Today, I am going to show you how I hand dye wool using Cushing’s powdered dyes. Hand dyeing wool allows you to create the colors you want for your projects.
I chose four different wool fabrics to dye – each one cut into a fat quarter.
The differences in the coloring of the original fabrics will give the finished dyed wools some variance.
This is perfect for a background on a hooked rug.
Preparing the Wool for Dyeing:
Place the pieces of wool into the water one at a time and push them around in the water until they are thoroughly soaked before adding the next piece.
Soak the wool fabric for at least an hour; overnight is great.
After they have soaked, take out each piece, lightly wring the water out of them and place in a dishpan to transport them to the stove.
Watch the Video:
Using the Right Equipment:
When dyeing wool, it is important to use all stainless steel pots and utensils.
Once you use the pots and utensils for dyeing, they must not be used for food!
Make sure this pot is big enough for all of the wool fabric to fit and have room for the water to flow around the fabrics as you stir.
Choosing the Dye:
Different dyes are appropriate for different types of fabrics. It is important to match the dye to your fabric type.
I have chosen to use Cushing’s dyes since they have a nice selection of color choices.
Note that Cushing’s sells two different types of dyes.
The acid dyes are formulated for wool. I have chosen to use ‘Jade Green’ for this demonstration.
Each package of the Cushing’s dyes will dye about a pound of fabric.
Normally, for the wools I dye, somewhere between one yard and one and a half yards equals a pound.
I cut each piece of felted wool into a fat quarter. I have found that really big pieces of wool are hard to stir in the pot.
This is how I dye wools. This process works well for me but I can’t guarantee the results you will achieve.
Use caution when working with dyes. When working with dye powders, it is important to protect yourself.
Wear a dust particle mask. You might also want to put down some protective plastic around your work area, wear old clothes, and wear plastic gloves to protect your hands.
Dissolve the Dye:
Cover the bottom of a small stainless steel sauce pan with water.
Wearing a dust particle mask, pour the dye powder into the water. Stir with a stainless steel spoon.
Bring the water to a simmer and cook until all of the dye powders are dissolved.
(You could dissolve the dye in the big pot, but it is much easier to make sure everything is dissolved in the smaller pot. And believe me, you do want all of the dye dissolved!)
Dyeing the Wool Fabric:
Fill the large stainless steel stock pot about 2/3 full of water.
When the dye powder is fully dissolved, pour the dye water into the big stock pot.
Stir the water. Take one piece of wool, unfold it, and place it into the dye water.
Stir it until it is completely saturated with the dye water.
Repeat with remaining pieces of wool.
Turn the heat onto high until it starts simmering.
Then, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer 30-40 minutes.
Stir regularly during this process.
The more you stir, the more solid the color will be on the fabric.
Achieving a Mottled / Marbled Look:
The amount of “movement” the wool has in the dye bath will contribute to the look of the fabric. If there is little room for the fabric to move around, the wool will look more mottled.
To get a marbled wool, there are several things you can do:
- Don’t pre-soak the wool
- Barely cover the wool with water
- Don’t stir
After you have simmered 30-40 minutes, add a few glugs of white vinegar to the pot.
Stir in the vinegar and let it simmer for about twenty minutes longer.
This could take longer depending on the color of dye you are using.
Once the water in the dye pot is “clear-ish” turn off the heat and let it cool.
When the water is room temperature, drain the water off the wool.
Rinse each piece of wool until the rinse water is clear.
Hang each piece of wool up to dry.
Since I chose a lighter dye color, the original stripes and plaids all show through in the wools.
I ended up with four different “shades” of the same color of fabric.