As I Stand Dyeing..

Cheesy title aside, I hope this mini tutorial helps the rest of you out there that are trying to dye some boring cotton or bamboo yarn that’s sitting in your stash. Non-wool knitters, don’t feel left out from all that kool-aid dyeing going on out there! My lord, there’s a lot. I tried to find out how others did this, but all I could find was kool-aid or cake frosting dyeing. I decided to just go for it, fail, and then finally succeed. So here’s what not to do first:

Food-coloring dye. (I’m not going to write any of my measurements out for this part since it was a failure)
Somewhere I heard this worked, so quickly I bought a small set of food dyes at my supermarket. I made up three colors and six little test strips. Why six? Well, if any of you remember, the girl at Habu suggested I let the yarn soak in milk first, let dry, and then dye. I think she said this was for natural dyeing, but more on that later.

aww don’t they look cute and virginal!

Three of those little guys went into the soymilk and the rest went directly into the food-dyes and vinegar. I was so excited when I got sorta a color I liked, though they were too pastely for me. I figured I could work with it. I did notice a difference with the milk, it helped soak in a lot more of the color, making for a deeper dye. But alas, once water got on the strips the color washed off. This stuff just acts like a stain on cellulose fibers, so we must move on. But first I’ll show you the color differences.

The one on the left is the dry test, the one on the right is the soymilk soaked yarn (noticed the washed one in the middle it used to be green).
After this, I went back on google but all I could find was the cake stuff and then I found people tie-dyeing. hmm, that could work! I headed straight out to AC Moore and walked to their fabric paints section. Under all the tie-dye kits and puffy fabric paints they had Procion MX Dye in a bunch of different colors. This stuff was right next to the RIT, but I don’t suggest you use that stuff since it’s a lot more toxic and staining (it requires a lot more bleach to get it off). This powder looked good to me, so I bought one in deep purple and one in fire engine red (they were unfortunately out of fuschia). I wondered if I should buy black, but figured that for now this was ok. I also picked up two squeeze bottles, two mini bottles, and soda ash (sodium carbonate) which acts as our color fixer. Now we get to the actual tutorial, so I hope I haven’t bored you. I’ll give the numbers I used, but after I started all of this I found this tutorial. (I still have no clue why that page never came up before) Depending on how much you are dyeing that one may help you.

You will need:
Procion MX Dye, the color of your choice (I have 050 and 030)
Some sort of bucket (if you are doing a lot of yarn) or tray (get a cat litter tray, I did, they are cheap and deep enough)
Soda ash
Squeeze bottles (needs to be at least 2 cups big)
Turkey Baster (not dire)
Yarn! (cotton, bamboo, silk, etc, just not wool!)

1. Get your yarn into a hank, maybe around a chair or niddy noddy or a person, who knows. Tie evenly in a few places (I did 4 ties) Let your yarn soak for a while. I soaked mine in some soymilk for 20 minutes, but you could just use water.


2. Now, my recipe is for 1 oz of yarn. Weigh your yarn if you can (or look at your ball band) to figure out how you change this. Though really it will work a lot more yarn, since I had a lot left over. Put 1/4 tsp of dye into your squeeze bottle and add a bit of warm water (a little at a time) and stir into a paste. I used a chopstick for this.

3. Add 2 cups of hot (hot! from the tap) water into your bottle (with the paste) and stir.

4. Add 2 tbsp of salt into your dye mixture and stir to dissolve (this is what helps your yarn soak up the dye, add more salt for a deep color like black)

5. Using gloves, pour dye liquid on yarn, making sure apply it evenly and under your little ties. This is the fun part, cause you get to make up where the colors go if you are doing more than one, or you control how deep or light they are. Before I dyed the yarn though, I placed a cookie tray/rack/cooler thing under my hank so that the color wouldn’t pool and muddle since I was using more than one color)

To play with the colors, I made one “strip” full strength purple, but then watered down with some water I poured on it with a turkey baster, another with both bottles of red and purple to make a mix, and then a super strength deep purple (where I added less water to the mix), and a light pinkey red (where I added less red powder to the mix and poured water on it with the turkey baster.

