:: Dyeing wool using food colouring :: A loose tutorial :: Part 1 ::

I’ve been saying for a while that I will do I tutorial on the method I use for dyeing using food colouring. There is a whole host of information out there on the www about this technique, much more now than I could find when I started doing this. It all stemmed from a packet of raro, an NZ equivilant, or so I thought, of Kool Aid. However I have come to believe that Kool Aid, does not contain sugar, a real down side to the packet of raro which does. Also, using jelly is not a great idea, especially if you leave it to cool down overnight in your colder inside than out, colder on the bench than in the fridge flat in the middle of winter. No, I clearly did not think that one through. Maybe the cold addled my brain.

Anywho, I got some passable results using raro, and it still smells like raspberries, but using non-diluted colouring appealed to me. For a while I used the colouring from the supermarket, but have a found a much mosre cost effective source at the local playcentre shop. (I suspect that most early childhood education supply shops will stock this insome form.)

This tutorial is for dyeing solid colours.

Get your wool together. Weight is not super important, but helps to determine the final outcome, especially if you are trying to duplicate a colour. I use anywhere from 5 mL per oz to 30+ mL per oz. (Post on this coming soon.)

Soak wool in a mix of water and white vinegar (acetic acid). Make sure the wool is covered and squeeze extra air out.

I use about 1/4 c of vinegar per oz, just to be sure. A purist will tell you to soak for 24 hours. For instant gratification soak for the length of time it takes you to prepare your colour. (A longer soak will in theory evenly distribute the vinegar through the wool. The vinegar (+heat) is what causes the reaction of the wool and colour molecule to be permanent. A more even covering of vinegar gives a more even colouring of the wool, but it all gets evened out in the spinning anyway.)

Perpare the colour you want. It might be 10mL of yellow, or 12 mL of yellow mixed with 5 mL of blue. Experiment and have fun! (You don’t need a squeezy bottle like this, you can just do it straight into your pot.)

Put you colour and wool into a pot and cover with water and splash more vinegar. You could use the water you soaked the wool in. Place the pot on the stovetop and heat up the water until it almost comes to a simmer. Simmer very gently until all the colour has disappeared from the water.

This is an actual photo of actual water the dye has actually gone from. You probably won’t believe me till you do it. It’s quite magical.

Drain the wool, let it cool, rinse out in cool water, and dry. Voila!

**No doubt there will be questions about felting. I actually bring my wool to simmer, simmer until the colour has gone, dump into a colander and rinse with cool water immediately, and I have never experienced any felting. However results may differ for you, and I suggest that if you’re concerned about felting try a wee sample first. Anyone who has ever made felt with purpose will attest to how much damn hard work it really is!**

Edited to add: I now use citric acid to set my dyes, as it doesn’t leave an odour. Instead of your house smelly like a a wet, vinergary sheep, it will just smell like wet sheep. Good eh? I use 1/4 teaspoon per 100g, or 1 Tablespoon per 500g. Happy dyeing!


18 Responses to “:: Dyeing wool using food colouring :: A loose tutorial :: Part 1 ::”

  1. 1 Joanne April 2, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    THANKYOU! This was really really simple, quick and effective, I currently have wool in every color of the rainbow drying in my back yard! I have been researching different dyeing methods for weeks, and this is by far the best out come, for the least effort method I have found. And better yet I found everything I needed at the supermarket!

  2. 2 Frank George October 20, 2012 at 7:10 am

    in the picture above of the wool drying outside, it appears as if you need to do something to get it back into that nice tube shape it came in. do you have to do anything to the woll in order to spin on a drop spindle?

  3. 3 Mellissa Uber-lopez June 25, 2013 at 7:09 am

    Thank you, now I can tell Betty yes it can be dyed with food coloring etc. 🙂

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