Hand Dyed Yarn – Making Variegated Yarn

Knitting with hand dyed yarn is becoming more and more popular as people are discovering the beautiful and unique qualities of garments made from hand dyed fiber. Buying variegated hand dyed yarn can be expensive, so why not make your own? It’s easy, fun and rewarding.

Variegated yarn knits up beautifully. So, be brave and make your own. You don’t really need any fancy equipment or dyes and it’s not as difficult as you might think.

What You Need.

Cushings dye
white vinegar
glass or other nonreactive casserole dish
plastic cups
wet sponge for cleaning up spills
rubber gloves
dust mask
pH strips
optional: water softener

Making Variegated Yarn

Rainbow-dyeing, sprinkle-dyeing, tie-dyeing, and casserole-dyeing are all names for the same process of creating yarn that has many different colors. Cushing dyes is used in the recipe below and will work on un-spun fiber, yarn or cloth. What matters is that the fiber content be animal-based: silk, wool, alpaca, camel or angora.

Soaking In Vinegar

You first need to soak the fiber to be dyed in a vinegar water bath with a pH of 4.5 to 5.0. You need about a tablespoon of vinegar for every quart of water. Note: the acidity of water varies so check with pH paper and adjust if necessary. Strips to measure pH are readily available at many drugstores and retail outlets.

Dye Liquor

For a medium shade, mix 1/4 teaspoon dye in 1/2 cup water. Use more dye for darker shades, less for lighter. Mix as many colors as you want.


Remove the yarn from the vinegar soak and gently squeeze out excess water. Lay it in a nonreactive baking pan – do not use anything with a non-stick coating. You can use enamelware, glass and stainless steel but do not use aluminum, copper or steel. Arrange the yarn anyway you like: fold, tie, twist, spiral and/or zigzag. You can apply the dye in various ways; a squeeze bottle, a syringe or a sponge paintbrush. You can just simply pour it on the area you choose if you like. Remove any excess from the pan with a syringe.


Rinse out excess dye from the yarn – the water should run clear – and wash with a mild soap. It’s important to use soap as it’s best to find out if the garment is non-fast now rather than later after you’ve made it into something. Rinse again well and hang to dry. You are ready to knit with your own hand-dyed yarn.