Friday, December 31, 2010

Dyeing Wool

I know many people spend days baking cookies to get ready for Christmas.  I don't really enjoy baking.  Instead of spending days baking, I spent days dyeing wool.  It's kind of like cooking.  You use a pot and a stove.  I had to wait to share my "cooking days"  because much of the wool was meant to be holiday presents for some of my quilting friends.

I do have designated pots and utensils set aside just for dyeing.  I also had a stash of an assortment of wool.  Dyeing wool requires acid dyeing which is different than the dyes used for cotton.  Dyeing wool requires heat, which dyeing cotton does not. 

Since I have quite an assortment of dyes for cotton, actually too many, I decided to order a sampler kit from ProChem.  The kit included 6 different dyes, Synthropol - a detergent and citric acid crystals for acidity.

To open up the fibers of the wool so that it accepts the dye easily,  the wool is soaked with some detergent.  Pro Chem's directions indicates 1 hour with Synthropol.  I have seen other directions where you use dish washing soap, like Dawn, and soaking time up to 24 hours.  Since I bought the ProChem kit, I decided to follow their directions.
After 1 hour of soaking, wring out the wool and place it in the dye bath that includes the dye, salt and citric acid dissolved in water.  Turn on the heat and then "cook" for 1 hour.  The more you stir, the more even will be the dye.
Doesn't that color look yummy?
The big difference between dyeing a protein fiber such as wool and a plant fiber such as cotton is what the dye bath looks like in the end.  When dyeing the plant fiber, the dye bath is colored when finished.  The longer you leave in the fabric, the darker it becomes.  With the protein fiber, dyeing is complete when the water is clear and colorless.  It is said to be exhausted.  The fabric at that point is as dark as it is ever going to be.

The excitement is seeing how the different patterned wools take the dye.  This is exciting.  When the dye bath is exhausted, I dump the whole pot, fabric and water, into the sink and let it cool until I can handle the wool.  Then I take it to the washing machine, wash it with cold water and then into the dryer.

and this is what 7 of the different wools look like all dyed together in the blue dye bath.
I love how the different patterns turn out so differently.

So instead of packaging up a bunch of cookies, I trimmed and cut and rolled and delivered some hand dyed wool as holiday presents to my quilting friends.  No calories!


  1. I loved mine and now need to think of something special to make with them! Thank you!

  2. I LOVE this idea. I have been saving wool bits, felting it and now I think dying it would help a lot. Thanks for posting.

  3. Love, love, love the wool - can't wait to use it in a project! You and Bailey are the BEST!!!

  4. Love the changes but mine must have gotten hung up in the mail. Sandy in CA

  5. I love my wool- you are so thoughtful!
    Thanks so much! Have a Happy New Year (hopefully much better than last year)!


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