Hi creative mamas! I want to share with you this really cool craft activity for kids. I will show you how to dye wool with food coloring but also I will show you other ways in which you can apply this technique for fabric and paper.
How to dye wool with food coloring
I have been looking for a quick, easy and cheap way to have some fun with my daughter creating fun colors that we could use to quickly dye wool yarn to make our own pom poms and wool fabric to make fabric collage books.
As you know, I am a natural dyer and I have always involved my kids in the process of collecting the leaves, flowers, rusty nails etc, to dye with. We have had lots of fun with the natural dyeing processes and had achieved beautiful colors together. However, it’s a process that involves planning and preparation. So when my daughter wanted to do quick natural dyeing with her little friend who was having a sleep over at home, I had to think quickly. Food coloring was the answer.
Even though I don’t use food coloring for cooking (I like my cake icing white) I always have a little stash of different food colorings at home for when we make our own play dough mixture. The beauty of using food coloring to dye fabric with kids is that you can use your kitchen utensils because you know that its totally safe. You don’t need special equipment to dye wool fabric with food coloring.
How to dye wool yarn with food coloring: Tutorial
- Food coloring of your choice (It’s fun to choose the three primary colors or three secondary colors)
- Wool yarn in different thicknesses
- Wool fabric (I used an old cream color wool blanket from a thrift shop)
- White vinegar
- Hot Water
- Pot and mugs
- Rubber gloves! Very important
What colors to choose?
I like using the three primary colors, three secondary colors or complementary colors, so that I get a lovely variety but also are good combinations. Whatever you decide, make sure that you start with three colors so that your kids get really excited by the variety and also they can have some xtra fun by mixing the colors and creating wonderful new ones. check out my favorite color theory book here!
PRO TIP: If you want your colors to be lighter you just need to add more water to the dye mix.
Which are the Primary colors?
Primary colors include red, blue and yellow. They are the base colors and the source of all other colors. Primary colors cannot be mixed from other colors.
Which are the Secondary colors?
- Secondary colors are orange, green and violet. They are the result of mixing two primary colors adjacent to each other on the color wheel.
Which are adjacent colors?
- Adjacent colors are the ones that are similar to the primary colors or next to each other in the color wheel. For example orange and red.
Which are Complementary colors?
- Complementary colors are colors which are on opposite sides of the color wheel like red and green.
Once you decide on your colors you can get started!
The first step is to prepare your wool yarn. Fill a bowl with hot water and equal amounts of white vinegar. So if you have 100 mls of water add 100 mls of white vinegar. Stir well and place your wool yarn inside the solution for fifteen minutes.
Now its time to prepare your food coloring dyes. In a cup or jar or bowl place hot water, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of food coloring. Stir to dissolve. Don’t forget to wear the rubber gloves!
After 15 minutes you can remove the yarn from the water and vinegar solution. Dry it with a paper towel and slowly immerse it in the dye bath. If you want even color, make sure that the yarn is fully immersed. If you want one part of your yarn to remain white immerse only half of the amount of yarn. Leave the yarn in the dye bath for 10 minutes.
Remove the yarn from the dye bath. You have two different options to fix the dye to the yarn.
- Option 1: Place yarn in the microwave for 1 minute at 75 %. Check after 30 seconds to make sure the yarn is not felting.
- Option 2: Place your yarn in a steamer and steam for 45 minutes.
Remove yarn from microwave or steamer and rinse well. Water should run clear. Below are the results we got. My daughter wanted to experiment with immersing half the yarn to get a variety of colors in her pom poms 🙂 so some of the yarn remained white and cream.
PRO TIP: After rinsing really well with water (water should run clear) immerse the yarn in cold water and add 1/2 a cup of white vinegar. this will ensure that the dye is fixed to the yarn so that you don’t end up with colorful fingers 🙂
What else can you dye with food coloring?
I also dyed wool fabric as well as paper. Here are my results!
Dyeing wool fabric with food coloring
Repeat the exact same process as with wool yarn. Replace wool yarn for 100 % wool fabric. I like using second hand blankets. these can be white, cream or lightly colored. Have a look at the pic below as a reference.
Dyeing paper with food coloring
When dyeing paper you follow the same steps but make sure that you choose an absorbent paper such as water coloring paper. Have a look at the pic below to check out our results. We cut little rectangles of paper to try them out. A great idea is to dye your own paper in order to create a beautiful handmade book or journal.
These are the amazing results we got from experimenting with dyeing wool yarn, wool fabric and paper with food coloring
Download your Free Step by Step PDF of How to dye wool with food coloring
What can you do with the dyed wool yarn, wool fabric and dyed paper?
We started this little dyeing experiment to create our own fun colors in order to make beautiful fluffy colorful pom poms. So here is a step by step tutorial on how to make beautiful fluffy pom poms with your dyed wool yarn.
Yarn pom poms tutorial
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Cut a small length of yarn (8 inches, 20 cms) and place it in the pom pom maker as shown in the picture below. Wind your yarn around either fork of the pom pom maker. Then change to wind your yarn around both forks as shown in picture below. you can use one, two or three colors, depending on the result you want. If you are using more than one color do a couple of crosses around the pom pom maker again with the new color and then start winding the new color around both forks.
PRO TIP: Remember the more windings the better the result will be 🙂
When you finish winding the yarn, gather the windings with the tie and tie off very tightly. Make sure it’s tight! Cut along the grooved out edge of the fork (both sides).
Remove from the pom pom maker. With the tie make another tight knot in the opposite direction. this will ensure that the pom pom won’t come undone. Tease the pom pom out with your hands to make it fluffy and rounded and then with your fabric scissors start trimming the yarn into a tidy ball. Be careful not to overdo it. It’s quite tempting to cut and cut some more and you can end up with a little tiny ball 🙂
Do you want to learn how to make super smooth and fluffy pom poms? To learn different ways of making pom poms and for more amazing pom pom ideas and tutorials check out the article: How to make perfect pom poms (the easy way)
Hope you have as much fun with this little craft activity as we did and please do send me pics of the results you’ve got 🙂
Other methods of natural dyeing
For more information about natural dyeing check out The Beginners Guide to Natural dyeing
If you love having fun with your kids and enjoy the process of slow dyeing check out the FREE VIDEO TUTORIAL and learn all about Solar Dyeing.