How to hand dye wool ?

How to hand dye wool ?

Learn how to dye your own wool using the hand painting method.

This tutorial is applicable to any protein yarn: merino wool, alpaca wool, silk, etc... Any yarn that was created using an animal source.

I have been painting my yarns for the last year and I have found so much enjoyment in creating color pallettes that I am curious to use in knitting, crocheting or weaving projects. 

Let's get started!:

1. Prepare protein yarns (e.g. wool) into skeins. Use any method that you are comfortable with or buy yarns in skeins.

2. Scour yarn. Basically, 'scour' means washing the yarn to take out any grease or any other material remaining on the yarn from the spinning process. You will be surprised to see how much dirty water will you find when scouring your yarn. For protein yarns use Orvus paste. If you don't have this, it is okay to use any gentle unscented laundry soap. 

Fill bucket or sink with warm water, add Orvus paste or soap and mix thoroughly. Incorporate yarn and wash it with gentle movements (you don't want the yarn to felt). Finally, rinse yarn until no more soap foam is present on the rinsed water. This may take multiple buckets of rinse water- it will definitely take more than you think initially!

3. Prepare a water solution with vinegar in the proportions of 3:1 (3 water : 1 vinegar). Soak the scoured yarn for 30 minutes minimum before starting hand painting.

4.  While yarn is soaking in vinegar solution, it is time to prepare your dyes. For protein fiber use acid dyes. I am using Ciba Washfast Acid dyes from Maiwa. Use any acid dyes that you are comfortable with. Always remember to read the safety instructions before using the dyes.

For hand-painting I mix the acid dyes in the proportion of 1 teaspoon of dye with 1 cup of water (250 ml). Always use a respirator mask when handling the acid dyes powder. 

Acid dyes mixed with water and put it in plastic bottles

 5. After you have all your dyes mixed in bottles it is time to dye the yarn! Take out the protein yarn (e.g. wool) that have been soaking in the vinegar solution and gently squish to remove any excess water. The yarn should feel damp but water should not be dripping out of it.

pre soaked wool yarn in buckets ready to being hand painted

6. Prepare the table area with plastic wrap and put the yarn on top of the plastic. 

Skein of wool yarn placed on top of plastic wrap

7. Start placing dye solution into the yarn. Do this using some bowls and sponge brushes and apply the colors in the areas that you like. Using the sponge brush helps to control where the dyes go.  

Hand painting wool with acid dyes

8. After all the yarn is covered with the dyes wrap it with more plastic. Put extra plastic layers to make sure that dyes do not drip out of the plastic.

Wrapped wool yarn after hand painting process

9. Acid dyes need heat in order to fix to the yarn. Place the wrapped yarns into a big pot with a rack and add some water below the rack. Place the pot on the stove and let it steam the wrapped yarns for at least 30 minutes. Cover the pot with a lid.

Wrapped wool yarn that have been hand painted

10. Leave the wrapped yarn into the pot to cool down overnight.

Wrapped yarn that have been dyed and let it to cool down overnight

11. Take the wrapped yarn into the sink to rinse. Unwrap the yarn and put them aside in a bucket.

Hand painted yarn on sink ready to be wash

12. Fill a bucket or sink with warn water and add Orvus paste or gentle unscented laundry soap. After the soap is all mixed in, is time to incorporate dyed yarn to wash and rinse thoroughly.

Bucket with water and soap to rinse hand painted wool

13. Hang yarn to dry.

Hand dyed wool hanging to dry on a laundry line

Enjoy your new colors!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.