Is Your Yarn Dyeable?
3 Easy Ways To Find Out

Gifted a mystery ball of yarn?
Is the label missing from the sweater you want to frog and dye?

Here are three ways to separate your stash into dyeable (protein fibers such as wool, cashmere, silk) from un-dyeable (plant and man-made fibers).

When dyeing with Kool-Aid®, Wilton® and other food colors, you must use yarn that has some protein fibers. 100% Protein fiber will produce solid, darker colors. Blends may produce pastel or mottled hanks.

Bleach Test

  1. Snip off two inches of the suspect yarn and place in a glass jar.

  2. Pour on a tablespoon of household bleach and cap the jar.

  3. Wait a bit and you may see fizzing (an excellent omen) or nothing will happen.

  4. Leave over night and check again.

  5. If the yarn is gone - SCORE! - this indicates a wool, silk or other animal fiber that is dyeable.

    If the yarn is damaged - it maybe a blend that is still dyeable.

    If the yarn is still bright and perky - the sample is most likely a man-made fiber and won't dye.

Yarn of unknown fiber type in bleach bath

Yarn fizzing in bleach bath


Tie Test

Next time you are skeining a hank to dye, use a scrap of the unknown yarn as ties.

Put the skein in the food color dyebath of Kool-Aid®, Wilton® or other food dye and process as usual.

If the ties remain undyed, the mystery fiber is unsuitable for food color dyeing.

Tying a hank with unknown fiber yarn


Microwave Test

Put a snippet of mystery yarn in a microwave safe jar or bowl.

Add the Kool-Aid®, Wilton® or other food dye dyebath and vinegar (if needed).

Microwave in two minute cycles until water reaches 180 degrees.

Cover and set aside.

If the snippet won't bond with the food color, then it is man-made.

Synthetic yarn that didn't dye in food color


This photo shows a variety of blue yarns overdyed in a yellow dyebath.
The hank to the right is an acrylic yarn and didn't dye.

Turn the thrifty beast inside you free!
Find an unloved sweater to frog and dye. Dig through your stash for leftovers that you lost the ball band for. Find grandma's bag of gifted yarn.

Test your yarn and rescue that dyeable yarn for future projects!

Go from Wool Test to Dye Your Yarn home page.

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