If you have any questions during this tutorial, about something I didn’t cover or explain. Please leave the question in the comment section below. I will compile the questions and answer them all on Friday in a special Q & A post.

Before I start with the supplies, let me say this- ANY tools that your acid dye touches should not be used again for food. While Kool-Aid and food coloring are all diluted to be food safe- Acid Dyes are NOT food safe. So if you have been using the same equipment in the other tutorials, that you normally keep in your kitchen, please do not use them for THIS tutorial. Go to the dollar store, Walmart, or any other inexpensive shop, and buy yourself a set of measuring cups, measuring spoons, dyeing cups, and funnels to use JUST for dyeing.


Your Supplies:

RESPIRATOR MASK. This is important. Do not skip this, like some of you who have skipped the latex gloves part. You can find these at your local hardware store, or home improvement store. (I bought mine in a pack of 3 for $6 at Lowe’s.)  Cloth masks or medical masks WILL work, if you’d rather use one of those instead.

This is the part that scares people. It’s not that serious. I will explain later WHY you need a mask. You’ll only be using it for like 2 minutes.

– Your yarn samples, PRESOAKED (you will need one for each color you plan on sampling) (Click here  for instructions on how to divide one skein of yarn into samples, and click HERE for PRESOAK instructions.)

– Acid dye (I will be using Jacquard Acid Dyes. You can use Dharma as well. They are interchangeable. I buy mine from Dharma Trading, but you can also find them on Amazon, Joann.com, and a host of other dyer’s supply sites.)

I recommend the 4 Dye Color Set (red, yellow, blue, and black), as it comes with just about everything you need to dye a variety of colors.  Here is a link to it at Dharma Trading, at Amazon, and at Joann’s.

– 1 teaspoon citric acid OR 1 TABLESPOON distilled white vinegar. (You can find citric acid in the canning section at your grocery store OR you can order it online.)

– Cups to dye in. One for each sample you want to dye, each should be at least 12 ounces, microwave safe. I am using Solo cups, which aren’t exactly microwave safe, but will stand up to a few rounds in the microwave.

– Two measuring cups (2-cup capacity with milliliters printed on them.)

– 1 teaspoon

– disposable powdered latex gloves to keep from dyeing your hands (or non-latex, if you are allergic)

– a few empty 16 ounce soda bottles (optional, but helpful)

– funnel

– water

– a place to lay the mini samples out to dry.


I’m making the assumption that some people won’t read all the tutorials in order- they will just read the one they need. To that end- I will explain some things AGAIN that I explained in the previous tutorial. Just bear with me- I’m trying not to lose anyone.


I’m going to remind you right here that you MUST use animal fibers for this. Acrylic yarn WILL NOT WORK. Cotton yarn WILL NOT WORK. Blends that are mostly animal fibers will work, BUT your coloring will not be as deep as with 100% animal fibers.

So we’re all on the same page, yes? Okay, let’s continue.

I am using the red, yellow, and turquoise that come in the regular starter pack.

The name acid dye is kind of a misnomer. There is no acid in the dye itself. The acid is referring to the mordant that is needed. (We’ll talk about mordants later in the tutorial.) The instructions that come with the starter pack say that you need 1/2 ounce of powdered dye per 1 POUND of fabric. That’s one tablespoon of dye. So we filter that down to our 100 gram skein of yarn, and that is almost 1/3 of a teaspoon of powdered dye. Now- divide that by 20, for our sample. Ah, there your eyes go crossing again! It’s dye stock time! (What is dye stock? It’s basically just converting dry measurements into liquid, thus making measuring easier.)

Pour 500 milliliters (ml) of warm water into one of your measuring cups.

Put on your respirator mask.

The dye powder won’t hurt you, but you don’t want to develop a sensitivity to it, and thus be unable to dye yarn due to breathing problems. So don’t breathe it in, okay? And if anyone else is around- make them wear a mask during this portion as well. You also want to put on those gloves.

Measure out one level teaspoon of dye (this means you flatten the top. No heaping teaspoons here!) and put it in the measuring cup. Mix well, until all the powder is dissolved. This is your dye stock.  This is a standard 1% dye stock.  So if you run across dyers talking about 1% dye stock- this is it.  It’s the standard stock for acid dyeing. If you want to keep the rest of the dye stock- I suggest putting it into an empty soda bottle (using the funnel). Wait for the dye stock to cool, before you cap the bottle. 500 ml of dye water should fill the 16 ounce bottle.

