How to Dye Mottled Yarn

I dyed some yarn a couple days ago. It’s going to be used on a new shawl pattern that I’m writing.


I don’t like variegated yarns on lace shawls. I think it muddles the lace work and let’s face it, after all that work, I want the stitches to show off!

On the other hand, I’m also not a fan of solids. They tend to look flat and boring. The solution? I like to call it “mottled” yarn. I think it gives a nice depth without confusing the lace pattern.


I’m calling this yarn “Live Oak”.


I was inspired by  this tree. Hence the name on the yarn.

So how do you dye yarn the mottled way?

It’s easy!

You will need:

Protein based fiber (Wool, Mohair etc) and dye. I use Jacquard Acid Dye most of the time. It works really well and they have a nice selection of colors.

Distilled Vinegar.

Rubber gloves (unless you like rainbow hands!).

A large stainless steel pot – one not used for cooking.

Something to stir the pot – I use a large stainless steel slotted spoon – again not one used for cooking.

Plastic to cover the work surface. A cheap party tablecloth works well.

Cups to mix the dye in.

Several plastic spoons to stir and drizzle the dye and a set of measuring spoons.

So lets get started! First tie the skeins in 4 places using a bit of waste yarn. Use a figure 8 tie as shown below. Then the yarn gets soaked in a pot of water and vinegar. The dye calls for 1/4 cup vinegar per pound of wool. I admit, I never actually measure, so I’m sure I use too much. It doesn’t hurt the fiber though. Let it soak for at least 20 minutes before taking it out. Meanwhile, prepare your work area.


Lay out the table cover and set out the cups. Have you chosen some colors? Pick colors from the same side of the color wheel for the best effect. For this yarn I’m using Jacquard Acid Dye in Emerald Green with a touch of Brown mixed in to tone it down and Gold Ochre, to be used near the end of the process. I also have a jar of Moss Green from Dharma Trading Co that I’ll be using.

I generally mix small amounts of each color in the cups. Use less than 1/8 tsp to start with. Jacquard has a sheet available that gives instructions to make a stock solution, but I prefer to mix as I go. I like to add a splash of vinegar to the cups as well – just for good measure. It also helps to keep the color from spreading.

Remove the yarn from the water/vinegar pot and gently squeeze out the excess liquid. Lay it out on the table in a haphazard way, kind of scrunched up. If you are dyeing more than one skein as I am, lay them out together. This will ensure an even match.


Now take the plastic spoons and drizzle the dye onto the yarn. Continue to drizzle your colors until it looks fairly well covered. Rearrange the yarn (you may be surprised to see how much yarn is still undyed!) and continue until most of the yarn has been dyed.

I did not mix the Gold Ochre in a cup. Instead I touched the very tip of my gloved finger, damp from handling the yarn, into the dry dye and spread it around to my other fingers. Then I opened up my hand and tapped the yarn in several places to give me some deeply colored spots.

Now that the yarn is nearly all colored, take whatever dye remains in your cups and add it to the pot of water and vinegar that you used earlier. Don’t make it too strong though or it will cover up all your mottling work. We just want to cover all the little spots you may have missed and ease the colors into a blended appearance. Place the yarn back in the pot and onto the stove. Bring it up to a simmer – don’t let it boil – and keep it there for 30 minutes, stirring gently every 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Once cooled, rinse gently until the water runs clear.

Hang it up to dry and get your pattern out! You’ve just dyed some Mottled yarn!


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