Red Food Color
Dozens of Shades
and Hints

My dyeing obsession started with red food color.

The big box craft store seemed to have four varieties of red wool yarn: Christmas, burgundy, dusty rose and an autumnal red (to pair with harvest gold or avocado).

Since learning to used food color to dye wool, I have 47 recipes for red - more if you add oranges and violets.

Red Formulas:





Here are my red food color hints.

  • When adding a second color to red, go bold. A smidgen isn't going to alter red. Try the ratios of 1:3 (1 part of the second color to 3 parts of the red), 1:1 (even amounts of each color) and 3:1 (3 parts of the second color to 1 part red).

  • Reds strike fast and before green and blue. Divide the vinegar needed into fourths and add one part at a time. Wait a bit before adding the next portion to allow the dye to bond to the yarn and not to other dye particles in the dye bath.

  • Use red 40 so you won't have to worry about crocking when producing new shades. Crocking is when the red gets all crusty and comes off on your hands because you added too much vinegar.

  • McCormick red is a blend of red40 and a smaller amount of red3.
  • Kool-Aid is red40.
  • Wilton No-Taste Red and RedRed are red40.
  • AmeriColor Tulip Red is likely red40.

  • Use a non-white wool yarn. Experiment with yellow yarn for warm reds and blue yarn for cool reds. To save time make mini hanks of multiple non-white yarns and plop them all in the same red dye bath together.

Photo: Blue and yellow yarn overdyed with red.

  • When the Easter Egg dyes say "do not add vinegar" to red, don't. There should be enough citric acid in the tablet to bind the red to the yarn. Adding extra vinegar makes chalk (well... it looks like chalk) and ruins the dyebath.

  • For a deeper red, double dye. Divide the dye bath into two batches. Dye the hank and allow to cool. Then re-dye with the remainder of the dyebath.

  • Cherry, Tropical Punch and Strawberry Kool-Aid are all the same color of red.

  • If you need a large amount of red for mixing, McCormick makes an inexpensive 1fl oz bottle.

  • Need even more red? Restaurant supply stores sell jugs of red food coloring.

Do you want to dye with black food color but are not sure what to buy?

Are you dismayed by the selection of green yarn in store or on-line? Find out how to dye your yarn dozens of different shades of green.

Go from Red Food Color to Dye Your Yarn home page.


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