Blue Hints
For Successful Dyeing

About 30 % of my email is asking for blue hints. So, here they are!

Lovely little jars of blue food coloring, packets of blue Kool-Aid. Visions of dozens of shades of blue that you will soon add to your hand-dyed wool yarn stash.

But then......

Your blue dyebath starts acting stinky, the water just won't go clear! Should you crank up the heat and add a bottle of vinegar? (That would be a NO).

Or your scrumptious blue yarn dries, but there is a haze of red on it. What happened?

Why won't your blue food color bond to your wool yarn? Other colors bond so quick and easy, but not blue.

Although green, yellow, red and blue are all called "food colors", they are slightly different chemicals. Blue bonds with wool yarn at about 180 degrees F (like the other colors).

But, blue needs more vinegar than red or yellow.

How much vinegar?

I wish there was a firm formula. It depends on the shade of blue and the type of wool yarn you are using.

Phooey, huh?

For this sample of Wilton Royal blue on .2 oz of Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool, I used a total of 3 tablespoons of vinegar in 8 ounces of tap water.

Blue also needs more time to bond. Heating the yarn to over 180 degrees F won't help, and may felt your yarn (if you are also stirring the yarn in the dyebath)!

Instead, when the dyebath reaches 180 degrees F, turn off the heat and set aside. The blue might not have exhausted yet, and that's fine. Blue bonds slowly, wait 20 minutes and see what happens.

If the dyebath is lighter, but still not clear - add a bit more vinegar and heat again. Put aside overnight to bond. Chances are good the water will be clear in the morning.

Why do some blue food colors make red streaks or spots on my yarn?

Many blue food colors contain some red.

These blue hanks can then halo (the red sticks to the surface of the yarn and the blue moves to the core). A halo is caused when a dye is made up of a mixture of colors and they are absorbed at different rates. Some colors bind while others continue to be drawn into the yarn.

To find out which Wilton food colors blues have red, we put a drop of Delphinium, Royal, Sky, Teal and Fairies Blue on coffee filters.

Note: Delphinium can be found in single bottles or in the Garden Tone set. Wilton Faries Blue is no longer available. However this photo shows that when you buy Wilton Cartoon Character Sets you might get a great color that isn't produced in single bottles.



More Blue Hints

If you want to make sure you yarn won't have a halo, use Wilton Sky and Teal blues, Kool-Aid Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade and Berry Blue because they are do not have red.

Two hints for using Blues that are mixed with Red

Delphinium, Royal and Fairies blue contain red. They are great colors to use, they just need a bit of loving care.

  • You can minimize halos and breaking by using this soaking overnight in the dyebath to produce a more solid blue color.


  • Rather than pouring all the vinegar in the dyebath at once, add a tiny bit at a time. Give the yarn time for the red food color to bond and then work on bonding the blue.

Sometimes, you want to break blue - everyone should try this technique at least once! The red, violet and blue pop up on the yarn in unexpected places. Amaze your friends. Astound your enemies!

Other colors can be broken, see this page for photos.

You can break black Wilton (original formula), too.

Need more red in your life? Hints on dyeing wool yarn using red food color.

Don't know what black food dye to use? We compare Wilton to McCormick.

Wow! Over 100 colors of Kool-Aid with photos.

Formulas for Pantone Colors.

Go from Blue Hints to Dye Your Yarn home page.

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