Dyeing with Wilton’s icing dye

So this is how I spent my Saturday. Following is the method I developed for dyeing my recycled yarn with food paste dye (Wilton’s icing dye). What I like about this method is that the yarn is never added to water that is a different temperature, thus minimizing the chances of shocking/felting. Added bonus is not having to handle scalding hot yarn, this is a good thing if you are like my accident prone self.

First soak the yarn in lukewarm water (without vinegar) for 30 minutes. While the yarn is soaking prepare your dyepot.

Icing dye is very concentrated, so 1 bottle of food coloring will dye a lot of fiber. For 4 oz. of yarn I used a little under 1/2 tsp. Wearing gloves, mix your dye into a cup of hot water until it is completely dissolved. Next, fill your dyepot with tepid water and pour the dye mixture in.

*Tip – You can purchase latex gloves in bulk at hardware stores like Northern. Usually 100 gloves for around $6 instead of 3 pairs for the same price elsewhere.

Remove the yarn from the soaking water and gently squeeze out excess water. Now add the yarn into the cool dye.

Bring water up to near boiling (150-160°F) and simmer for 10 minutes. A steady steam should be rising off the top at this point.

You can see here how the water is getting much clearer

Now add a glug or about 1/4 cup of vinegar being careful to not pour it directly on the yarn. The vinegar aids in the uptake and colorfastness of the dye, because of this it is best to add it after the yarn has evenly soaked in the dye to help with a more uniform coloring.
Bring the temperature up to 180°F (170°F for silk) and simmer for 30 minutes or until color is exhausted.

Turn off heat and let cool in dyepot to room temperature.

Rinse thoroughly with same temperature water and hang to dry.

The first batch I dyed is hanging on the right. This was with Leaf Green and it produced a very vivid green. The second batch I wanted a more mossy/earthy tone so I sprinkled in about 1/3 of a packet of Cherry Kool-aid too. The result is hanging on the left, exactly the color I was going for actually. I guess all that color theory in college finally paid off, heh.

The finished skeins
Rollover the smaller images to view enlargement.

Leaf Green Leaf green with Cherry Side by side

Leave a comment ?


  1. Very nice! You are so creative!

  2. Very nice – they don’t make brown Kool Aid, so I’ll be trying your method with Wiltons!

  3. Great colors! I have an old sweater that I’ve been wanting to frog and dye. This looks like a great method.

  4. I have been curious about using Wiltons – thank you for showing your process and the tips. I definitely will try this! ;)

  5. Looks Great! Can’t wait to try it! Marj

  6. wow. i just found your tutorial. thanks! time to breakout all the icing dyes i’ve been stockpiling in the cabinet

  7. Why add vinegar afterwards? I’m reading everywhere else that you’re supposed to add it at the very beginning.

  8. Muffin- If you’re wanting a really even solid color, letting the yarn have a chance to gradually absorb the die evenly without vinegar first helps as the vinegar increases the colorfastness to a such a point that having it in to begin with the dye may strike unevenly.

  9. I can’t wait to try your yarn dying method, my girlfriend tried it last night and I can’t wait until she comes in to work to see how she did, will keep you posted, by the way how were you able to incorporate the status bar of your WIP’s, would love to add that cool feature to my blog.Thanks,Yarnhippie

  10. Thanks Yarnhippie- would love to see pics of your experiments!For the status bars there’s a great page here – http://www.unlikelywords.com/html-morsels/

  11. carole Burkhardt

    Thanks for the vinegar tip. I’ve always been adding it to the bath b4 the yarn.
    What about when you use easter egg dyes though.. don’t those little tablets need the vinegar to dissolve???
    Anyway… thank you again. I’m bookmarking this site :-)

  12. I have to try this! I teach cake decorating so I have a bunch of pretty paste/gel colors that I would love to turn into something more permanent than a dessert eaten in an hour.

  13. I found your blog while searching for info on how to dye silk with cake decorating colors. Thanks for the info. Have you tried silk?

  14. Any suggestions for when/how to add the vinegar when you are handpainting? I have only done it with KA, so this will be my first Wilton’s try. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  15. Thanks for the interesting post. Can you give me some tips colorfast silk yarn.

  16. Hey, this is very good material for a workshop for the DHKG. I wonder if the group would be interested in a dying yarn workshop or something about recycling yarn. So cool.

  17. I love useing wilton’s paste dyes for this. I like to handpaint with it. Even made some self striping yarns. The greens are beautiful!

  18. I haven’t had any problem with dye staining my hands but I think the trick is to make sure you aren’t adding more dye than the yarn can take in. A little goes a long way with this stuff! If the dye doesn’t exhaust from the water I think a few rinsing cycles would be needed. Also make sure you’re adding enough vinegar for color-fastness.

  19. Have you used the Wilton dyes to dye the sock blanks. If so how do you apply it to the yarn to make stripes etc?

  20. Wow. Cool technique. Can you share your resources. How colorfast is this technique. I have heard that Kool-Aide fades.

  21. Oops, I left a comment at the old blog. Copying it here in case you have a solution for me. :-)
    I tried this with wool roving and it felted. Should I not stir next time? Did I get it too hot? (Maybe my thermometer was off?) :-\ (The color is lovely, at least!)

  22. I used these directions of yours for my first dyeing experience. Of course, I used my favorite color purple and its looks a little more on the pink side but there is always overdye. Do you have any more hints that I could possibly use. I cannot wait until it cools down so I can rinse it. I saw your blog about crockpot dyeing and was wondering which one your preferred. thanks Mary

    • I used wilton’s violet, and while it was too pink initially, my sister added vinegar and it turned blue, end result right back at a nice purple.

  23. Mary- Purple is always a tricky color, like black the pigments in food dye tend to separate. Actually you might try some Wilton’s black as it usually comes out more purple. Only other tip would be to be careful while handling the wet yarn so it doesn’t felt.
    As for crockpot dying I’ve really only done it at Felt School and it worked really well. Easy to control temp and just set and leave it.

  24. Great info always wondered how you dye yarnGonna ive it ago. Just got to get some rubber gloves

  25. I am looking for a recipe for a setting solution for dyeing a WOOL PELT using Wilton gel food coloring. I cannot use any heat with this or my wig will shrink. I’ve done this once before (3 rears ago) and got the color I wanted and it has never faded. I used a setting solution of vinegar and water, but I don’t remember the proportions. Any help appreciated.

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