Sunday, September 1, 2013

Unicorn Farts Tutorial

Hey! I hope you find this tutorial helpful in dyeing your very own Unicorn Farts! I will be editing this here and there as needed and adding helpful hints as I remember them. Please feel free to ask questions here, or over on my facebook page!

I most likely will not be dyeing this colorway very often to sell anymore, so please feel free to dye up skeins to sell if you feel like you can produce sellable skeins! If you use my exact color recipes & colorway name to sell, I would appreciate if somewhere in your listing you give credit to Tomboyknits (i.e. "dyed using Tomboyknits' Unicorn Farts tutorial" or something) BUT: please don't use my shop name in the title of your listing. (I just don't want there to be confusion as to who has dyed the yarn & who is selling it. :D )

Thanks so much, and please enjoy! ♥


WOOL yarn (will not work with cotton or acrylic)

plastic wrap, the clingier the better

wide flat tupperware with top

rubber gloves

wee wee pads (or something to protect your kitchen counter)

measuring spoons (1/8 tsp & 1 tsp)

vinegar OR citric acid (I buy my citric acid from here:

dyes (food dyes, cake/icing dye, kool aid, or acid dyes)

mason jars or plastic cups (at least 4)

6 squirt bottles are really handy and I strongly suggest them - (I buy my 8oz squirt bottles from here: (OR you can try Michaels or Joanns in the cake decorating section) but you can also use a pouring measuring cup (although it's not as precise)

a funnel is also handy if you're using squirt bottles

paper towels

microwave (if you don't have a microwave, you can use the oven instead. You can set the temp at around 200, lay out your yarn on a cookie sheet, and use aluminum foil instead plastic wrap. When you're done dyeing just wrap it all up and place in the oven for a few hours. I have had issues with the yarn getting burnt in a spot or two, but you may want to mess around with the temp/timing.)

guar gum is optional but very helpful in getting those clean color breaks and keeping the red and purple sections from wicking into the white (I found mine at Whole Foods in the gluten-free section)

blender, if you're using guar gum

This tutorial uses food dyes and kool aid to achieve the end result. The colors used are:

Red - 40 drops red from the McCormick assorted box

Orange - 1 packet of orange Kool Aid

Yellow - 2 packets of lemonade Kool Aid AND 3 drops yellow from the McCormick assorted box

Green - 1 packet of lemon-lime Kool Aid

Blue - 5 drops blue from the McCormick NEON box

Purple - 4 drops purple from the McCormick NEON box

Of course, you can also use regular acid dyes - just mix up your colors and go. 

Make sure you're using wool yarn, this won't work with cotton or acrylic. Open up your skein and get ready to tie it with some undyed yarn. A 60" circumference skein works nicely (which is what many skeins are), but if it's bigger or smaller it's probably fine, too. I like to add 3 ties to keep the sections I'm leaving undyed together. Two of them divide the skein in half and the other divides that half in half. The half with no ties is where the dyeing is going to happen. 

You don't need to do figure-eights, you can just tie around (not too tight, not too loose.)

(Say hello to Soup the cat.) 

This is a figure eight, in case you're wondering. If you plan to dye the non-rainbow part of the skein a different color, then I would go ahead and tie figure eights like this. But if you're leaving it undyed, this is not necessary - just tie around.

When dyeing wool yarn, you need acid for the dye to bond. I like to soak the yarn in the acid for about an hour before dyeing the colorway. You can use white vinegar (which or course smells like vinegar) OR citric acid (which is pleasantly unscented). Either one is fine - I use citric acid because I have it on hand.

Kool Aid is acidic enough by itself, but I like to add to the soak as well. (Plus the colors that are only food dye need acid.)

Fill up your sink with cool water. 

Add 1/4 cup vinegar for up to a pound of yarn


1 TBSP citric acid per pound of yarn

and soak your yarn for at least an hour. You can even soak overnight if you like. Be sure to squeeze your yarn in the water to get all the air out.

(Go ahead and lay out your wee wee pads before anything else!)

Guar Gum is a thickener used in cooking - totally optional, but really helpful! I found it in the Gluten-Free section of Whole Foods, but it can also be found on Amazon. 

I have done plenty of batches of UF successfully without it, but find it really helps make the color breaks clean. You can skip this step and just use plain water to mix your dyes if you don't want to bother.

Put 32 oz of warm water in the blender and add 1 teaspoon of guar gum. Blend on low for a minute or two, until the guar gum looks to be mostly dissolved.

Pour 8 oz of your blended mixture ( or plain water if you skipped that step) into each of your mason jars.

