Crocheting Blog

How to Hand Dye Animal Fiber Yarn

Hand dyeing yarn at home is like dyeing your own hair. Both yarn and hair are precious assets, and disastrous results could cause fits of crying and even anger.

Animal fibers — wool, mohair, alpaca, or any other fiber that comes from an animal — are one of the most simple fibers to dye because the dye clings quite easily to the fibers. If you’ve dyed any type of fiber before, including your clothing, then you’ll have no problems dyeing animal-fiber yarn.

If you’re not sure how to hand dye animal-fiber yarn at home, consider these tips on how to hand dye yarn. The hardest part is deciding on a dye color!

Miss Babs Yet Yarn - Craftsy Fabric Shop

Because Miss Babs Yet Yarn is hand-dyed, every skein is unique.

Prepping your yarn

Before dyeing, yarn needs to be tied loosely in a skein. You want the yarn to be dyed evenly and soak up all the dye, so that’s why a skein is preferred. If your yarn is wound into a tight ball, the fibers on the outside will be much darker than the fibers that are on the inside.

Wash the yarn in a mild soap, rinse it, and let it soak until you’re ready to start dyeing. You should also add a bit of vinegar to this wash unless you’re dyeing with Kool-Aid, which doesn’t require any vinegar.

What to wear

I’d suggest wearing an apron and some rubber gloves when dealing with any type of dyeing. You may even want to wear an old T-shirt just in case.


Besides dye you’ll find in your local craft store, there are several options for what you can use to dye yarn. Here are two of the most popular:

1. Kool-Aid

When I was a kid, it was trendy to dye your hair with streaks of Kool-Aid. Guess what? Kool-Aid is also a great way to dye yarn a rainbow of colors.

Remember that Kool-Aid only works on animal fibers, so if you decide to dye a synthetic yarn, like an acrylic, you’ll need to use another type of dye. Be sure to also buy sugar-free Kool-Aid. One package per ounce of yarn should do the trick.

2. Food coloring

Food coloring, like Kool-Aid, works well for animal fibers. Drops or gels both work just fine; just be sure to stir the food coloring until it completely dissolves before adding the yarn to the water. The amount of food coloring you use will depend on how many ounces of yarn you have, plus how bold or dark you want your yarn’s color.

Dyeing methods

1. Kettle

A stovetop works well for dyeing. Just dissolve your dye separately in a small container, then add the yarn and dye to the kettle. Add enough water to cover the skein of yarn completely. Remember that the amount of water will not affect the color; the color is dependent on the amount of dye you use. Turn on your stovetop, heating the water until it is almost boiling. Cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let your yarn sit for about half an hour. You can stir it a few times, which also allows you to check out the color! When the half-hour is up, rinse the yarn in warm water, moving it around gently. You don’t want to use cold water or agitate the yarn because that could cause the yarn to felt.

2. Slow cooker

I know. The slow cooker is already amazingly useful in the kitchen. Don’t you love it even more now that you know you can dye yarn in it, too? I personally have never tried this method, but I’ve read plenty of blog posts that use the crock pot successfully for dyeing yarn at home. Follow the same directions as the kettle dyeing but instead of heating the stovetop, just fire up your slow cooker instead. This one may require a little more experimenting with temperature, since some slow cookers tend to get hotter than others.

There are plenty of different dyes and methods you can test when dyeing. When you’re experimenting with your own yarn, just remember to read the instructions on your dye’s label for any warnings.

To delve further into working with dyed yarn, Spinning Dyed Fibers is a great place to start. Seasoned spinner Felicia Lo looks offers detailed instruction on preparing fibers, preserving colors and color theory.

Have you ever dyed animal-fiber yarn? What did you use?


Becky Wooler

Great post! I would love if you did one on hand-dyeing plant-based yarns as well– I’m allergic to wool (sadly, given my last name!) and recently bought some cotton yarn to experiment with hand-dyeing, since I can’t use most of the amazing hand-dyed yarns out there.

Becky Wooler

Great post! I would love if you did one on hand-dyeing plant-based yarns as well– I’m allergic to wool (sadly, given my last name!) and recently bought some cotton yarn to experiment with hand-dyeing, since I can’t use most of the amazing hand-dyed yarns out there.


Would this be possible (using merino wool here) using Directions hair dye (it’s a vegan tempoary hair dye and can give such bright colours. It can be mixed and is peroxide free) I know wool needs to be acidic (diluted vinegar to soak the wool in) And use the hair dye instead of food dye. (I can’t get kool aid easily here in the UK) .

Thank you


I know this comment was posted a while ago, but Amazon has a quite a few flavours of kool-aid in the uk


For how long does it take to boil yarn in case I’m going to use gel food coloring? And at which stage and for how long should I add vinegar for fixing?

Jan Kuester

Of important note, when using dyes other than food grade Koolaid/Jello/Food-colors:
once you use the kettle/crockpot to dye in, you can never use it again for food preparation.


Why can you not use the pot for any food? We eat the dye!! Kateski


She said dyes other than food grade ones.


I like the crock pot method, but will have to hit a flea market and get one that i don’t use for food. i am a crock pot cooker and LOVE them for a number of things other than cooking. Good tool for melting wax too.


Several questions:
the water vinegar solution (the mordant) can it be reused from batch to batch? I mean, why remake it every time. It simmers for a while losing water, but than can be added back from the tap.

Could I use water colors for pigment? Water color is pigment suspended in gum arabic. It’s obviously not food grade, but why is that necessary. I’m not going to suck on my sweater.

Could those dye bath solutions be used again. I store the after-boil in an old wine-bottle. Why not use it again?


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