How to Hand Paint Yarn

How to Hand Paint Yarn,

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There are many different methods and ideas on how to hand paint yarn. Some people like to apply the dye with brushes or cups but I have found that squirt bottles give me more control over the amount of dye applied.

Did You See??
Beginner’s Guide to Hand Dyeing Yarn
How to Kettle Dye Yarn & Fibers

Gather your supplies:

Yarn s.a. Protein Wool Yarn (Must be protein fiber s.a. Sheep, Alpaca, Mohair, etc); Knit picks also has a nice selection of Dye Your Own Yarn blanks
Jacquard Acid Dyes My favorite dyes!
Digital Scale– The little black box to measure the dye

Face mask – Not shown but very important when mixing dye powder
Squirt bottles
Plastic wrap

Hand painting yarn supplies
Soaking the Yarn

The first step is to soak your yarn in warm water with some vinegar added. (This is the ‘acid’ in acid dyes). I usually paint about 8 to 10 skeins at a time so I add about 1 cup of vinegar. Let your yarn soak for about an hour.

While your yarn is soaking, mix up your dyes. The instructions are on the dye bottles so I won’t go into the details other than to say that for most colors I mix approximately .3 oz per 1/2 gallon of water.

How to hand paint yarn, Kentucky Blue Fiber Co.

Next you want to remove your yarn from the water and let it drain for a bit. About 20 minutes or so. You don’t want it to dry out but it also shouldn’t be dripping wet. Squeeze out the excess water.

Lay down a length of plastic wrap and place your yarn on top. The plastic should be larger than the area of your yarn.

Applying the Dye

Now the fun starts! With the squirt bottle, begin applying your dye. Use the chopsticks to carefully move the yarn to make sure the dye penetrates to the bottom of the skein.

When switching colors, I will usually leave a small gap to give the colors a chance to blend together.

How to hand paint yarn, Kentucky Blue Fiber Co.How to hand paint yarn, Kentucky Blue Fiber Co.
How to hand paint yarn, Kentucky Blue Fiber Co.

After all of the color is applied, I use newspapers to soak up the excess dye.  

Setting the Dye

Next, you want to roll your yarn up in the plastic wrap. Place it in a large pot with a steamer basket or something to keep it out of the water.  Add water to the pot, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour. Let the yarn cool overnight.

>How to hand paint yarn, Kentucky Blue Fiber Co.
How to hand paint yarn, Kentucky Blue Fiber Co.
How to hand paint yarn, Kentucky Blue Fiber Co.

Next, rinse your yarn thoroughly in luke warm water until the water runs clear. Fill a bowl with water, add some dish soap and place your yarn in the bowl. This will help to remove any excess dye particles that didn’t adhere to the yarn. Rinse the yarn again and hang it up to dry.

How to hand paint yarn, Fiberartsy

Voila! Hand painted yarn. If you have any questions about these instructions, please let me know.

Happy Day!


How to Hand Paint Yarn,

Did You See??
Beginner’s Guide to Hand Dyeing Yarn
How to Kettle Dye Yarn & Fibers


  1. Isn’t it funny how everyone has a different technique?

  2. Hey, that was cool! I’ve heard you talk about it before, but never seen it. Pretty cool! Very self explanatory!!!

  3. Thanks Girly, I never know if I’m leaving out a critical step as I’m writing it down :)

  4. Thank you sharing your technique! I haven’t painted yarn in several years, but really enjoy the outcome! I’m inspired to do it again!

  5. That’s truly amazing I’ve never tried it myself but the yarn looks awesome. Great presentation

  6. You should! It’s so much fun :))

  7. You should! It’s so much fun :))

  8. Thanks Irene! Playing with color is fun. You should give it a try

  9. Thanks Irene! Playing with color is fun. You should give it a try

  10. I can’t wait to try this. Looks like a lot of fun, plus I will get to mix two mediums to make a unique product. Thanks for the tutorial!

  11. It really is a lot of fun. And you are not limited by the colors available for sale. Send me a photo!

  12. Inspired to hand paint some yarn. I most always dye yarn or roving in my electric roaster pan. You are wonderful for sharing your knowledge.

  13. Dear Annette,
    Thank you so much for this very informative and instructional information on dying yarn. I have so admired your beautiful colorways and even though I am a fiber producer and yarn seller, I did not have the confidence to attempt doing more that kettle dying my yarns. Now I am ready to experiment! I have wonderful sock yarns produced from my own herd that really need some color, so now I feel more confident in tackling this project. What a great teacher you are! Again, thank you for these posts and for sharing your skill with others!
    Your friend,

    • Thank you, Linda! That means a lot. Your alpacas produce fabulous fiber…can’t wait to see your beautiful yarn. Send me a photo! And feel free to call or email me if you have any questions.

  14. Another great presentation, and of course I love the color… I think I bought this yarn from you

  15. Thank you for sharing Annete. Your yarns look gorgeous.

  16. Do you put all of the skeins in the steamer at the same time? It’s hard to tell if that is one or ten. Thanks so much for the tutorial, can’t wait to try!

    • Hi Kerry,
      Yes, I roll them all up together in the plastic wrap and then steam it. Let me know how your yarn turns out!

  17. This looks so cool! I’m just wondering though, what sort of plastic wrap do you use? I feel sure that if I did this I’d end up with plastic coated yarn…. Eeek!


    • I use plain old kitchen plastic wrap. You’d think it would melt, but it doesn’t :)
      Thanks for visiting!

  18. Is there a way to stop the colors from bleeding together? Ex. I’m wanting to dye yarn red yellow and blue( the primary colors) but I don’t want them to run together and form orange green and purple.

    • Hi Abby,
      The only way you can keep them from running together is if they don’t touch. Unfortunately, then you have bands of the original yarn color in between. Sorry, wish I had a better answer for you.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Danae Baldwin says:

    This is gorgeous! I love the colors that you used for this! Thank you for sharing

    • Thank you so much, Danae! I wish my camera would pick up the turquoise.
      (Sorry for the late response .. for some reason, I didn’t get a notification)
      Thanks for stopping by :)

  20. I’d love to give this a try but if there is one thing in life that bores/annoys me – it’s unravelling tangled yarn. I’m worried that during the soaking process, things are going to get all tangled up in the pot and I’ll just have a big birds nest to pull out. How do you avoid this?

    • Oh, me too, Susan! I have no patience for a tangled mess of yarn. The best way to avoid that is to loosely tie the yarn with a figure 8 in about 4 places. Take a short piece of yarn and instead of just tying it around the skein, go thru the middle it once. Does that make sense?

  21. How concentrated do you make the dye solution? Also, I’ve heard that citric acid is better than vinegar for the process. Do you have an opinion? Thanks for the tutorial!

    • Hi Melanie,
      I prefer vinegar simply because it’s readily available and inexpensive. Both vinegar and citric acid work fine … it’s just a matter of personal preference.

      Dye concentration … that one is not as easy to answer. When I dyed large batches of yarn for resale, I would mix up a 1/2 gallon of each color at a time. The amount of dye powder varied from color to color.

      As a general rule of thumb, I use 1 teaspoon dye powder per 2 cups of water. You can always add more if it’s too pale, but you can’t take it back out.
      Hope that helps!

  22. Susan Hu says:

    can u use kool-aid for hand painting yarn?