Dyed in the Wool

Dyed in the Wool

I have heard the expression “dyed in the wool” many times but I thought I’d look it up. According to Wikipedia, the expression “dyed in the wool” refers to a state of steadfastness, especially with respect to one’s political, religious or social beliefs. The expression comes from the fact that fabric can be dyed in a number of ways. The woven fabric may be dyed after it is complete, or the threads may be dyed before they are woven. When a color is “dyed in the wool,” the wool itself is dyed before being spun into threads, so the color is least likely to fade or change.

So that’s exactly what I have been doing this week, dyeing wool for my upcoming felting class for high school students. The class is Saturday so I’ll write about that next week. I have at the least 30 students in three classes and perhaps a few more late sign ups. So I needed to make sure that I had enough wool for all of them to make a phone case. The phone case takes about 2 ounces of wool (56.7 grams).

Wool Before Dyeing

The first thing I did was to separate out 8 ounce (226.8 grams) sections that would fit into my dye pots easily. I decided a total of 80 ounces would be enough as that would take care of 40 students. So I separated out 10 sections. The wool I am using is “Mixed 56’s” from RH Lindsay.

Dye Pots on the Stove

I put two pots of water on the stove and heated them up. I then added a ‘glug’ of vinegar from the jar and added 3 teaspoons of dye powder to each pot. I know that a ‘glug’ is not a scientific measurement but I added some vinegar and didn’t measure it. After stirring, I added the wool roving. It works best if you don’t wad up all the roving and shove it in the pot. Just start feeding one end of the roving into the dye bath and it sinks right in. Towards the end of this process, I used the dye spoon to get all the wool to sink into the dye bath. After that point, I don’t stir the wool at all.

A Peak Inside

Here’s a peek into one of the dye pots. I used blue, black and purples as the cell phone cases are to be “cosmic” and the main color will be the sky color. You can see the timer going on the stove. I steamed these for 20 minutes each.

Wool Snakes in the Bathroom

After I steamed them, I pulled them from the pot with a spoon and rinsed gently and then spun them out in the washing machine. Here are all the colors hanging on the shower rod in the bathroom. Dennis came out of the bathroom later and said “I was attacked by wool snakes in the bathroom, there were thousands of them.”

Dyed Silk Noil

I also dyed some silk noil. I shouldn’t have put it in the pot at the same time as it did get a bit stuck in places to the wool but since it will be used as an embellishment, I don’t think it will hurt to have some already in the wool.

Charcoal Grey

This one is charcoal grey. I used the black exhaust bath to make this one. I just added more vinegar to the black dye bath after dyeing the black wool and added this wool to it.

Deep Purple

This one is a very dark purple, almost black in places. I did not make a fresh dye bath for each batch, I just kept adding vinegar and dye to what I already had in the pot. I couldn’t reproduce these colors but that’s OK with me.


And this is the black one. I thought maybe if I had young men in the class, they wouldn’t want a purple cell phone case. So maybe they will think black and grey are more manly. Who knows?

Red Violets and Violet

These are in the red violet family. I thought these were more “girly” colors.


And then I made a set of blues from lighter to dark.

Blue Violet

And the last one is blue violet. I am going to make up packets for each of the students with 2 ounces of background wool and then 5-6 pieces of a variety of colors for embellishing and making planets and “cosmic” stuff. I will also include small amounts of silk noil.

A Large Pile of Dyed Wool

Here’s the entire pile of wool. I really like the range of colors. I hope the students will like them too.

A Handful

I thought that some of you might like to see how big 8 ounces of wool is. That is my thumb in the bottom left of the photo. So on to making packets for the class and we’ll see how high school students do with 1 hour and 45 minutes to make a felted phone case. Hopefully, their teacher won’t lose it 🙂

23 thoughts on “Dyed in the Wool

  1. Wow, wonderful! Did you have to pass the rowings through the carder in the end? I have some colours left from dyeing Easter eggs and I’m going to dye some silk. We’ll see what happens.

