How to Hand Paint Yarn

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Learn how easy it is to hand dye or hand paint yarn at home. No previous dyeing experience needed!

So, you have decided to try dyeing yarn at home and maybe you are not sure where to begin. Hand painting is one way to get exactly the color and pattern you want.

This is my favorite practice yarn (in white, cream or light gray!)



hand painted yarn skein


In This Article





There are several different ways to hand paint yarn and every yarn dyer has his or her own favorite method. The main difference is in how you apply the dye.

Some people like to use brushes to paint the dye directly onto the yarn. I have found that this method works well if you have a large sponge brush or a small amount of yarn.

Other fiber artists use small cups to pour the dye. The downside to this is that you give up some control. It is very easy to accidentally pour too much dye which then flows to areas you didn’t intend to dye that color.

Personally, I prefer to paint the dye onto the yarn using squirt bottles. These give me more precise control over how much dye liquid is applied and where.

If you are new to yarn dyeing, make sure and check out my Beginner’s Guide to Hand Dyeing Yarn and 6 Yarn Dyeing Techniques



Why not dye your own beautiful yarn for that special knit or crochet project? You too can learn how to Hand Paint Yarn. Hand painting is one yarn dyeing method. You can also find kettle dyeing and sprinkle dyeing tutorials at FiberArtsy.com





What is Hand Painted Yarn?

Hand Painted Yarn is exactly what it sounds like … it is yarn that has the dye directly applied to it by hand. As I said above, this can be done with a paint brush or sponge, a cup or a squirt bottle.

The main difference between this and other yarn dyeing methods is that the dye is directly applied where you want it.



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Yarn Dyeing Supplies:

Wool Yarn ** (Huge selection of Yarns to Dye)
Jacquard Acid Dyes
Digital Scale
Dust mask ***
Squirt bottles (1 per color)
– White Vinegar
Plastic wrap
– Chopsticks
(optional)
– Old Newspapers
Stock Pot with a Rack (for dyeing only)

** Make sure that the yarn you have is a protein yarn which simply means animal fiber. This can be sheep wool, alpaca, goat or silk.

*** Safety Note: You do not want to breathe in the dye powder so always put a dust mask over your nose and mouth when handling the dyes. See more safety recommendations below:



Knit Picks Dyeable Yarns
Knit Picks Dyeable Yarn Blanks



Supplies for Hand Dyeing Yarn


Check out this Online Class – Next Steps in Yarn Dyeing

Bluprint - Online Yarn Dyeing Class





Yarn Dyeing Safety

If you are dyeing yarn or wool in your kitchen, very carefully cover all counters with newspaper or plastic. Never handle food at the same time that you are dyeing.

Also, remember that any equipment used in dyeing will no longer be safe for food prep so make sure that all of your pots and pans and measuring cups, etc. are dedicated to yarn dyeing only. The only exception to this rule is if you are dyeing with food color instead of chemical dyes.

Also, as I stated previously, wear your dust mask anytime you are handling dry dye powder.






Pre Soaking the Yarn

Before you begin painting the yarn, you need to soak it in a very warm (but not hot) water and white vinegar solution. (The is actually the ‘acid’ in acid dyes).

How much white vinegar you need depends on the amount of yarn you have. Normally, I paint about 8 to 10 skeins at one time so I add about 1 – 2 cups of vinegar to my water. Simply push the yarn below the surface and let it soak for about an hour.

Now, while your wool yarn is soaking you can mix up your acid dyes. Since the instructions can vary depending on the brand of dye you use, I won’t go into the details. Make sure to follow the directions on your dye container.

For Jacquard Acid Dye, I usually mix approximately .3 oz per 1/2 gallon of water. (Note: this can also vary by color as some are stronger than others)



Skeins of yarn laid out to be painted


Next, carefully remove the yarn from the water and let it drain for a bit if you can and then squeeze out the excess water. You want the yarn to be damp but don’t let it dry out.

Now lay a long piece of plastic wrap on your table and place the yarn on top. The piece of plastic should be larger than the area of your yarn.






Applying the Yarn Dye

Now the fun starts! With the squirt bottle, begin applying your dye to the skeins of yarn. You can 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.

