The Anticraft
this issue

letter from the editrix
dyeing for coffee
project details


the anticraft > archive > the jitters

Samhain 2010

Dyeing for Coffee
by Simone Van Iderstine with additional tips from The AntiCraft Peanut Gallery

Coffee makes a wonderful dye for wool, and the best part is that everthing about it is completely food-safe, so you don't need to worry about using dye-dedicated utensils and equipment like you would with the usual acid dyes. It's perfect for dyeing around children or pets (as are also tea and Kool-Aid®) right in your own kitchen. This tutorial will take you through the process of dyeing enough yarn to knit yourself a Café au Laine.

Know Before You Dye

  • Don't stir the yarn around in the dye bath and be sure to allow the dye bath to cool before rinsing the yarn to avoid felting. Never let water run over your wool while dyeing for the same reason.
  • Using more coffee should yield a richer, darker color. Using less should yield a lighter color.
  • Many white yarns are chemically treated to be as white as possible, and do not take dyes of any kind well. Make sure that your yarn is untreated.

You Will Need

  • 4-5 oz/113-140 g animal fiber yarn (e.g. wool, alpaca, angora, etc.)
  • 4 pieces of scrap yarn, approximately 6"/15cm in length (for fun, use acrylic to see how it won't take the dye)
  • 1 c/70g medium grind coffee
  • 1/4 c/60ml white vinegar
  • Colander
  • Large piece of cheesecloth or an old t-shirt
  • Wooden spoon
  • A large pot with a lid
  • Large mixing bowl or container
  • Water (for dyebath and for rinsing wool)
  • Oven mitts (don't want to burn your fingers!)
  • Soap or wool wash for rinsing
  • Old towel


Wind yarn into a large skein and tie the two ends together in a loose knot. If you don't have a skein winder you can wrap the yarn over your thumb, around the outside of your elbow, and back around to your thumb continuously to make the skein.(almost like coiling a garden hose!). Lay out flat and very loosely tie off your skein in four places with scrap yarn (imagine it is a clock and tie it at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions). This will help keep your yarn from becoming tangled.

For more evenly dyed yarn, pre-soak in lukewarm water until you're ready to put it into the dye bath. For a more kettle dyed appearance, leave it dry until you've got your dye bath ready.

Line a colander with cheesecloth or an old t-shirt and place it in the large mixing bowl so you're all ready for straining out coffee grounds.


1. In large pot, add 4 cups of cold water and 1 cup of ground coffee. Bring to a boil and then turn back heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Be sure to leave the top on the pot.

2. Strain out the coffee grounds using the t-shirt lined colander allowing liquid to pour through the colander into a large mixing bowl. Toss coffee grounds into your compost.

3. Pour brewed coffee back into the large pot and add enough cold water to the pot to make the liquid lukewarm.

4. Add vinegar to the pot and stir with the wooden spoon.

5. Add yarn to the dye bath.

6. Slowly bring the dye bath up to a simmer. Allow yarn to simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

7. Remove dye bath from heat and allow to cool (with yarn still in it!).

8. Fill a sink, bucket, or othe large container with cool water and and a pea-sized (or smaller!) amount of soap or wool wash. Remove yarn from dye bath and rinse very well. Remove yarn and rinse again with cool, clear water so that the soap is rinsed out completely. Remember not to rub the yarn when rinsing, but instead plunge it straight down into the water and push it against the bottom of the rinse bath, then let it go. Repeat carefully and slowly in different areas of the rinse bath so you don't cause felting.

9. Roll yarn in an old towel and gently squeeze out excess moisture. Don't ring or twist.

10. Hang to dry. If you don't have a clothesline or drying rack, the shower is a great place to hang your wet yarn.

Knit something fun with your hand dyed yarn!



homeantifestothis issuearchivesubmiterratamastheadcontact uslegal