I use this mixture for the 4 middle colors (orange through blue), and a slightly thicker version for red and purple later.

For ORANGE, add 5 dashes (a dash is 1/8 tsp) or approximately 1 packet of Orange Kool Aid to one of your jars, and stir well.

If you have clumps, just let it sit for a bit and try stirring it again later.

For YELLOW, add 15 dashes, which is approximately 2 packets of Lemonade Kool Aid, to one of the mixture jars. Then add 3 drops of McCormick yellow, and stir well.

For GREEN, add 5 dashes or approximately 1 packet of Lemon Lime Kool Aid to one of your jars, and stir well.

For BLUE, add 5 drops of McCormick's NEON blue to the last jar, and stir well. I also add a little bit of acid (either a dash of citric acid OR a small splash of vinegar), and stir again.

Now transfer your dye mixtures to your squirt bottles and rinse out your jars.

Now this is for the red and purple dye stock - we want these to be slightly thicker to help keep the edge colors from wicking.

Put 16 oz of warm water in the blender and add 1 teaspoon of guar gum. I also add a little bit of acid (either a dash of citric acid OR a small splash of vinegar). Blend on low for a while, until the guar gum looks to be mostly dissolved. This will be a little frothier than the previous batch.

For red, add 40 drops of McCormick red, and stir well.

For purple, add 4 drops of McCormick NEON purple, and stir well.

Just a little side note - I find purple to be one of the hardest colors to work with. Purple can "break" when heated, meaning the colors in it separate and "strike" at different times, and you end up with a bit of blue within it. This neon purple holds it together pretty well, which is why I use it. Another side note - Kool Aid grape is not a pretty purple, which is why I don't use that.

Add the last two colors to their squirt bottles. Now you're ready!

*** I strongly suggest testing the squirt action of your bottles on a piece of paper towel before you start. Sometimes bottles have a wonky squirt, or a leaky cap, or something that may cause the dye to go somewhere you don't want it to. At least you can be proceed with caution if you know of an issue. 

Lay out a long strip of plastic wrap, along with two smaller pieces to cover the curves.

See all those paper towel sheets? I find it really handy to have a stack of paper towel pieces ready to grab - in case of some runaway dye, or if I need to wipe my hands in between colors.

Remove your yarn from the acid soak and squeeze out all the excess water. Do not wring! Just squeeze until no water comes out.

Lay out your yarn like so - the half with the ties goes into the plastic wrap.

Go ahead and wrap this up now. In case some of the dye gets away from you, the undyed section will be protected.

Also, lay out a long piece of plastic wrap under the section you're about to dye. You should have at least 20 inches of straight, flat yarn to paint.

Lay out your yarn, and make sure that the strands are laid out straight. Spread the yarn out - not too thin, or the dye may run away on the plastic underneath, but not too thick, or the dye won't saturate through to the bottom. 

Find the center of the section you're going to dye, and then slightly LEFT of that, do a little karate chop on the yarn, pressing down hard.

This karate chop makes a slight indentation on the yarn, which will give the first squirt of the dye some direction and keep it from running places you don't want it to go. Aim your dye into this.

I always start with yellow - it is the lightest color and tends to get eaten up by the orange and green. So I make sure to make the yellow a wide strip of color in the beginning.

Don't squirt too much at first, just one squirt along the karate chop dent you made.

Then go ahead and press the dye gently into the yarn with your fingers. Don't do it too hard - you don't want it to splatter into the wrong area. You just want to squish it around enough to get the yarn saturated with some color.

As you add more dye, press gently with the length of your hand, and then use your finger to gently press and roll the dye into the yarn to make that straight line. Make sure you're reaching the outer strands of yarn, too. You want to be adding enough dye to saturate all the yarn without oversaturating it. I press and roll with my left hand while squirting dye here and there with my right.

Use the same "press and roll" technique on the other edge, to make a straight line. I usually aim for each strip of color to be around 2" - 2.5" - though I don't actually measure, I just try to make sure they all look to be the same.

So let's do orange next. FIRST make sure to rinse your gloves off in between each color!! Then make your karate chop about a half inch or so to the left of the yellow edge.

And then squirt some into the dent. If you happen to miss and get some onto the plastic wrap like I did here, BE SURE TO CLEAN THIS UP RIGHT AWAY. This can run into some of the white where you don't want it, and that's a bummer.

Use the press and roll technique to gently push the orange dye to meet the edge of the yellow. Try not to push it too far into the yellow, but definitely cover all the white portions.