If you’re sampling more than one color, go ahead and make your dye stocks for the other colors. Remember to rinse the measuring spoon, measuring cup, AND funnel between colors.

Once you have mixed all of your dye stocks, AND closed all of your powdered dye containers- you may now take off the respirator mask.

Now measure one teaspoon of dye stock for each dye cup.

That’s all you need.

Now we need to prepare the mordant. A mordant is: “a substance, typically an inorganic oxide, that combines with a dye or stain and thereby fixes it in a material.” Without a mordant- you will only be staining the yarn. Mordants create a bond of yarn and dye, and (with heat) are permanent bonds. Your mordant, in this case, is the citric acid or vinegar. You need one or the other, NOT BOTH.

Pour 2 cups of water into your other measuring cup. Add EITHER the teaspoon of citric acid, OR the TABLESPOON of vinegar. Mix well. This is enough mordant for all three samples, just divide it evenly into the dye cups.

Add water until your cup is about 75% full. The amount of water in terms of dye DOES NOT MATTER. The water is simply a conduit for heat, and you need heat for the bonding process.


Now- take your PRESOAKED yarn sample and squeeze the presoak water out of it. It doesn’t need to be dry, just not dripping. Once your cup is 75% full of colored water, add your yarn sample. You can gently push it down into the cup with a spoon, but DO NOT STIR. When your yarn is completely submerged, put it in the microwave.

You can put all three cups into the microwave at the same time. If you are doing this- microwave on HIGH in 1 minute increments, until steaming. Do not microwave for more than 4 minutes total. Remove cups carefully. (They are HOT!)

If you are doing one cup at a time, microwave on HIGH in 30-second increments, until steaming. Do not microwave for more than 4 minutes. Remove cup carefully. (It’s HOT!)


The water in the cup should be clear or almost clear. (This is called exhausting the water.)

The turquoise one will not be clear. Turquoise (and other blues) are slower to bond to fabric, than the other dyes. So anything with blue in it (green… purple…black, etc) will take a longer time to absorb all the dye. This is normal.

If your other dye cups aren’t clear- your problem could be one of a few reasons. 1. You have hard water. Minerals in water will keep your dye from bonding with your yarn. This is the reason that most dyers will use filtered or distilled water. Red dye is notorious for not bonding in hard water. 2. You were heavy-handed with measuring your powder. Your yarn can only absorb soo much dye, before it just stops absorbing. 3. You didn’t get it hot enough. If you didn’t see steam coming out of the cup- you need to nuke it again.

Let the dye cups cool COMPLETELY, and check the water. If the turquoise’s water is still noticeably blue- nuke it again.

Let your samples cool COMPLETELY before you rinse. Rinse the samples in cool tap water. (If you are using 100% wool, and are worried about felting- fill a container with cool water, and gently lay the sample in the water and let it sit.)

If the rinse water runs clean- all the dye bonded and you are done! You can lay your samples out to dry. Your yarn will look darker while wet. Wait for it to dry, before you judge the coloring.


Your sample size will be an accurate representation of the color you would get, if you dyed a whole 100-gram skein of yarn with that almost 1/3 of a teaspoon of powdered dye (OR 100 ml of dye stock).

Here are my samples:

Notice there are FIVE samples for three colors.  I made MY dye stock at 2%.  To do this yourself- measure out 1 teaspoon of dye and mix it into 250 ml of water, instead of 500 ml.  So there’s a 2% dye stock red (1 teaspoon of dye stock), a 1% dye stock red (1/2 a teaspoon of dye stock), and then a 1% yellow, 1% green (half yellow, half turquoise), and a 1% turquoise.


You can also do gradients easier with dye stock.

This is a few yarn samples (same size as what we’ve been dyeing) in silver grey (you will have to buy it separately):

From left to right: 1/8 teaspoon of silver grey (0.125%), 1/4 teaspoon (.25%), 1/2 teaspoon (.5%), and 1 teaspoon (1%).

You can do this with any of the other dye stocks we made during these tutorials.  Since I made them all with the same measurements (100 ml will dye one 100 gram skein of yarn, OR 1 teaspoon will dye one 11-yard sample of worsted weight yarn)- you do not have to worry about mixing and matching!

That’s it! This one was a little more involved than the others, but it wasn’t hard. It just had more precautions.


Remember- if you have questions, please put them in the comments below.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the Summary and Q & A!