Learn how to dye your own beautiful yarn or wool roving with the easy kettle dye method
A few years ago, I shared a tutorial on how to Kettle Dye Yarn and I decided it was time for an update. The information in that post is all good but the photos are … well …. not so much.
This was a very early FiberArtsy post and I had a lot to learn. So, hence this new and improved kettle dyeing tutorial.
Note: In this post, I’m dyeing wool roving for an upcoming wet felting project. The steps to kettle dye yarn are exactly the same as for wool so feel free to substitute. This is my favorite super soft roving for dyeing.
For particular roving, I used Jacquard Acid Dyes, but feel free to experiment with Rit Dye or food colors such as Wilton, especially if you are a beginner.
FYI, this is my favorite source for Dyeable Yarn
In This Article
- What is Kettle Dyed Yarn?
- Wool Dyeing Supplies
- Dyeing Safety
- Kettle Dye Instructions
- Applying the Dye to the Yarn
- Heat Setting the Wool Dye
- How Do You Dye Tonal Yarn?
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What is Kettle Dyeing?
When you Kettle Dye wool, you dye and heat set the yarn or roving in one container. It’s a much quicker process than hand painting yarn where you paint the dye onto the yarn and then heat set it.
The downside to kettle dyeing is that you have less control over where the dyes end up. They tend to run together and blend more than with hand painting, which I actually like.
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Wool Dyeing Supplies:
– Wool Yarn or Roving
– Acid Dyes (I used Turquoise, Vermillion, Aztec Gold and Yellow Sun)
– White Vinegar
– Old Roasting Pan
– Mesh Fabric (s.a. a laundry bag)
– Mason Jars or Cups
– Plastic spoons and/or chop sticks
– Dust Mask
– Gloves (optional)
– Stove top
NEVER use pots, pans, measuring cups etc. that are used for food prep.
ALWAYS wear a face mask when handling dry dye powder.
Helpful Tip from Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece by Gail Callahan: Cover your work surface with newspaper and spritz them with water. This will attract dry dye particles that may escape.
Kettle Dye Instructions
Prepare the Wool Dye:
Mix your dyes in the mason jars according to the directions on the container. It can be a little confusing when you need to mix a smaller amount. As a general rule of thumb, I use 1 teaspoon of dye powder per pint of water.
Safety Note: Always wear your dust mask when handling dye powder!
Prepare the Yarn or Wool Roving:
Put about one inch of medium warm water into the roasting pan and add appr. 1/2 cup of vinegar. Next, lay the mesh fabric inside the roasting pan.
Now, carefully place the yarn or roving in the pan and push it down into the water. Let the fiber soak for about 30 minutes to ensure it is completely wet.
Applying the Dye to the Yarn:
Take the first color and slowly and carefully pour some dye onto one section of the yarn/roving. Add small amounts of dye … you only want as much as the fiber can absorb and no more.
It’s a little tricky to know how much is enough but keep in mind, you can always add more.
Using a spoon or chop stick, gently move the fiber so that the dye can penetrate the part you wish to dye that color. Be careful not to move your fiber too much, which can cause felting.
Apply the second color near the first but not touching. The dyes will migrate and blend on their own. See the green?
Repeat with the third and fourth colors.
Heat Setting the Wool Dye:
Place the pot on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Gently simmer the fiber for about 40 minutes. You don’t want big, rapid bubbles which can cause felting, just an easy simmer.
Turn off the heat and allow the fiber to cool completely. At this point, the water should be mostly clear. Very carefully, rinse your yarn/roving with room temperature water until it runs completely clear.
Don’t handle your fiber too much or it may felt. Hang to dry and your yarn or roving is ready to use.
Have you tried kettle dyeing? How did it turn out?
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How Do You Dye Tonal Yarn?
Tonal Yarn (also called Semi Solid Dyed Yarn) is has been dyed with various strengths of the same color. Meaning, that some areas are lighter and some are darker shades with stronger tones but the basic color is the same.
Here is a tutorial which shows you how to dye semi solid or tonal yarn.
Related Wool Dyeing Tutorials
Beginner’s Guide to Hand Dyeing Yarn
6 Yarn and Wool Dyeing Techniques
How to Hand Paint Yarn
How to Speckle or Sprinkle Dye Wool
Easy Way to Dye Semi Solid Yarn Colorways
How to Dye Self Striping Sock Yarn without Special Tools
How NOT to Dye Yarn – or How to Dye Ugly Yarn
Dyeing Wool or Yarn in a Slow Cooker or Crock Pot