If you do have a bit of dye get away from you, it's not the end of the world. The orange on this is just a strand or two on the skein, and also will be over-dyed with red.

Now for green. Rinse your gloves!! Make your karate chop about a half inch or so to the right of the yellow edge.

Like with the others, squirt your dye into the dent. Add a little more dye, press and roll from the center out to meet the other colors, etc. If you need to widen the edge of your strip of color like with this green, be sure to make your dent where you want the edge to go so that the dye doesn't get away from you.

Go ahead and do your blue next using the same karate chop, squirt, press and roll technique.

Now that your four middle colors are done, let's do the two edge colors last. It's important to do these two last because it gives them less time to wick. 

Make your karate chop dent, squirt your red dye into the dent, and use your very SLOW press and roll technique to first meet the edge of the orange, and then to make a clean, straight edge along the undyed area.

Press and roll - be sure not to splash or splatter!

Try to keep the edge here evenly saturated with dye so that it doesn't fade out too much into the undyed area.

Do the same with your purple. Be careful with the edge where the purple meets the blue - all the other colors blend pretty well from one color to the next, but the blue and the purple don't mix very nicely. Try to get them to meet without mixing, and without leaving a gap in color.

Now that your colors are done, take another piece of plastic wrap and lay it over the whole length of the rainbow. Now it's time to flip it over!

Taking the two pieces of plastic wrap that are sandwiching your dye job (two hands, one on each end) flip it over completely. The dyed section should be stuck to the bottom piece of plastic wrap, and hopefully you don't have any dye running anywhere. (Imagine that my other hand is lifting by the purple edge instead of awkwardly trying to snap a photo.) 

Peel off the layer of plastic wrap that's now on the top and throw it away. Here's the underside of the yarn we just painted. See the light spots? We need to paint those.


Your yarn is pretty wet and saturated now and karate chops will just push dye into areas you don't want. Instead just go ahead and squirt a little bit of dye directly onto the light areas and gently press with your fingers to blend in the dye with the surrounding areas.

Do this with each of the colors that need it, but make sure to rinse your gloves off in between each color.

Now your paint job is done!

Lift up one side of the plastic wrap underneath, and slowly fold the painted part of the skein over in half.

Make sure the colors line up!!

Now fold it in half again, and wrap the plastic wrap firmly around the rainbow area. DON'T SQUEEZE while you're doing this.

Also make sure your gloves are clean (or off) while you're handling the now mostly-wrapped skein of yarn.

Gently lift the rainbow part of the skein and lay it down in the tupperware. You can curve the yarn into the tupperware but try not to squeeze it or bend it too much. Try to get the dyed section to lay down flat so that gravity isn't causing any dye to run.

Now cover the top of the tupperware with plastic wrap.

Place the lid on top of this. Don't press it down, just set it there.

Pile the rest of your skein on top of the lid.

Cover the yarn on top loosely with plastic wrap.

Place the whole thing into the microwave. Heat it on your regular setting for 2 minutes, then let it sit for 2 minutes, then heat it again for 2 minutes, then sit for 5 minutes, then heat it for 2 more minutes. Then let it sit for a while until it cools down a bit.

It will be one hot steamy package, so use oven mitts when you take it out. Don't move the yarn itself until it has cooled down.

The steam inside will be really hot when you open it to peek at it, so be careful.

Once it's cooled down, open it up and remove all the plastic wrap.

Once the yarn is completely cool, no longer hot anywhere on the skein, you can rinse it in cool water. It will be a bit slimy if you used guar gum, so be sure to rinse all that off.

Then add some baby shampoo or mild dish soap, fill up the sink, and let it soak for a while.

If you used vinegar as your acid, this will help get the smell out.

Now rinse again until all the suds are gone.

Squeeze out all the excess water, and hang it up to dry for a couple days.

So, you may notice that you have lots of dye left over. If you want to save it for future use, just pop the dye bottles in the fridge until next time. Or, if you want to use it up or if you need a fun trim to go with with your Unicorn Farts, you can go ahead dye up some Unicorn Barf. 

I usually wind up 1.75 or 2oz of yarn at a circumference of about 40" or so. A few loose figure eight ties are helpful here so that you don't end up with white spots on your skein. Soak it in your vinegar along with your main skein. When you're ready to dye, use the same method to squirt and press into the yarn, press and roll to make your edges, and just make sure to saturate all the way through. Try your best to make your six color sections the same length. Then wrap and heat.

Here you can see where I've used the Unicorn Barf on the straps, skirt edge, and heart pocket. 

This all works with acid dyes, too. Here's a pair of longies I made a few years ago.

