How to dye yarn with food coloring (A great activity for kids!)

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Hi Creative Mama! I want to share with you this really cool craft activity for kids. I will show you how to dye yarn with food coloring but also I will show you other ways in which you can apply this technique for fabric and paper.

dye fabric with food coloring

How to dye yarn 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 may 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 yarn with food coloring Tutorial

Materials needed:

  • 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

You can download your FREE Wool dyeing with food coloring tutorial PDF by completing the form below.

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!

Step 1: Preparing the yarn

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.

wool dye solution to dye yarn with food coloring

Step 2: Preparing the food coloring

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!

food color dyes to dye wool yarn and paper

Step 3: Dyeing yarn with food coloring

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.

dyeing wool yarn with food coloring tutorial for kids

Step 4: Dyed yarn

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.
dyeing wool yarn with food coloring tutorial for kids

Step 5: Fixing the color to the yarn

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.

dyeing wool yarn with food coloring tutorial for kids

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 wool fabric using food coloring dye

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.

dyeing paper using food coloring dyes

Dyeing wool, paper and fabric

These are the amazing results we got from experimenting with dyeing wool yarn, wool fabric and paper with food coloring.

fabric dye 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.

pom poms

To make beautiful and fluffy pom poms check out this tutorial for easy step by step instructions.

Other methods of natural dyeing

For more information about natural dyeing check out the Ultimate guide to natural dyeing and The Beginners Guide to Natural dyes

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