Hand Painting with Natural Dyes

Everyone likes variegated fiber! The color changes, the character, the creativity! It can be done with natural dyes, and we are showing you how for our November Box Subscribers, where you'll receive TWO dye extracts in your box to learn this technique: Logwood and Cutch.

To SIGN UP for our Monthly Subscription, click HERE.

To say that I am experienced in this technique would be false – I only just experimented myself and found it to work. Please keep that in mind, and experiment in your own fashion as well. Most of all, please take extra care when microwaving your fiber. I haven’t tested each fiber type, nor do I know the strength of my microwave compared to yours. If you’re opposed to using the microwave or do not have one, you could also try letting the fiber heat up in the sunlight, like a green house, that the plastic wrap would create.

*Note: Don't mind the colors changing from photo to photo - I used two different hanks for the pictures. The purple-y ones are Logwood and Wattle, the other photos are Cochineal and Weld. All natural, baby.

Now to the good stuff… For a list of quick tips for painting, scroll to the bottom list.

  1. First presoak your fiber for at least an hour in lukewarm water. Then gently squeeze out any excess water. Your hank should be fairly damp, but not dripping.
  1. Using ceran/plastic wrap, lay four pieces around in a rectangle with a small hole in the middle, like the picture shoes below. Then lay your hank like so.

  1. Pour each natural dye extract in to separate cups, and add lukewarm water for your ideal color saturation. The more water you add, the less saturation, the lighter the color. Using a spoon or carefully from the cup (or whatever creative means you can find), slowly pour some of your dye mixture on to sections of your hank.


  1. For a solid colored section, massage the color in the yarn, gently squeezing and letting the fiber soak back up the dye that you may have just squeezed out (carefully if your fiber is not superwash). Trust me, this will make sense when you’re doing it. Continue doing this until you are totally and completely the-world-can-get-no-better happy.


  1. Wrap the plastic around the yarn. It should be a long tube that you could wear as a necklace when you’re done wrapping – but refrain. It’d be a fashion faux pas.


  1. Place the wrapped fiber in a microwave safe dish (that should not be used for cooking, but this is your call), and also place a glass of water in the microwave as well. This will hopefully help the yarn from drying out, or so I read somewhere once. Who knows.
  1. This is where your own instinct comes in. I decided to do microwave the fiber for 2 minutes. I let it sit for a few minutes, and then microwaved again for 2 minutes. I wouldn’t recommend 4 straight minutes, since that is super hot for the fiber and I’m sure ruins it in many ways. All I know is that after microwaving, your yarn will be HOT HOT HOT. Do not attempt to get impatient like I always do and unwrap the yarn before it has completely cooled. I also think this helps with colorfastness if you let the fiber cool completely, still wrapped in the plastic.
  1. Once the yarn is cool (because you’ve waited, right?), unwrap the yarn, rinse in cold water until the water runs clear, hang to dry.


  • To get lighter colors, add more water to your dye mixture.
  • If you want speckles, which are challenging to keep from bleeding, drop droplets (yeah, I said it) of saturated dye on sections. I have found that the speckles still tend to run and bleed, so the further you space them out and the more saturated your dye, the better chance you have.
  • To stretch your color choices out, paint a section, add more water to your dye mixture cup, paint another section, and so on. You could get several shades of one color easily.
  • Leave sections of undyed yarn for even more variation.
  • Even if you have two colors, you can even mix them on the yarn to create a third, new color. Then you could lighten that shade up gradually. Millions of possibilities!
  • Wear your gloves. And don’t work on your bare table if you love your table (as most people do, I just can’t wait to throw mine in a dump). Put a rag underneath or something to soak up those this-is-fun-whoops-where’d-that-droplet-go moments.

Questions? Please email me at bqueencollection@gmail.com. I can’t promise I’ll know the answer, but I’d be happy to help if I can.


Leave a comment