Here's another set I did using acid dyes and the above method. Except I accidently splashed some dye on the white part of the skein and ruined the dye job. :( So I decided to overdye the undyed part black, and call it "Vampire Farts" instead! It was helpful to thicken a bit of the black dye with guar gum and then hand-paint the two edges where the black meets the red and purple edges of the rainbow. I then dipped the larger part of the undyed skein in a bath of black dye to finish the job and I didn't have to worry about the black wicking into those two edge colors.

Here's one more set I've made, using the above method. I took a skein of grey yarn (this was "Pearl" by Malabrigo) and used acid dyes to overdye it.  

This was "Polar Morn" by Malabrigo. I'm calling it "Zombie Farts".

Zombie Farts knit up into doll sweaters.

Princess Farts

Pegasus Farts

Tardis Farts, of course



  1. what a great tutorial. it inspires me to try it.

  2. Awesome!!!! Thanks! A friend recommended this tutorial to me this morning to try and encourage me to get into dying my own strands, and this just sounds like so much fun! Thanks ever so much for sharing with us!!!!

  3. I've never dreamed of dyeing yarn myself but the ravelry photos were so eye-catching they made me curious. I read the tutorial through and the instructions and tips are crystal clear. Must surely take practice like yours to achieve such precise results. How long do the unused mixed dyes keep in the squirt bottles?
    So nice of you to share your recipe. Your Unicorn Farts and Unicorn Barf yarns are just awesome.

  4. Anonymous - those are good questions :) I pop the leftover dye into the fridge, and have reused them up to a couple months later. The dye still works, though I have found it the color to be slightly less vibrant the longer it stays in the fridge.

    I will add this info to the tutorial when I have a chance.

  5. very nice !
    i dye different and like to see your metod.

  6. Really great tutorial! Thank you for sharing.

  7. Love it!! I am totally going to try this sometime.

  8. I love it!! I am totally going to try this.

  9. Thanks for sharing. Saw it on Pinterest and am So excited to get home and try this one tonight.

  10. You rock. Thanks for sharing :) Are you using a superwash yarn here? I usually dye roving or my own handspun yarn and I'm never this hard on it with the rinsing and change in temperature between soaking/heating etc. So I'm assuming this is supah'wash? Thanks so much for posting this. I'm going to check out the rest of your blog.

  11. Annie, this is Malabrigo (one-ply merino) - not superwash. I am not as gentle on my yarn as I should be, but I haven't had any problems so far. :)

  12. Oddball question- do you by chance know if xantham gum would work in place of guar gum? They're both thickeners, I just happen to have the xantham on hand :)

  13. Anonymous - I have not tried xantham gum, so I can't say for sure. I just read this little article that says guar gum is better for cold items and xantham is better for baked goods, but it also said guar gum can lose it's thickening properties in mixtures with high acid like this, so it may not keep as well. I will experiment with it when I have a chance :)

    1. I read the same thing. I am hoping to try it this weekend, and hopefully remember to let you know how it goes.

  14. This is awesome! But one question : what if you don't have a microwave? (please don't tell me to buy one ;))

  15. Patricia - you can do this in the oven, too. Instead of plastic wrap, use aluminum foil and lay it on a cookie sheet. Dye it the same way and wrap it up in the foil and then put the cookie sheet in the oven at about 200 for a few hours. I have had the yarn burn slightly in a spot or two using this method, which is why I didn't mention it, but otherwise the dye job turned out fine. :)

  16. Great tutorial! I have to know if you sell that doll anywhere!! My daughter is OBSESSED with rainbows and she would go crazy over that!!!

  17. bolinalley - this doll was made by Dragonfly's Hollow, you can find them on facebook :)

  18. LOVE!
    you did a colorway like this but with grey instead of white, which would be great for a little boy. May I ask how you did?

  19. B. - I have been meaning to update the post with a few other ideas, so I will go do that now. The short answer is that I took a skein of grey yarn and overdyed it with acid dyes (instead of Koolaid) using the method above. :)

  20. A great friend of mine over at craftster tried your tutorial and sent me the result! We're all in love with this yarn and that tutorial!
    thank you for putting this up :)

  21. OMG this was awesome! A friend of mine and I did this this afternoon (No mcCormick dye, but a combination of kool aid flavors and some wilton's cake dye did it (every color had at least one packet of kool aid). We also discovered that while the grape may not have the best purple out there, a combination of black cherry and blue cake dye makes a nice one! I broke one purple, but when I used a little more guar gum, I didn't have any color breaks!

