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Every week we feature a fun and/or educational activity you can try at home or in the classroom. 

How to Dye Yarn with Food Coloring

Dye Yarn with Food Coloring

Food coloring can dye protein-based fibers like alpaca and llama wool. Dying bare yarn is a great way to customize your yarn for knitting and crafting projects. Food coloring is a relatively inexpensive and non-toxic way to color your yarn.

More about Llamas and Alpacas

Llamas and alpacas serve a myriad of purposes for South American families. These domesticated animals are suited for conditions in the Andes and provide a sustainable source of income for their owners. Their wool, prized for its thickness and warmth, is woven into an array of handicrafts, such as scarves, ropes, hats, bags and blankets.These hardy creatures work as pack animals, carrying up to 30 percent of their body weight. Their feet, which have thickly padded undersides like a dog's foot, don't damage the delicate high-altitude topsoil and vegetation of the Andes, and their droppings enrich the soil.

Dye Yarn with Food Coloring


  • Bare yarn
  • A large pot
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Food coloring
  • Stove top
  • Rubber gloves
  • Large spoon to stir

Begin by creating a water-vinegar dye bath by adding 1/4 cup of vinegar to the mix for every quart of water. Soak the yarn in the mixture for half an hour.

Remove the yarn from the mixture and place in a plastic bowl. Next, heat the water-vinegar mixture until it begins to boil. Pour in dye. You will use more than you think you need because it will be dispersed through the water.

Add the yarn to pot again. Let it simmer until the yarn has absorbed the color in the dye bath. When this happens, turn off the heat and let the water return to room temperature. After the bath has cooled, remove the yarn. Wring out the extra water and rinse the yarn with cool water, letting the extra dye run off.

Hang your yarn to dry. A sweater or a clothesline works great, just make sure the yarn isn't bunched up.

Heifer Peru is improving lives by working on a biodiversity project with alpacas. Heifer's Alpaca Biodiversity in High Andean Communities project participants are working to improve and reestablish the value and breeding of colored alpacas. Read how the biodiversity project is helping Lucio's family in Peru. For more project details, see this World Ark article.

For more details about dying yarn, read this article.

Give the gift of a llama and provide a Peruvian family with a sustainable income.


Lauren Bucher