6. Let the yarn sit for 10 minutes, but make sure that the dye is even throughout. I squished mine and spread the yarn a bit every few minutes to make sure of this. After ten minutes you want to pour on the soda ash to set in your color. You need to dissolve 2 tbsp of the soda in 2 cups of warm water (remember to stir). I used my trusty turkey baster for this part as well. Wearing my gloves, I made sure that I poured the ash mix evenly onto the yarn.

7. Depending on your color(s), you may want to pour some more dye on the yarn if you feel the ash mix took some off, but this isn’t a must.

8. Let your yarn sit for 20-30 minutes for light to medium colors and 60 minutes for deeper colors. I had to compromise with the times since mine was a mix. I let mine sit for 45 minutes, which kept my deep colors deep while the lighter ones went a little darker.

9. Wash your yarn until the water runs clear, I used a mild shampoo for this part.

10. Let dry. Now there seems to be some differing views on how to do this (as in sun or no sun). I let mine hang for a few hours in indirect sun, but then brought it back in partly because of the sun and partly because it’s so damn humid outside. My colors didn’t fade, so I think this is ok.

Doesn’t it look a little noro-esque?
11. After your yarn is fully dry, wind it back into a skein and love it!


  • I have more pics on my flickr, with a link to the set on the left under gallery.
  • If
    you are going to dye more than one skein, I would do the mixing of the dyes and water in a bucket and drop all your yarn in so you can get the same color lot. Though you can still do it this way just as easily (just make sure to mix up enough dye)
  • You can pre-mix color combos, by mixing enough powder from each color into one bottle (it will still be a total of 1/4 tsp for 1 oz of yarn)
  • Keep the amount of salt and soda the same, no matter if you reduce the amount of dye powder
  • Feel free to ask me any questions, I’m sure I didn’t cover something on here.
  • This doesn’t work for any animal fibers, except for silk.
  • Be careful breathing this stuff, don’t inhale it! And try to do this in a well ventilated area or at least, like me, in a bathroom with the fan on. You don’t realize the smell when you do the test strips, but when it’s the whole thing you do.
  • For the best results, do your test and your final the same day in the same conditions. I did mine in two different days (the dye mix can be saved) and had to change a few things so I didn’t get one of the colors I was expecting.

Here’s my yarn all wound up finally:

eta:soda ash info

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  • Atouria June 15, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    Yahaira, you are AMAZING! I can not tell you how much I am just beaming over here! I’m completely thrilled that you’ve taken such time and diligence to make a tutorial that shows so much vegan love. I never thought I’d try my hand at dyeing, but now I definitely will! I just hope mine comes out half as nice as yours. Your colorway is GORGEOUS!One question, for now: Where do i find the soda ash? Is it in a certain section of craft shops.. is it near the tie-dye stuff?Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  • illanna June 15, 2005 at 8:58 pm

    Yeah, what’s soda ash?Yahaira you are super duper awesome and your colors rock. It looks VERY shiny and sleek, like silk. Ho hum… looks like I have to go BACK to Habu to buy some bamboo now… man… life’s rough 🙂 I cannot beLIEVE those colors though. You rock.

  • Debbie June 15, 2005 at 11:10 pm

    A most excellent tutorial, and with such beautiful results, thanks for sharing! Check out Dharma Trading Co ( for the ultimate source of dyes and everything to do with dyes (including soda ash).

  • Tara June 16, 2005 at 7:34 pm

    Beautiful colors! I might have to give dyeing a try

  • Amanda Woodward June 19, 2005 at 8:55 pm

    Hello!!! I’ve seen you a zillion times on craftster & I wanted to thank you for making this dying tutorial, it is WONDERFUL!!! I’m greenmelanzana on craftster..haha. Do you mind if I link you to my blog? I’m http://frenchtoastcake.typepad.comI always ask before I link! yay! 😀

  • tina February 23, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    This was very informative! Thanks!