    This was awesomely described, thank you! It's addictive!

  22. Thanks, textilegeek, I'm glad you guys had fun!

  23. This is fantastic! The detailed instructions and so many beautiful examples are inspiring. I never had an interest in dyeing yarn until I read your article. Now I'm trying to figure out when and where I can try this, and what I might do with my first batch of Unicorn Farts yarn. Thank you for the great tutorial!

  24. any thoughts on how i can stop the red bleeding out into the undyed section making a pink bit? infuriating!

  25. Pollwotsit - you can try thickening the red up a bit more, or maybe squeezing out as much of the excess water from the skein as possible. Or even letting it dry for a while before dyeing it. It happens to me, too, but it's not usually as noticeable once it's knit up as it is when it's in the freshly dyed skein. :D

  26. If using acid dyes do you still mix the powder with 16oz of water and gaur gum?

  27. You can use guar gum with acid dyes - if you look on my other post about acid dyes, there are some tips. :)

  28. Thank you so much for sharing this cool tutorial! I'm looking forward to trying it. Also, I love the name you gave your colorways!

  29. Thank you so much for sharing this cool tutorial! I'm looking forward to trying it. Also, I love the name you gave your colorways!

  30. Thank you for this tutorial! I'd seen it a few times pinned to Pinterest but hadn't gotten around to purchasing any wool I could dye. I did before the new year and dyed it up following your instructions and it was amazing! I'm knitting it up into some socks tonight and shared on a FB group and someone recognized the dyeing pattern. That reminded me to thank you for offering this great tutorial. I didn't use anything other than water, vinegar and multiple packets of KoolAid to create a very saturated color way. Thank you again for sharing and I am already planning on dyeing more…. selfishly for myself! :)

  31. Thanks so much everyone, I'm glad you like it! :)

  32. Hi! I wanted to say that I substituted xanthan gum for guar gum and it made a nice thick dye for the red and purple. It didn't have any effect on the colors at all. Although it does take a bit to wash out afterwards. Other wise I had fantastic results with it. Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. I had so much fun dying my skein. I need more bare yarn! The kool aid dyes make a hefty amount! Here is a little album of my results.

  33. Fantastic idea! I dyed yarn before, but never thought leaving other half plain colour?! Well, fart yarns ar ont he way in near future for sure! Thank you :) BTW do you have a link for the button sweater pattern (its like a triangle in the front)? Adorable!

  34. I love your yarn, and your tutorial was super helpful. I am now having a lot of fun with trying to carefully place colours mixed with guar gum. But I have a question for you.

    The front half of my yarn seemed to take the colour quite well, but when I flipped it over, it was almost like the back was already coated in the guar gum from dyeing the front, and didn't seem to want to suck up the colour.

    I may have mixed it too thick (I mixed all with the red formula from above). Have you had this happen before, and if so, is there a way to fix it? I still like the yarn, now that it is done,but it has a lot more light spots than I anticipated.

  35. I had some gray yarn that I bought on sale but didn't know what to do with it because it was so sad, I just made zombie farts and I love them! Thank you for such an in depth and easy to follow tutorial! Awesome!

  36. Can you use cornstarch as a thickener is guar gum isn't readily available?

  37. Rey, I believe you can use cornstarch as a thickener but I think I read that it can be a hassle to rinse out of the yarn afterwards. I have not tried it, though. Good luck!

  38. Hi.the best tutorial i read so far...please anyone any toughts on how i can do really sensitive merino/silk tops?i tryed everything i read or tought of but the roving is always kinda stiff and not fluffy and silky like really like to find a way without a drum carder after dyeing because i cant afford one atm.p.s.tried steaming it after it dryes but not the result still...HELP

  39. i ABSOLUTELY LOVE LOVE LOVE these. all of them. thank you so very much for this tutorial. I can't wait to try it.... What are your suggestions for larger, girl sized, projects. I have a 5 and 10 y/o daughter.

  40. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE LOVE LOVE this. and your tutorial is so very helpful. do you have any suggestions of larger projects? I have a 5 and 10 y/o daughter....

  41. I am new to this, but I am going to try. Is all the wool yarn created equal? Where is a good place to buy yarn to dye? Thanks

  42. Brilliant tutorial! Is this washable - i.e., if garments are made with it, does the colour hold up ok after going in the washer?

  43. Thank you so much. This is brilliant and so easy to follow. Trying it very soon.

  44. This is one of the best tutorials out there! Clear, concise wordage and photos. This took an immense amount of time to do and being a chemist, I thank you for the clarity. I'm accustomed to precision ☺️