Using Solar Heat to Dye Your Yarn

Warning: if you don't like surprises, this technique is not for you.

Solar heat plus colored baseyarn plus serendipity equals Kool one of a kind skeins.

That almost dye themselves.

In this project the food color trickles down thru the yarn producing a variegated yarn.

The yarn is salvaged blue cashmere from the trim of a sweater. To remove any deodorant, perfume or laundry detergent, the sweater was washed in a front loader in cool water, air dried and frogged.

The jar is a recycled spaghetti sauce jar with a tight fitting lid.

The food color is McCormick Neon Purple.


Instructions... so grab some yarn!

  1. Place the dry cashmere hank in the jar. Don't stuff it, the water needs to circulate.
  2. Mix up the waterbath without any food color. Enough water to cover the yarn (and a bit more) and just enough vinegar to set the color (see below).

3. Set the jar in the sun. Even better is on black top to help absorb heat.

4. Pour the waterbath as gently as possible into the jar.

5. Now add a drop of food color into the water. You want a nice layered effect like in this photo.

6. Cap the jar without shaking.

7.Leave the jar to heat until you see that the dyebath is clear and there is condensation in the jar.

This is a great project put out in the morning and come home to find the yarn has dyed itself.

8. Allow the yarn to cool.

9. Rinse the hank. If there is bleeding, steam in the microwave for two minutes in a covered container.

Notes on Solar Dyeing With Food Color

This technique produces a variegated hank, not a solid. Using dry yarn and adding the food color to the top of the jar produces the most variegation.

If you are using Kool-Aid, you don't need to add vinegar.

If the food color is in a powdered form, just sprinkle it on top of the water and let it dissolve by itself.

For Wilton, AmeriColor and other gel food color use as little water as possible to dissolve the gel.

Some food colors fade in sunlight. Here's a list, if you are concerned.



See how to make mini hanks, for testing dye formulas and making small projects.

By altering the amount of Wilton gel and other food colors, you can make pastels.

See AmeriColor color charts with formulas.

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