Make Your Own Self-Striping Yarn

Do you drool over those expensive, self-striping, long color change balls of yarn?

Figure you'll never have enough money to buy a sweater's worth?

Or you've almost fall in love with a ball but it has one really icky color in it?

Here's the easy way to make your own self-striping yarn, in whatever colors you want, using an inexpensive wool blend base yarn.

On this page are: the instructions, how to fix areas of the yarn you don't like, photos of other hanks using this technique, and hints.

Learn how to make self-striping yarn.


  • a ball of Lion Brand "Amazing" in Olympia colorway.
  • several packages of Kool-Aid
  • McCormick (or other brand) food color or Wilton Icing gel
  • good quality sealable sandwich bags
  • microwave safe bowl
  • microwave

Step 1: Make several mini-hanks from the Amazing hank. Don't cut the yarn between hanks. Just pull off a few inches as a connecting tail and begin the next hank.

Step 2: Using scrap yarn, tie each hank in several places. Tie very loosely.

Step 3: For each mini-hank, put a sandwich-size plastic bag in a cup.

Step 4: For each mini-hank: Mix a packet of Kool-Aid in 4 oz of water. Add a few drops of liquid food color or a toothpick of Wilton icing gel. (Kool-Aid has enough citric acid to set the extra food color you are adding).

Step 5: Lay out the hanks in front of the dye bags.

Step 6: Stuff the hank into its bag.

Step 7: Squish the bags to wet the yarn. Less squishing gives a mottled color. More squishing gets a solid color.

Step 8: Place all the bags into a microwave safe bowl, so the bags won't flop over and spill.

Step 9: Wet the yarn tails between the bags - damp, not dripping.

Step 10: Microwave (try two minutes on, rest two minutes, repeat).

Step 11: When water is clear, let cool to room temperature. Rinse and dry.

Self-striped scarf

Q. Why make fortified Kool-Aid?

Many dyers are leery about making the jump from Kool-Aid (which contains citric acid) to other forms of food color (that need citric acid or vinegar to bond).

Turns out there is enough citric acid when Kool-Aid is dissolved in 4 ounces of water to add icing gel or food color drops, and it will still bond.

Now, if you add gobs of blue food color, you may have to add additional vinegar. But a trace of Wilton or a drop of McCormick should work.

Q. Why is Amazing yarn used?

Amazing is a fuzzy wool-blend yarn that dyes well. The fuzz part absorbs the color. Amazing is half to a third of the price of artisan 100 percent wool self-striping yarn.

Q. What should I look for in a ball of Amazing?

Skeins with more shades of gray turn out better, in my opinion.

Amazing is designed to be self-striping right off the ball, but the color shifts are quite long.

The food color acts as a semi-transparent glaze. A bit of the original gray will influence the final color.

And because Olympia has multiple shades of gray, your food colors will become light and dark shades automatically.

The more varieties of gray in the original hank, the more tones in the dyed hank.

Q. What if I can't find "Olympia" colorway?

You can use other self-striping colorways in the Amazing line and even other base yarns. Just keep in mind the color of the base yarn will effect the finished hank.

Q. Why have all the colors bonded except the blue?

Blue is always the last color to bond. Try adding a teaspoon of vinegar to those bags and allowing all the bags to rest 10 minutes.

If the blue is still not bonded, reheat and allow to rest again. Repeat until the water goes clear.

Q. Why use zippered sandwich bags?

The zipper makes the bag stiffer, so it's easier to fill and stands up better during heating.

You can also zip the bag partially closed to keep in the steam.

Here are some examples:

Another self striped skein.

Plain gray base yarn with self-striping.

Striped Lion Brand Wool as a base.

Hints On Making Self-Striping Yarn

  • When the yarn has absorbed the food color it won't look good. It will be very dark and quite gray. After the yarn has dried the color will brighten.

  • If one of the mini-hanks isn't the color you want, you can re-dye just that area in a sauce pan on the stove. Mix up your dye bath and plop the mini-hank in. Heat to 180 until the dye bath is clear.

    In the photo below, I'm re-dyeing a mini-hank in a blue bath.

    The water in the pot is recycled from the baggies.

    Yes, isn't the Kool? The water can be reused. The citric acid is still working.

    Overdyeing areas you don't like.

  • What about the yarn tails between the mini-hanks?
    Keep them moist during microwaving. Either with plain water (the yarn remains gray) or by stuffing the yarn into the neighboring baggie (the yarn will be colored).

    A third option is to wet the yarn in two baggies.

    If bag A is red and bag B is yellow, soak the tail in bag A, give the yarn 2 minutes in the microwave. Then soak the tail in bag B and microwave. The color of the tail will be a blend of the two colors.

    In our tests the baggies could be reused for at least two more hanks.

    Between microwave cycles, make sure the baggies are still sitting upright and the tails aren't hanging down into the bowl, which allows wicking.

  • Getting antsy waiting for your self-striping yarn to dry? Give it a quick spin in the salad spinner. Cuts drying time about 80%. Seriously.

  • Watch the temperature when microwaving the bags. If you've jammed lots of baggies into your microwave-safe container, the yarn will retain heat longer.

  • Need help mixing colors? Here's Kool-Aid....

    Here's McCormick color charts....

    Here's Wilton icing gel....

    Go from Self-Striping to Dye Your Yarn homepage

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