After all of the color is applied, you need to use newspapers to soak up any excess dye. Sometimes when you hand paint yarn, too much liquid dye is applied. So, it is important to remove the extra which can move around when you set the dye.



Applying dye to wool yarn


How to hand paint yarn, Kentucky Blue Fiber Co.


How to hand paint yarn, Kentucky Blue Fiber Co.





Setting the Dye

In order for the yarn to not bleed, we need to set or fix the dye. Begin by carefully rolling the yarn in the plastic wrap. Place the rack in your stock pot and set the yarn on top of the rack. (If you don’t have a rack, a steamer basket or even an old aluminum pie plate will work.) 

Now, add some water to the bottom of the pot making sure the water is below the yarn. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for about an hour. Then, turn the heat off and let the yarn cool overnight.



Why not dye your own beautiful yarn for that special knit or crochet project? You too can learn how to Hand Paint Yarn. Hand painting is one yarn dyeing method. You can also find kettle dyeing and sprinkle dyeing tutorials at FiberArtsy.com


Why not dye your own beautiful yarn for that special knit or crochet project? You too can learn how to Hand Paint Yarn. Hand painting is one yarn dyeing method. You can also find kettle dyeing and sprinkle dyeing tutorials at FiberArtsy.com





Rinsing the Hand Painted Yarn

Finally, all that is left is to thoroughly rinse your yarn in luke warm water. You need to handle the yarn carefully to keep it from felting. No drastic temperature changes and no agitating the yarn.

Once the water runs clear, fill a bowl with room temperature water, add a tiny squirt of dish soap and place your yarn in the bowl. Gently push the yarn into the water. This will help to remove any excess dye particles that didn’t adhere to the yarn.

Again, carefully rinse the yarn and then hang it up to dry.



Why not dye your own beautiful yarn for that special knit or crochet project? You too can learn how to Hand Paint Yarn. Hand painting is one yarn dyeing method. You can also find kettle dyeing and sprinkle dyeing tutorials at FiberArtsy.com


Why not dye your own beautiful yarn for that special knit or crochet project? You too can learn how to Hand Paint Yarn. Hand painting is one yarn dyeing method. You can also find kettle dyeing and sprinkle dyeing tutorials at FiberArtsy.com


Your lovely hand painted yarn is now ready to use! You can make a colorful crochet scarf, hat, knit shawl or wrap, the possibilities are almost endless!

Below is a skein of yarn from my alpaca farming days that I call “Tutti Fruity”.

This was 80% Alpaca Fiber, 20% Merino Wool in a DK Weight which I dyed with bands of purple, turquoise, emerald, aztec gold, yellow sun and crimson red.



How to Hand Paint Yarn. A step by step yarn dyeing tutorial which shows you how to dye your own wool yarn with the hand painting method. #yarn #dyeing #knitting #crochet


I hope you found this yarn dyeing tutorial helpful. If you have any questions or if anything is unclear, please let me know in the comments below.
Enjoy!
Annette

Why not dye your own beautiful yarn for that special knit or crochet project? You too can learn how to Hand Paint Yarn. Hand painting is one yarn dyeing method. You can also find kettle dyeing and sprinkle dyeing tutorials at FiberArtsy.com





What Kind of Yarn Can You Dye?

Actually, you can dye just about any kind of yarn. The only difference is which type of dye you use. For example, protein (animal) fiber is dyed with acid dyes. In contract, plant fiber yarn (cotton, linen or bamboo) is dyed with fiber reactive dyes.

Nowadays, there is even a dye for synthetic fibers such as acrylic or nylon.



Here’s another good tutorial on hand painting yarn from Dharma Trading.



Learn how to hand paint yarn. A free step by step yarn dyeing tutorial


 

How to Hand Dye Yarn


How to Hand Paint Yarn



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Comments

  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  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,
    Linda

    • 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.
    xx

  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!
      Thanks,
      Annette

  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!

    :)Andrea

    • I use plain old kitchen plastic wrap. You’d think it would melt, but it doesn’t ๐Ÿ™‚
      Thanks for visiting!
      Annette
      FiberArtsy

  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!
      Annette
      FiberArtsy

  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 ๐Ÿ™‚
      Annette
      FiberArtsy

  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!
      Annette

  22. can u use kool-aid for hand painting yarn?



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