I finally have taken time to do some wool dyeing with the Dharma Trading acid dyes that I bought last year. I bought the 2 oz jars and unless I were to get into dyeing for a business, I think, quantity wise, this will be great plenty. I have about 20 colors. You can mix them also.
I used the tutorials on the Dharma Trading Co site as a starting point. I used the stove top immersion technique.
- Wash wool in hot water with regular detergent. Synthapol is recommended but an internet source said that regular laundry detergent was ok unless you were doing commercial dyeing or needed exact results. Since my philosophy is that this is all playtime, I just used detergent. The goal of this step is to remove any oils or dirt that may be in the wool. Most of my wool was unused so perhaps could have skipped this step.
- I have 3 stainless steel pots that are only used for dyeing. Fill with water and heat up. The goal here is to bring the water to just BELOW boiling. I don’t have a thermometer dedicated to crafting/dyeing so I just brought the water to a boil and then backed off the temp. Close enough is good enough in my world.
- I dissolved the powdered acid dye in small glass jars with boiling water. I came up with the recipe of 3 tsp dry dye per 500gms of wool. I found that filling the jars about 1/2 full with water, stirring, then filling the jar nearly to the top gave me the best results on dissolving. Some dyes dissolved easier than others – not sure why.
- Add the dissolved dye to the pot of water. Then rinsed the jar and added the rinse to the water in order to get all the dye out of the jar.
- Add the wet wool to the pot. Stir. Make sure you don’t add too much wool for the size of your pot. You need to have room for it to move around.
- Keep temp just below boiling. Again, I just ball-parked this. I kept an eye on the pots and if they started to boil, I’d reduce the temp a little more. I found it was harder to keep it hot enough as opposed to TOO hot.
- Add white vinegar in small amounts and not directly onto the fabric, stirring well. The recommendation is to add 1/4c per pound. You can also use citric acid powder if you have it. I think this step is to help the dye adhere to the fabric? I can’t remember for sure. I figure white vinegar is cheap so I was adding about 1/4-1/2 cup per pot and had good results.
- Maintain the temperature and stir frequently (I stirred every 5 minutes or so) for 30-60 minutes until all the dye has been absorbed into the wool. I’ve done 6 batches now and found that 30 minutes is about the right amount of time. My dye water is usually nearly clear by this time. If your water is clear, it indicates you’ve used the correct amount of dye.
- Turn off the burners and let the wool just sit to cool for 1-2 hours. I do this simply for safety. You can skip this step but I don’t like carrying pots of boiling water around. Once cool-ish, drain the water (I do it outside as we don’t want any chemical residue in our sewer system).
- Rinse the wool with clean water to make sure there isn’t any dye bleeding from the fabric. (So far, I haven’t had any bleeding.)
- Hang them on the line to dry.
Wool before dyeing:
Small bottles of dissolved dye:
Wool after washing first time:
Pots on the stove:
My final step – which I haven’t actually done yet – will be to wash the wool pieces once more in hot water and then dry them in a hot dryer. This step should give the wool one last chance to felt. Since I don’t have a dryer, I’ll be making a trip to the laundry mat for this step. I’m really not sure if this step is necessary or not because the wool has been simmering in a pot of water for at least 30 minutes. However, I have read that the agitation of a washing machine cycle helps with the felting and I’m sure a hot dryer doesn’t hurt so I’m going to try it.
Once I’m finished, I’ll have plenty of wool. I’m guessing I have about 20 yards of but it could easily be more than that as I brought a LOT home from South Dakota last year and a friend gave me some for my birthday. I don’t really have a project in mind. I like the work of Primitive quilts and Projects (country), Wendy Williams (bright and whimsical) and I like the idea of the decorative stitching of Sue Spargo so am not sure which direction to go. It makes it doubly hard to decide because I don’t decorate (give me the simple!) and so although I like the little projects I’ve found, I don’t really use them or want them. Perhaps I’ll just wait for inspiration to hit – maybe in Houston? We’ll see.
One more thing…..I’ve found that plaid wools are my favourites so if you have any plaid wool laying around that you don’t want, please pass it on to me! Or light coloured wools. They are the most useful.