Learn a variety of Yarn Dye and Wool Dye Methods with these 6 basic Yarn Dyeing Techniques
If you’ve followed FiberArtsy for a while, you know that over the years, I have explored many techniques for dyeing a variety of yarn colorways and patterns. These include how to dye variegated yarn, multicolor yarn and raw wool dye techniques.
There are many, many ways of how to dye art yarns and each hand dyer has his or her own unique process. Personally, I enjoy the control that hand painting yarn gives me but there is something super fun about the spontaneity of the kettle dyeing method.
FYI – This is my favorite source of blank yarn for dyeing.
In this article, we will explore the various colorways and patterns of hand dyed yarn and the techniques to achieve them.
In particular, I will show you the basic yarn dyeing methods to achieve 6 distinct color patterns: Solid, Semi-Solid or Tonal, Gradated or Ombre, Variegated or Multi-Color, Speckled or Sprinkle Dyed, Self Striping Yarn.
In This Article
- Yarn Dyeing Supplies
- Yarn Dyeing Techniques
>>> Get the Free Yarn Dyeing Cheatsheet!<<<
Yarn Dyeing Supplies
- White or light colored Yarn (sheep, alpaca, etc.)
- Acid Dyes
- Yarn Ball Winder
- Cooking Pot (not used for food)
- Plastic cup, spoons, chopsticks are handy (not used for food)
- White Vinegar
- Stove or Hotplate
- Dust Mask
- Gloves (optional)
6 Yarn Dye Techniques
1. Solid Dyed Yarn
As you might guess, Solid Color Yarn is exactly what it sounds like: a skein of yarn that has been dyed one solid color. This is typically done using the immersion yarn dye method.
The tricky part of immersion dyeing is getting your yarn to take up the dye evenly which is done by moving the skein around in the dyepot. This must be done very carefully however, to avoid felting your yarn.
How To Dye Solid Yarn
It just occurred to me that I don’t have a tutorial for immersion dyeing. I’ll work on that.
The basic Immersion Dyeing Method:
Presoak your wool yarn in a warm water/vinegar mix. While the yarn is soaking, you will mix up your acid dye according to the manufacturer directions. Refill your dyepot with water the same temperature as the soaking water, then add the liquid dye and stir.
Now, you will carefully add your skein of yarn to the dyepot and then raise the heat to an easy simmer.
Very gently stir the yarn in the dye pot. You have to move it around to get an even color but you don’t want to move it around so much that it causes the yarn to felt.
Let your yarn simmer until the dye is taken up (or exhausted) and the water is clear.
Examples of Solid Dyed Yarns
2. Semi Solid or Tonal Yarn
Semi Solid or Tonal Dyed Yarn is yarn that has been dyed with various strengths of the same color. Some areas are lighter and some are darker with stronger tones of the same dye color.
This gives the yarn a mottled or marbled look which adds more interest to a knit or crochet piece than a solid dye color.
How To Dye Tonal Yarn
You can achieve a Semi Solid or Tonal Yarn with a variety of methods. One way is to pour the liquid dye directly on several areas of the soaking yarn and allowing the liquid dye to disperse.
As it flows away from the original dye spot, it naturally dilutes and therefore lightens the color.
Here’s my tutorial for How to Dye Semi Solid Yarn
Examples of Semi Solid or Tonal Dyed Yarn
3. Gradient, Gradated or Ombre Yarn
Gradient, Gradated or Ombre refers to a yarn that is dyed with a color gradually changing from lightest to darkest. This can be done with one dye color across the entire skein or it can also be one color gradating to a second color.
How To Dye Gradient Yarn
There are several yarn dyeing techniques for achieving a gradient or ombre yarn. You can set up bowls or mason jars with different dye strengths in each ranging from most diluted to full strength. Then soak equal sections of yarn in each.
Another way you can dye gradient yarn is to dip a full skein in a dye pot and then gradually lifting out sections of the yarn. With this method, the varying lengths of time that each section is soaked in the dye creates the gradient.
4. Variegated or Multicolor Dyed Yarn
Variegated yarn is sometimes also called Space Dyed yarn. This yarn dye method means pretty much what it sounds like … yarn dyed with multiple colors.
These can be dyed in a pattern such as repeating stripes of the same colors or the colors can be randomly placed along the skein.
How To Dye Variegated Yarn
If you want your yarn to have a pattern of repeating the same colors, you can use the Hand Painting Method. This technique gives you precise control over the placement of the various dye colors.
However, if you want your yarn to have random areas of various colors, use the Kettle Dyeing Method. This technique gives you less control over the placement but the dyes move and blend in surprising ways for more variety.
Here’s my tutorial for How to Hand Paint Yarn
Here’s my tutorial on How to Kettle Dye Yarn and Wool Fiber
Examples of Multicolor Yarn
5. Sprinkled or Speckled Yarn
This type of dyed yarn has been super popular in the past few years. Speckled Yarn means just what it ways: yarn that has spots speckled or sprinkled onto it. The base color can be anything from solid to multi colored.
The focal point of speckle dyed yarn is the little pops of color which again, can be one color of specks or many different dye colors. The ‘sprinkles’ also show up nicely in the finished knitted or crochet project.
How To Dye Speckled Yarn
With speckle dyeing, contrasting yarn dye color is literally sprinkled on top of the yarn. The dye can be in powder or liquid form. (Follow all safety precautions when using fiber dyes!)
The speckle dyeing method is really very straightforward but it does take some practice to control the dyes. Too much dye and you have a big blob of color, too little, and it barely shows up.
Here’s my tutorial for How to Speckle Dye or Sprinkle Dye Yarn
Examples of Speckled Yarn
6. Self Striping Yarn
Self Striping is a yarn dyeing technique where long sections are created to produce stripes on knitted socks, for example. Most yarn in normal skein form is not long enough to achieve multiple rows of the same color.
To create yarn that stripes in many rows, you have to re-skein it to produce much longer dye sections. This can be done with a warping board for weaving looms or with specially constructed PVC contraptions.
How To Dye Self Striping Yarn
A few years ago, I figured out how to create a 14 foot skein of yarn using cheap Dollar Tree door hooks. Once my yarn was reskeined, I dyed it in long sections (5 feet or so) as well as shorter sections to create multiple rows of the same color with spots of contrasting dye in between.
Here’s my tutorial for How to Dye Self Striping Yarn
Examples of Self Striping Yarn
I hope this tutorial explains the differences between these various yarn colorways and patterns. With these yarn dyeing techniques, you will be able to create your very own colorful art yarns!
Check back in for my Immersion Dyeing and Gradient or Ombre Yarn Dyeing Techniques.
How Do You Set Wool Dye in Yarn?
When you apply wool dye to yarn, it basically just sits on top of the fiber. If you wash the yarn, the dye simply washes away. Therefore, the dye has to be fixed or set. This is done with some form of heat.
See my article How to Set Yarn Dye with Heat to learn all about setting dye.