If you have any questions during this tutorial, about something I didn’t cover or explain. Please leave the question in the comment section below. I will compile the questions and answer them all on Friday in a special Q & A post.

Your Supplies:

– Your yarn samples, PRESOAKED (you will need one for each color you plan on sampling)
(Click here for instructions on how to divide one skein of yarn into samples, and click HERE for PRESOAK instructions.)

– liquid food coloring. I’m using the standard four pack that you can find in the baking section of most grocery stores.

– 1 teaspoon citric acid OR 1 TABLESPOON distilled white vinegar. (You can find citric acid in the canning section at your grocery store OR you can order it online.)

– Cups to dye in. One for each sample you want to dye, each should be at least 12 ounces, microwave safe. I am using Solo cups, which aren’t exactly microwave safe, but will stand up to a few rounds in the microwave.

– One measuring cup (2-cup capacity)

– disposable powdered latex gloves to keep from dyeing your hands (or non-latex, if you are allergic)

– water

– a place to lay the mini samples out to dry.

I’m making the assumption that some people won’t read all the tutorials in order- they will just read the one they need. To that end- I will explain some things AGAIN that I explained in the previous tutorial. Just bear with me- I’m trying not to lose anyone.

I’m going to remind you right here that you MUST use animal fibers for this. Acrylic yarn WILL NOT WORK. Cotton yarn WILL NOT WORK. Blends that are mostly animal fibers will work, BUT your coloring will not be as deep as with 100% animal fibers.

So we’re all on the same page, yes? Okay, let’s continue.

There aren’t that many tutorials out there that use liquid food coloring. And of the ones that do, they aren’t precise with measurements. You usually get something along the lines of “Add drops until you get the color you want”. Well- if you’ve never worked with food coloring as a dye before- you don’t know how many drops to start with, and how many is too much. Luckily- I found the lovely Becka Rahn, who provided that information for me. (Check out her website- she even has a color chart! ) The ratio is 10 drops per 4 yards of worsted weight yarn. Since we are working with 11 yards- we will use 30 drops for our sample.

(Please note- that for a full 100-gram skein – this is a whopping 550 drops of food coloring!!)

First- we will need to prepare the mordant. A mordant is “a substance, typically an inorganic oxide, that combines with a dye or stain and thereby fixes it in a material.” Without a mordant- you will only be staining the yarn. Mordants create a bond of yarn and dye, and (with heat) are permanent bonds. Your mordant, in this case, is the citric acid or vinegar. You need one or the other, NOT BOTH.

Pour 2 cups of water into your measuring cup.

Add EITHER the teaspoon of citric acid, OR the TABLESPOON of vinegar. Mix well. This is enough mordant for all four samples, just divide it evenly into the dye cups.

Now- add the food coloring. 30 drops into each dye cup.

30 drops doesn’t really look like much by itself. It’s enough. Trust me.

Oh, and please note that this is 30 drops TOTAL for your sample.  If you want to try mixing colors- you need to plan accordingly.  For instance- purple would be 15 drops of red and 15 drops of blue.

Add water until your cup is about 75% full. The amount of water in terms of dye DOES NOT MATTER. The water is simply a conduit for heat, and you need heat for the bonding process.

Now- take your PRESOAKED yarn sample and squeeze the presoak water out of it. It doesn’t need to be dry, just not dripping. Once your cup is 75% full of colored water, add your yarn sample. You can gently push it down into the cup with a spoon, but DO NOT STIR. When your yarn is completely submerged, put it in the microwave.

You can put all four cups into the microwave at the same time. If you are doing this- microwave on HIGH in 1 minute increments, until steaming. Do not microwave for more than 5 minutes total. Remove cups carefully. (They are HOT!)

If you are doing one cup at a time, microwave on HIGH in 30-second increments, until steaming. Do not microwave for more than 4 minutes. Remove cup carefully. (It’s HOT!)

The water in the cup should be clear or almost clear. (This is called exhausting the water.)

If it is not clear- your problem could be one of a few reasons. 1. You have hard water. Minerals in water will keep your dye from bonding with your yarn. This is the reason that most dyers will use filtered or distilled water. Red dye is notorious for not bonding in hard water. 2. You were heavy-handed with your drops. Your yarn can only absorb soo much dye, before it just stops absorbing. 3. You didn’t get it hot enough. If you didn’t see steam coming out of the cup- you need to nuke it again. 4. Turquoise (blue) is really bad about being slow to bond. So anything with blue in it (green… purple…black, etc) will take longer to absorb all the dye. It might need another few rounds in the microwave. Let it cool COMPLETELY, and check the water, before you nuke it again.

Let your sample cool COMPLETELY before you rinse. Rinse the sample in cool tap water. (If you are using 100% wool, and are worried about felting- fill a container with cool water, and gently lay the sample in the water and let it sit.)

If the rinse water runs clean- all the dye bonded and you are done! You can lay your sample out to dry. Your yarn will look darker while wet. Wait for it to dry, before you judge the coloring.

That’s it! See- that wasn’t hard. It really takes longer to read it, than it does to do it.

Here are my dried samples:

The blue looks much darker in the group photo, than it actually is.
Here’s the blue by itself:

Your sample size will be an accurate representation of the color you would get, if you dyed a whole 100-gram skein of yarn with 550 drops of food coloring.

Remember- if you have questions, please put them in the comments below.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Day Three: Wilton Gel Food Coloring!