Ohio University

Family Art Encounters, April 2020


Following guidance from OHIO University and directions from city, state, and federal officials, the Kennedy Museum of Art is temporarily closed and weekly/monthly programming has been suspended until further notice. 

Dyeing wool or yarn using household items

For this Art Encounters, we will show you how to dye your own wool or yarn with common household items. 

Parents: please note that these dyeing projects involve using boiling water.
Family Art Encounters April 2020

Using white acrylic, cotton, or wool yarn, you can combine your dyes to create colors for your own weavings. If you don’t have these yarns around the house, you can buy them on Amazon here, and white acrylic and cotton yarn can be purchased from Walmart here.


  • Wear gloves to keep the dyes from staining your skin.
  • If you are using wool, do not add to boiling mixtures. Let mixtures cool first and then soak your wool (you may have to soak it for longer). Cotton and acrylic yarn is fine in hot mixtures.
  • Before placing yarn in the dye, make sure you unwind it and tie at the top (creating a loop or O shape) so all of it is exposed but doesn’t completely unravel.
  • To remove dye fragrances, rinse wool/yarn in laundry detergent & cold water after it has dried.


Red Onion

vibrant red

Instructions: Chop up 3 – 4 beets and cover with water in a pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer for an hour, or until you get the color you’d like. Remove the beet chunks from the pot, and add yarn. Continue to simmer for 45 minutes. Turn off heat and allow yarn to soak for a few hours or as long as it takes to get the deepness of color you want.

pink - deep red (depending on amt. of onions)

Instructions: *Note: Yellow onion skins will create a tan or light brown color with the same process!* Place onion skins in a pot & cover generously with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for ~30-40 minutes. Once the dye looks right to you in the pot, strain out the skins. Place your yarn in the mixture and let soak for as long as you please. Rinse afterwards and let dry.

light brown - dark brown

Instructions: Boil coffee grounds in a pot of water and let sit until it reaches a very dark brown, as if you are making a very strong batch of coffee. When you feel like it’s done, filter out the coffee grounds using a French press, cheesecloth, etc. Pour into a large bowl, add your yarn and let sit for a couple of hours or overnight. Watch a step-by-step video here.


purple or blue

Instructions: Follow instructions for red onion skin but with red cabbage to create a purple color. To create a blue color, follow the same steps but add baking soda to the final dye.


light brown - dark brown (depending on amt. of tea & soak time)

Instructions: Make a big batch of black tea in a pot of boiling water, let your yarn or wool soak overnight and dry out the next day.


vibrant yellow/orange

Instructions: Combine 1 ounce of turmeric with 3 quarts of water in a pot and bring to a boil (use more tumeric for a deeper/ brighter color). After unwinding and tying yarn at the top, place it in the boiling mixture for 30 min. Use tongs to take out your yarn and rinse with cold water.


For PDF version click here