Dyeing with food dyes/colouring

This wool is dyed with food dyes, samples I produced while preparing for a workshop on how to dye with food colouring used in baking. In the past I used Dr Oetker dyes which come in a liquid form. But Dr Oetker went green, the dyes are now called “natural”, or at least the red, yellow and black are and they don’t dye fibres anymore. I did try to use them as if they were natural dyes, on pre-mordanted wool, again with little success.

The colours I have used now are Sugarflair food dyes. I dont’ have them in my cupboard but someone has kindly lended me red, navy blue and melon in a paste form as well as heather in a liquid form. All the colors in the picture are the result of this four dyes.

The process is very simple. Because they are food dyes they are safe enough to use in your cooking pots. I diluted very little amount (about 2-3 pin heads per 12 g of fibre) of  paste in a jar filled with very hot water. In the meantime I put one tablespoon of vinegar in about 2-3 liters of water and brought it to simmer. Then I emptied the jar with the dye into the pot and entered dry wool. This is something I have learned from my friend – that for basic dyeing there is no need to pre-soak the wool. I didn’t believe until I tried. When the water started to boil I lowered the temperature and waited for about 2 minutes, then switched off the heat. Ideally, it’s the best to leave the wool to cool in the pot: it will not felt if the temperature changes slowly/gradually and during the cooling process, if there is any dye left in the water, it will have bonded with the fibre by the time it is cold.

I have notes which I gave to the participants and I am happy to share them, just let me know via the comment and I will e-mail them to you. I feel dyeing with food dyes is a great start for those who would like to dye their own fibre but are put off by using chemicals in the kitchen, as it is with synthetic dyes or find the process too complicated and tools-demanding, as it can be in case of natural dyeing.

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26 thoughts on “Dyeing with food dyes/colouring

    • Dorothy, if you google Sugarflair food dyes a lot of options will come up, that is if you are in UK. Amazon UK seems to be the cheapest. Someone has told me they sell them at Morrison. If you are outside UK just check any baking suppliers, on and off line and you should be able to track some. I have noticed there are other brands in UK too, I haven’t tried them, but they should work the same.

  1. Hello Monika! I am really very interested in your notes! And also very thankfull and looking forward.

  2. what beautiful results! I will have to try that with the Wilson Icing colors that are available here in the US (they have some pretty wild shades) on silk!

  3. Yummy colors! I have been hesitant to use dyes for the reasons you suggest.
    Food dye sounds like lots of fun…
    Please send notes to me. Thank you!
    Sugarflair food dyes are available on eBay from the UK.

    • Yes, Doda, they are fast, I would add very fast, as long as an acid is added during dyeing (vinegard, citric acid). If too much dye is used per fibre then the excessive dye will run from the dyed fibre but stop later on.

    • AAAAH! Monika! The yarn arrived tonight and it is even more stunning in person! A work of art. I don’t know whether to hang the skein on the wall and keep it or use it!

      THANK YOU!!! You are so kind.

  4. I would love a copy of the notes. I’ve been wanting to try dying for ages but, as a total beginner, was at a loss where to begin. What type of fibres will this work for?

  5. i have just found your blog–how wonderful!! It is so kind of you share your knowledge so freely. i have just started felting and am interested in dying wool. i don’t understand how you get the varigated colors. Can you enlighten a new fan? Thanks.

  6. Please could you send me your notes. I have multi coloured fingers as we speak from an afternoon playing with Kool Aid!! Your yarn is beautiful! Such rich and refreshing colours.

  7. Hello! I just had a go at dyeing with Sugarflair for the first time this evening, but the colours came out quite garish. I was looking round the internet to see what other people’s experience has been, and happened upon your stunning, stunning yarn!! How…. how….?! If your notes are still available, I would be so grateful for a copy. With many thanks.

    • Certainly, I will send it shortly. I would suggest though to check if your food dyes are not based on natural ingredients. In such case they will not dye. Also, different brands may dye in a different way, so please, sample, before dyeing bigger batch.

  8. Hello from Denver, Colorado in the U.S. — is it too late to get a copy of your notes? Thank you so much — just discovered your blog — magic afoot here.

  9. Hello, I am from the Netherlands. Never dyed with food colour. My question is: can you dye knitted handspun wool? I bought Dr Oetkers food dye. But now I cannot find any link to find out enough to be sure I will not ruin my work.
    If it is OK how much dye will I need voor my mitts with a weight of about 35 grams.?

    • Hello! Yes, you can, as long as it’s well scoured (washed) and all the lanolin is out. Please, check what kind of dye they used to make the food dye. Here in UK most of them are plant based and will not dye wool anymore. There are other brands which will. I would suggest to start with very little and then add more if you would like a darker shade.

  10. I am in Germany and bought the Dr. Oetker but it doesn’t specify if it’s “green” or not.
    It has somewhat worked on my yarn, but I am wondering if it will bleed later. 😦
    How much citric acid do you use? I also bought that but not sure what the correct amount is. Just guessed and added a tsp to my last 8 oz dye bath.

    • I would use about a tsp as well and if the dye is not exhausting I would keep adding a little more at a time. Hard to tell about the Dr. Oetker dyes you have, the ones here are all healthy now and no good for dyeing yarn. Try other brands and see how you like them. The dyebath should be clear water after successful dyeing, all dye attached to the fibre.

  11. Just came across your wonderful blog. I’ve been looking into dyeing my fleece and this looks like a great method. Could you possibly send me your notes? Thank you

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