Introduction: Hand DyeYarn Using Coloured Ice Cubes & the Sun

I was surprised to see that there wasn't an Instructable showing how to hand dye yarn using colored ice cubes & the sun. It's by far the easiest and most fun way to dye. Who wants to heat up the kitchen in the summer, Using Mother Nature is easier on your cooling bills and since there's no boiling water involved- the kids can help.(YAY!!)

Make sure everyone participating in this activity wears play clothes or an apron & gloves as the coloring in the ice cubes will stain clothes and fingers

Step 1: Items Needed

Items Needed:

- 5 to 6 cups of water( or enough to cover yarn in dish)
- 1/2 Cup White distilled vinegar 
- Icing colors and/or Kool-Aid
- 1 Skein of yarn,I'm using wool *(See note)
- 1 pair latex or rubber gloves
- 13X9 or larger pyrex dish
- Plastic Wrap
- Couple of small glass bowls or containers( to mix and make the dye)
- Ice cube trays
*Acrylic yarn will not dye, Only use natural or light colours of yarn made from 100% animal or plant fiber; such as wool, angora, alpaca, cotton, bamboo, etc. Also,  each have their own unique processes & hold dyes in different ways.

Step 2: Making Coloured Ice Cubes

This is the fun part if your kids are helping you. Make sure to wear gloves & an apron for everyone helping in this step as this will also dye your clothes and hands


- Pick out several colours of Kool Aid packets and/or Icing colours.

- Fill your glass container with just a small amount of water and add 1 colour of your choice. 

I added the whole packet of Kool-Aid to each glass and filled with 2-4 ounces of water, stoping when I reach desired color.
I used 1 drop of icing colour and added more water till I reached desired colour. Use a toothpick if you want only a tiny bit as they are very concetrated. You can always pour half of your colour into an empty glass container & fill with more water to lighten it.

- Pour coloured water into ice cube trays & freeze
I used 1 tray to make ice cubes but feel free to make 2 or even 3.

Step 3: Skein, Hank, a Ball of Yarn

Whatever you purchase, you will need to unwind it. You'd be surprised at how impenetrable yarn can be when it's all done up, neat & pretty to sell. There's several different methods or ways to unwind the yarn. Since I was in the car at the time, I  just slowly undid the yarn tracing the inside of the bowl.


- Unwind the yarn using the method shown here, the back of a chair or your own way
make sure not to twist or tangle up the yarn as it will be a nightmare to fix.

- Use twine or dental floss to tie loosley around the yarn in sections
this will help to keep the yarn from getting tangled up

- Take the tail end of yarn and tape it down to the outside of dish
this will help in the final process when you wind the yarn back up into a ball to be used

Step 4: Preparing the Yarn

Before you dye the yarn, it's best to use bathe it in a mixture of  luke warm water & distilled white vinegar. This helps to "set" the dye when it's applied.


- Heat up 2 Cups water till it's luke warm, add the vinegar and pour evenly over the yarn

- Continue to heat up water( luke warm, NOT HOT) and pour evenly over the yarn - Do not add anymore vinegar
It took me 5-6 cups of luke warm water to cover the yarn. If you use hot water, you could end up felting{*See Note} the yarn.

- Using your hand, press on the yarn to remove any air bubbles and to make sure it's completely submerged in the water/vinegar solution
  allow to sit overnight or atleast 30 min in the solution

FELTING - fibres of wool are made up of a protein called keratin and covered in tiny scales. When hot liquid is poured over it, the heat can cause these tiny little scales to open up like fish hooks and lock onto the scales on the other fibres.

Step 5: Placement of Ice Cubes

You will need your gloves and apron again for this step. Also, make sure before hand what colour sequence you want, because once the ice cubes are on the yarn it starts sticking to the yarn and colouring it.


-Dump out soultion

- Ring out yarn till it feels almost dry, making sure not to twist or tangle it.
(don't lose the yarn tail)

- Carefully place yarn back into dish making sure to keep yarn tail out of the dish 

 - Using gloves, remove a coloured ice cube(or dump them all onto a plate) & place on the yarn.

lift up on the twine and make sure ice cube gets directly on the yarn not on the twine(think rubberbands and tie-dye)

Step 6: Sun Baking the Yarn

To completely "set" the dye, you'll need to heat up the yarn. There are several methods of doing this. I like sun baking. It's free, it won't heat up your house and makes this project kid friendly.


- Tightly cover the dish with plastic wrap & place out in the sun 
I had to move my dish cause my hubby decided to mow

- After 6-7 hours, look to see that any water left on the bottom is clear. Bring inside
if any water remains thats still coloured,  it's not ready yet. Leave outside for another couple hours

-Carefully ring out & rinse in cool water, making sure to hold onto the yarn tail 
Always test rinse a little spot before rinsing the entire yarn. If any running occurs in test spot,
 1.Replace in dish
2.Recover with plastic wrap & allow to sit in sun for a few more hours.
3.Do another test rinse

-Place on hanger, making sure to wrap yarn tail separately &allow to air dry for atleast 24 hrs.
I always hany dry out in the sun & then bring the yarn in at night just to make sure birds don't steal it ( I know it sounds crazy but we have some crazy birds)

Once your yarn is fully dry, carefully wind into a ball. Hand dyed yarn should also be washed with care & can fade over time. Never wash animal or plant yarn in hot water as it will felt. This skein was dyed to make a wool diaper cover for my son. I will post a picture when completed.

Step 7: Project Picture for the Yarn


Ok, so here is the diaper cover I made for my son using this yarn. The pattern is available as a free download on