How to Set Yarn Dye with Heat (5 Methods)

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Learn how to set your freshly dyed yarn colors with these 5 different heat setting methods you can do at home.

So, you have just dyed up a batch of beautiful yarn and now it is time to fix the color. Most of the time, this is done with some sort of heat such as steam. So, let me show you how to set yarn dye with heat and the various tools you can use at home.

Setting Yarn Dyes with Heat
Image by Irtati Hasan WIBISONO from Pixabay

There are several different ways of setting dye colors in a skein of yarn. It all depends on the material or fiber content of your yarn.

For example, if your yarn is made up of all plant fibers such as cotton or bamboo, the dye setting method will be different than if your yarn is made of sheep wool.

There are also natural yarn dyeing techniques, however in this article we will talk about setting the dye in protein or wool fiber yarn with acid dyes. (Note: protein fiber refers to animal fiber as opposed to plant or synthetic fiber.)

FYI … this is my favorite source for dyeable yarn!

In This Article

As I stated before, there are several different techniques and tools you can use to set or fix the dye in your wool yarn. Specifically, we will discuss the different ways of setting yarn with heat and the various tools you can use.

Related: 6 Yarn Dyeing Techniques and How to Speckle Dye Yarn

Why Do You Need to Heat Set Your Yarn Dye?

When you apply dye to yarn or wool, the color particles are basically just sitting on top of the fiber, meaning they have not adhered to it.

So, if you take that skein of yarn and run water over it, all of that dye will simply wash away.

In order to prevent your hand dyed yarn from bleeding, you need to permanently stick the dye to your yarn. It needs to be ‘fixed’ or ‘set’ with heat.

It is also worth mentioning, that white vinegar is needed in the dye setting process.

Since the focus of this article is the role that heat plays in setting dyes, we will not go into the other details here. But, you can learn all about it in my Beginner’s Guide to Hand Dyeing Yarn.

Hand Dyed Ball of Yarn
Image by Gaby Stein from Pixabay

Two Main Ways to Dye Yarn: Immersion and Steam

Regardless of the heat source, there are two different ways that you can cook the wool dye: Immersion and Steam.

With Immersion Dyeing, your dyed yarn is submerged in water which is then heated for a period of time. This method is appropriate for kettle dyeing as well as dyeing solid yarn colors.

Conversely, with Steam Dyeing, the wet yarn is placed in a container and steamed with one of the tools discussed below. Steaming works well for hand painted yarns.

5 Tools for Heat Setting Yarn Dye

We are going to look at 5 main heat sources you can use to set or fix your hand dyed yarn and the pros and cons of each.

  • Stovetop
  • Oven
  • Microwave
  • Electric Appliances
  • Solar

SAFETY NOTE: Please be aware, that if you are using chemical dyes, your equipment is no longer safe for food prep and therefore must be used for dyeing only.

Natural dyeing fabric and wool yarn
How to Set Yarn Dye with Heat- Immersion Dyeing


The stovetop is ideal for heat setting with either the immersion method or the steaming method. It is readily available and can accommodate larger vessels.

For immersion dyeing on the stove, all you need is a large stockpot or roasting pan. For steaming, you only need to add a steamer basket.


  • Readily available
  • Variety of burner sizes
  • Can accommodate small or large dye pots
  • May be used for dyeing and cooking although never at the same time


  • Precautions needed if using chemical dyes
  • Some dyes produce a strong odor
  • Should not be used for dyeing at the same time as cooking

Electric Hotplate

As with the stovetop, an electric hotplate works well for either the immersion or steaming method to set yarn dyes. However, a hotplate has the added advantage of portability.


  • Readily available
  • Inexpensive
  • Portable
  • Variety of burner sizes
  • Can be used outdoors to avoid strong odor
  • Safe to use for dyeing and food with separate pots and pans


  • Somewhat limited in size
  • Hotplates take a bit longer to boil water


An oven also works great with both the immersion or the steaming method however it takes a little longer than using the stovetop. Chances are you already have an oven in your house so that is a big plus.

A turkey roasting pan (dedicated to dyeing) or large pans such as steam table pans are ideal for oven dyeing. For steaming, you would need a rack to fit inside your pan.


  • Readily available
  • Can accommodate large quantities of yarn
  • May be used for dyeing and cooking (never at the same time!)


  • Precautions needed if using chemical dyes
  • Some dyes produce a strong odor
  • Should not be used for dyeing at the same time as cooking


Microwaves are wonderful tools for dyeing yarn. As with cooking, they are a much faster way to set dyes than any of the other methods. You are, however, limited by the size and also the materials that you can use.


  • Readily available
  • Very fast
  • Easy to control temperature setting
  • Relatively inexpensive


  • Only small quantities of yarn can be dyed at one time
  • Dedicated to dyeing only (no longer safe for food prep)
  • Some dyes produce a strong odor

Electric Appliances:

Electric cooking appliances are a great option, especially if you are a hobby home dyer who occasionally dyes a few skeins of yarn. These include Slow Cookers (such as Crock Pots), Electric Skillets, Turkey Roasters and Instant Pots.

These slow cookers are awesome because they have multiple compartments so you can dye several different colors of yarn all at once!

Here is a tutorial which teaches you how to set yarn dye with a slow cooker.


  • Readily available
  • Inexpensive
  • Temperature and Time Control
  • Portable


  • Only small quantities of yarn can be dyed at one time (Turkey Roasters have a larger capacity)
  • Must be dedicated to dyeing only (no longer safe for food prep)


Easily the least expensive option for how to set yarn dye with heat, especially if you live in a warm, sunny climate. You are, however, dependent on mother nature so it can be tricky to schedule your yarn dyeing sessions.

There is also a bit of a setup required such as a hot box of some kind. This can be as elaborate as you care to make it, although a cardboard box with aluminum foil lining works just fine.


  • Free
  • Can dye small or large quantities
  • No safety issues


  • Weather and season dependent
  • Unreliable
  • No temperature control

Kool Aid Solar Dyeing Experiment
Solar Dyeing Method – How to Set Yarn Dye with Heat

How Do You Wash Hand Dyed Yarn?

How to wash your hand dyed yarn depends mainly on what kind of yarn it is, meaning what is the fiber content of your yarn.

Regardless of fiber content, the first time you should hand wash your yarn separately to remove any remaining dye that has not adhered. This is assuming the dye has been set properly.

Setting Yarn Dyes

How to Set Yarn Dye with Heat (5 Methods)

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