    1. Thanks – no I did not card the wool again. It is fine – no felting happened. Do show us the Easter egg wool.

  2. You achieved some beautiful colors, Ruth! I like especially the deep blues and charcoal gray.
    My dyes are on order from Dharma, and I can hardly wait! One question: When you talk about the exhausted dye bath, are you using dyes that have been used many times? And do you need to keep the wool in longer to achieve good results?

    1. Thanks! The exhaust bath is just what dye is left in the pot once I remove the first set of wool. It still has a bit of dye left in there. I didn’t start with fresh water each time, just added new dye powder. For the charcoal grey, I put the wool directly into the black exhaust bath and didn’t add any more dye powder at all. It didn’t stay in any longer than the others.

  3. Beautiful colours Ruth, you’ve managed to select the favourite colours in my wardrobe. Where do I sign up to make my matching phone case? 😉 Hope both you and the students enjoy it, it looks like it should be a lot of fun

    1. Thanks! Well, if you just showed up at Glacier High School next Saturday, I’d be glad to let you make a matching phone case 🙂 It should be a lot of fun.

  4. What a lot of work – I hope your students appreciate your efforts! The colours are just right for the project.

    1. Thanks Lyn – I managed to get it all done in about 4 hours so it went fairly quickly. I’m not sure the students will appreciate how much work goes into teaching but hopefully, they will enjoy the class and end up with a nice phone case.

  5. Great colors Ruth! I’m sure the students will have a blast (pun intended!). Be sure to take pics of their new cosmic cases! I’m with Teri where do I sign up, just my colors.

    1. Thanks! I hope they enjoy the class. I will post about how the class went next week. I will have Dennis there to help take photos. Please do come to Glacier High School at 8:00 am Saturday and you can make a phone case with the rest of the gang. 🙂

  6. It’s always interesting to find where our expressions originate. These are wonderful cosmic colours and what a good idea to exhaust the bath and re-use it. A great time saver, especially with so much fibre to dye.

    I’m sure the students will have lots of fun, and the teacher too. 🙂 Enjoy, I’m looking forward to seeing the results. 🙂

    1. I know – sometimes we have no idea what was originally meant by the expressions we say.

      Thanks – it is a real time saver not to have to heat 10 different pots of water. As long as you aren’t trying to get a pure color, it works great.

  7. They all turned out great, Ruth 🙂
    I like using 56’s. I hope you have fun teaching the class and creating the next generation of fibre addicts 🙂

    1. Thanks – the 56’s felt so easily that I thought it would be the best bet for first time felt makers. Plus it is the cheapest wool I can get. I’ll try and get them all addicted 🙂

  8. Great work! I particularly love the blue violet colour. What brand did you use? Did you measure the amount of dye you used or was that also a ‘glug’?
    You mention “steaming” the wool but I get the idea you just used immersion dyeing… What did I miss? 🙂
    As for the silk, did you notice any loss of lustre when dyeing with the wool? I’ve read that it needs a lower temperature, but I’ve never tried it…

    Sorry for all the questions, I just really love the whole dye-your-own-wool concept and love an occasion to pester those with more experience!

    1. Thanks Leonor – I used Dharma acid dyes. They are less expensive then the others. I did measure 3 teaspoons of dye into each bath approximately.

      Sorry – I didn’t really steam them, just let them simmer for 20 minutes – used the wrong word.

      I don’t worry too much about exact temperatures either. The silk noil I used was very low grade and not very lustrous to start with, but I didn’t notice any change. I haven’t had any change in silk with dyeing it this way though.

      As you can tell, I’m not scientific about my dyeing process – I treat it as an art and an experiment and it’s always fun seeing how it turns out. 🙂

    2. Thanks so much for taking the time to reply! Now I see your methods 🙂 I’ve heard a lot if dharma and might start with those… I of need to invest in all the stuff first though, like pots and masks and such. Little by little I shall do it.

    1. Thanks! i would love to have all of you come help actually. I am up to 39 out of 45 places being filled and more to come supposedly.

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