Variegate Your Own Floss. Tie Dye, Monotone You Choose!

May 28, 2012Allison Murray

Do you ever have one of those ideas that make you feel like a genius? For me the opportunity is rare but I LOVE when it happens! You see I had it in my head that I needed, wanted, had to have some tie dyed embroidery floss. But guess what – I could only find it in brands I’d never used before. I guess I’m a DMC snob. It’s all I want to use because it’s the only kind I’ve ever used where it isn’t constantly breaking on me or knotting up or winding up being already knotted up in the skein.

So – they don’t have what I want in my preferred brand but they have it in another one. I bite and grab the “value bag”. I get it home and find that most of it is “tie dyed” but some of it is plain solid colors. No biggie – I should have paid closer attention when I was buying it. But, none of the skeins are the same set of colors and finding two to go together is not easy and three is a total stretch. I go ahead and start using it and my worst fears come true. It’s breaking every few stitches, it’s knotting up on me like crazy and I can’t figure out why. This stinks. I toss my project to the wayside royally ticked off.

Flash forward a couple of days and it hits me. I can make my own tie dyed and variegated floss by dying white floss the colors I need. AND I can dye multiple skeins at once to have several of the same color scheme! Boy howdy do I feel like a total genius!

So, want to dye your own? Come on, you know you want to. This DIY will help you make tie dyed, multi-color variegated and single hue variegated floss made perfectly to suit your embroidery project!

For this first part you are going to need: Metal hanger, wire cutters, pliers, tape, floss, squeeze bottles, dye, rubber bands, scissors, plastic wrap.

STEP1: Take your wire hanger and cut about a 10 – 12 inch portion of the straight part at the bottom. Using your pliers, fold the left side and right side in at 90 degrees about two inches in on the left and right sides (it will look kind of like a goal post). Take your pliers and place them close to the end on one side. Take your pliers and turn the wire AWAY from the goal post shape to make a hook. Do the same with the other side. Cover both ends with tape to dull the sharpness from the cut metal.

STEP 2: Start with your first skein of floss. Tie off on one of the arms close to the bends you made (it will help old the string on). Holding the skein by the middle, wrap it around the arms comfortably taut until you run out of floss. Tie the next strand on with a simple knot and continue wrapping. The metal will begin to bend and the string you tied on at first will be a bit loose. Don’t panic – that’s just going to happen. Continue with all of the thread you want to do in this dye batch. Tie the very end onto the arm it is closest to.

STEP 3: Run your thread under gently flowing water and make sure it is good and damp. Place onto a big piece of plastic wrap.

STEP 4: Take your rubber band and make a cut so that it is a long string of rubber. Use this to tie off the string at one of the points you want the color to change. Be gentle enough that you don’t tousle up your string, but firm enough that you get good hold. Repeat as many times as you want  – I only used two.

STEP 5: Mix up your dye in your squeeze bottles. If you have a custom color dye kit, you can use that to mix just a little of the colors you want to use. Don’t have a custom color dye kit – check out the tutorial on how to make one!!! They can come in super handy times like this.

For my dye, I mixed up really small amounts of yellow, magenta and teal – the original tie dye combination! You can also make your own variegated strands using three similar shades like red, yellow, orange, or red, pink, purple or blue, yellow, green. You can also make different strength dyes of the same color, like magenta and have a variegated pink strand! You get the idea!!!

STEP 6: Apply a generous amount of dye right onto the thread by section. I went with magenta in the center, teal on the left and yellow on the right. The only thing to remember is what the colors will blend together. You know, yellow and blue make green, red and green make ugly brown, and all that jazz.

STEP 7: Pull out a new sheet of plastic wrap. Hold up your string and allow most of the extra liquid to drip off. Place on the clean sheet of plastic and wrap up. Use as many sheets as you need to ensure that you have a good seal.

STEP 8: Put your plastic wrapped parcel someplace warm and dark. I like to keep my sitting dye projects on a shelf in the garage. This is the hard part; leave to sit for at least a day. The longer it sits the more vibrant the colors should become. Just don’t walk away and forget about it for weeks!

Whoo. That’s enough for today, don’t you think? Since your dye needs to sit some time anyway, why don’t you come back on Wednesday to finish up your crazy awesome custom strands!!! Thoughts out to you and yours this Memorial Day.

Comments (10)

  • Stacey

    May 29, 2012 at 2:34 AM

    This is great! I've been hoarding my last multi-coloured skein for years… now I can make many, many more :) Thank you!

  • Allison Murray

    May 29, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    I've kind of been doing the same. I have some really pretty skeins my grandmother gave me that are really, really old. They have colors like I have never seen before. Now I'm going go try to duplicate them! Thanks so much for checking out the post and I'm glad that it's proved helpful to you :)

  • Amy Lou

    May 30, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    This is a great idea, but I'm wondering why the rubber band ties. Are you trying to get a sharper color change between the hues? Because I'm thinking that for a more ombre, one color/different strength dye, this may not be necessary for me. Comments?

  • Allison Murray

    May 30, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    Hey, Amy Lou – I mostly used the rubber bands to keep the thread together. When you're wrapping it the wire starts to get tighter and tighter, so the first floss you wrap is kind of on the loose side. I was really worried about awful tangles and basically ruining a couple of good skeins of white floss. BUT – I did get a slightly white line on some areas (not all) of my floss where the band was resting. I had no problem with the dye spreading over and mixing with its neighbor! I think the wetter your floss the better the spread of the dye will be in general. Hope this extra info helped but let me know if you have any other questions I might be able to help with!


    May 30, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    This is cool, and yet scares me at the same time……………for the same reason batiks freak me out………………the fear excess dye running onto my finished work when I rinse out the blue washable ink I use to draw designs………….. WILL your floss possibly run, or do you somehow 'fix" it to make the dye permanent? Please let me know. I do like your idea for wrapping the skein on the hanger for tangle control. I 'tea dyed' a minty green skein of pearl cotton one time to get it to more of a sage green color. I removed wrapper but left it tied & twisted the way it comes and soaked it in a tall glass trying to minimize movement to control tangles. Your hanger idea is a much better solution. And one I will use again. Thank you!! But with the tea dyed floss I was stitching with it on a dark fabric and it did not appear to run when blue was rinsed out. Your tie dyed floss looks great but on white……… but yikes what it it runs? I would like to try it if it's run proof. Cyndi

  • Allison Murray

    May 30, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    Hiya Cindy! Thanks for stopping by. I totally understand your concerns – which is why I tested my thread before I posted my DIY. You can check out the results for the post regarding finishing up your floss here:
    I dye things A LOT and I find that if you really, really rinse out your dye project and then give it a good wash, you typically don't have any problems. I can't 100% guarantee it, unfortunately, so I suggest doing a quick test with your dyed floss on your intended fabric just to be safe!!!

  • Mel

    June 9, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Your DIY dyed floss is SO gorgeous, Allison. Thanks so much for showing us how (and your embroidery is incredible!)

  • Carolin

    June 14, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Thanks Allison, I like it a lot!
    Greetings from Australlia

  • Julia

    March 18, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    What type of dye did you use? Do you think food coloring would work out? Where did you get the dye?

  • Allison Murray

    March 18, 2013 at 11:26 PM

    I actually use a dye kit I made here It is great for custom colors!!

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