Introduction: Dyeing Cotton Yarn - Step by Step Tutorial

You've heard of dyeing wool yarn, right? Now, find out how easy it is to dye your own COTTON yarn right at home! It's even easier than dyeing the wool variety!

A Tutorial - How to Dye Cotton Yarn at Home

This yarn dyeing technique works on all plant fibers including Cotton, Linen, Bamboo, Hemp, Rayon, etc.

Step 1: Supplies Needed:

  • Cotton or other plant fiber yarn (in skein form)
  • Fiber Reactive Dyes
  • Soda Ash
  • Hot Water
  • Dust Mask & Gloves (see Safety Note)
  • Old Containers (large and small)
  • Squeeze Bottles
  • Measuring Cups & Spoons
  • Chopsticks & Plastic Spoons


For all chemical dyeing projects ....

NEVER use pots, pans, measuring cups etc. that are used for food prep.

ALWAYS wear a face mask when handling dry dye powder.

While handling the dye in liquid form is considered safe, you may not want to walk around with turquoise hands, so wear your gloves. (Optional)

Step 3: Step 1: Soak the Yarn in Soda Ash

Plant fibers need soda ash in order for the fiber reactive dyes to adhere to them.

So, what you want to do is soak your yarn in a mixture of 1 Cup Soda Ash to 1 Gallon of Hot Water for about 20 minutes.

If you are only dyeing 1 or 2 skeins, you can mix up less as long as the ration is 1 cup to 1 gallon. Also, premixed soda ash can be stored for later use in a mason jar with lid.

Step 4: Step 2: Mix the Dyes

While the yarn is soaking, go ahead and mix up your dyes.

A general ratio I use for strong/dark color is 2 tsp dye per cup of water.

Put on your dust mask and gloves. Then, measure the dye, put it in an old container and add a little bit of the water. Mix the dye into the water to dissolve and then add the rest of the water. Now put the dye into your squeeze bottles.

Step 5: Step 3: Apply the Dye to the Yarn

Take the yarn out the soda ash/water mix, wring out the excess liquid and place the damp yarn in a large container.

Begin applying the dye to the yarn in sections, one color at a time until the yarn is covered. Add the dye slowly always add more but you can remove it once it's on the yarn. (You can also leave sections undyed)

Step 6: Step 4: Let the Yarn Sit

Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap and let the yarn sit for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Step 7: Step 5: Rinse the Yarn

Carefully, rinse the yarn until the water runs clear. This may take a while depending on how much excess dye there is. Then hand the yarn to dry.

Your freshly dyed cotton yarn is now ready to use for your next knitting or crochet project. Cotton is a great yarn for crochet dish cloths, potholders or trivets as well as knit purses and bags.

See the entire step by step tutorial at


Check out my other yarn dyeing tutorials:

Beginner's Guide to Hand Dyeing Yarn

6 Yarn Dyeing Techniques

Yarn Dyeing Supplies and Equipment (download a free supply list)