How to Dye Wool

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Dyeing wool may seem like a mysterious, complicated process but it's really just as easy to performing a few simple steps. Once you've got your wool and dye colors picked out plus a few utensils that you're willing to sacrifice in the name of fiber art, you're ready to get started.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Dye
  • Glass or porcelain-clad pot
  • Wool
  • Mordant
  • Wooden spoon
  • Gloves
  • Mix water and dye in a large tempered glass or porcelain/enamel pot. Do not use steel or aluminum because the metals will react with the dye. How much dye you use depends on how you want the color to turn out. Every dye and fiber is different, so you'll have to experiment.

  • Add your wool to the dye bath. Make sure that it can be fully submerged and moved around without danger of the dye bath overflowing.

  • Heat the water on your stove. Just before it's ready to boil, add your mordant (an acid that helps the wool take up the dye). Vinegar is one cheap, easy to use mordant that is safer than harsh chemicals. Use white vinegar, or experiment with other types that may affect the color of the dye.

  • Move the dye around with a wooden spoon, then simmer covered for an hour, moving the whole mass around just once or twice.

  • Pour out the hot water very carefully. Fill the sink full of very hot, soapy water and push the dyed wool under the water with gloved hands. Don't mix or slosh it. Just submerge it entirely. Then let the water cool.

  • Drain off the cooled water and gently squeeze the soap out of the wool, then run clear water (no soap) the same temperature as the cooled bath over your wool. Let sit for 15 minutes.

  • Put the wool in the washing machine if possible (spin cycle only) to get rid of excess water. Then lay it out on a rack to dry. Your dye project is complete.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure that all utensils used to dye wool are kept solely for that purpose--they can never be used for food again.
  • Keep your hands safe by wearing rubber gloves while working with your dye. Make sure to either dispose of them or keep them separate from dishwashing gloves and the like.
  • Add acid to water. Never add water to acid.

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