There are many different ways to dye wool and this is the method that I use. It’s entirely experiment based and nothing is measured to the exact cup or tablespoon. Dye mediums are not always the same brand or even a commercial product. I also dabble in natural dye stuffs, though the end product is never as vibrant or intense as its commercial rival.
Also, there are many different fibers that you can dye ranging from animal to plant. I will refer to fiber as wool, because in this case and these pictures, that is what I will be using, specifically a blend of cheviot and merino sheep’s wool.
The basic materials needed for dyeing are: gloves, mason jars and lids, dye (liquid, powder, or natural materials), mordant (vinegar or lemon juice), wool, and hot water.
To begin, put your gloves on and start adding your dyes to the mason jars. Mix colors at will. I usually try to at least cover the bottom of the pint and a half jars and maybe a little more in the half gallon jars. Then I add the vinegar, which looks to be about 1/8 cup for pint and a half jars and ¼ cup for the half gallon jars.
In the yellow jar, I mixed liquid pink dye and powder yellow dye. I’ll make sure to mix it really well in the next step.
Have your clean wool ready. Fluff it apart and try to get as much natural debris out as possible. More will come out when you card your fibers and even when you spin and knit the yarn.
Fill your jars with a quarter to third of the hottest water possible. I use my teakettle to boil the water. Add wool and cover with lid. If you overstuff the jar, the dye may not penetrate as desired. You can let it sit for a couple of hours or up to a day. The longer sits between adding water will cause a stronger shade variance. Since I use my dryer kind of light another counter top, I take advantage of the heat that it gives off and do some laundry. This heat or any other heat source that you could use helps to intensify the color in the wool. In the summertime or really hot days, I let the jars sit in direct sunlight for as long as possible.
Later, add a third to a quarter more water. Pour the water down the side of the jar as much as possible and not on top of the wool. Cover your jars. In this stage I like to tip the jar upside down, only until all the bubbles have stopped, to soak the rest of the wool. It may or may not start to seep into the un-dyed wool, but all your wool is soaking up water now. You can make sure the color bleeds in the last step.
The next step you will add a final third or another quarter of hot water. If this is your last step, you can tip the jar over and let it sit upside down for 5-10 minutes. It’s ok to move the jar around to disperse the dye more. Repeat this step again if you were adding water in quarters. You can add water in whatever increment you would like to create even more variegated shades.
Next you will want to rinse the dye out of your wool. You may need to repeat the rinsing step one to two more times if your wool is really saturated. Remember to only use cold water in this stage. Wait for your jar, water, and wool to be totally cooled (room temperature) before rinsing. Refer to this video for rinsing and drying your dyed wool.
If you feel that your fibers are too dry or brittle from the dye or mordant, add a little wool rinse (like Eucalan) or hair conditioner to your final rinse. Most animal fibers are follicles just like human hair and need a little moisture to sit, stay, lay down and roll over.
It will take a day or two for your wool to dry, depending on the time of year and humidity. Again, I use my dryer to my advantage and let it help me dry my wool faster. I always have a towel folded underneath the wool as a barrier and to help soak up the dripping water. Once dry, you should card the fibers to prepare for spinning into yarn or felting.