn organically. However, I recommend testing any dye before you use it so you know how it behaves. To test the dye, cut off a short length of yarn and presoak it in citric acid and then dip it into the dye stock for 10-15 minutes and then pull it out and see how it behaves.


Wrap the yarn up in the plastic wrap. Fold the excess plastic wrap overtop of the dyed yarn and roll it up so that all of the yarn is contained inside of the plastic wrap.

Place the plastic wrapped bundle of yarn on top of a steamer rack inside of a slow cooker or stock pot. Cover the bottom of the slow cooker with an inch or so of water. The water should not touch the plastic wrapped bundle of yarn.


Place a lid on top and set the heat to medium/medium-high. Once steam starts to form, let the yarn sit for at least thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, turn off the heat and allow the yarn to cool fully.



Once the yarn has fully cooled, rinse it under running water until the water runs clear. Hang the yarn to dry somewhere with good ventilation.


Now that your yarn is finished, it is ready to be used! Don’t forget to share your dyed yarn with us on social media #knomadyarn. We can’t wait to see what you make!


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.

4 responses to “Hand Painted Yarn with Food Coloring on Duo”

  1. Nicole says:

    Thank you for sharing! I’ve always loved hand dyed yarn. I just need to find my steamer part! That was very kind of you. Have a great day!

  2. Judy Asbell says:

    When I first started dyeing yarn, I used Koolaid and Wilton’s gels. I loved the effect the violet had and how it broke. I still love using these from time to time. I want to knit a hat or socks with bare yarn and dip dye with the violet specifically to have it break. I love the colors you used. I may have to dye up some yarn with these. I need to get that green, I think I only have moss green, which is my favorite.

    • Knomad Yarn says:

      It’s so interesting how colors can break and how we can use them to our advantage! Definitely try the green, it’s so beautiful!

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