Dyeing Fabric and Fibres – Guest Post

Dyeing Fabric and Fibres – Guest Post

Today we have another guest post from Cathy Wycliff (luvswool) who has recently been experimenting with different dyes.


Dyeing is one of the popular topics on the Felt & Fiber Forum, but I admit I was very reluctant to give it a try.  I read about the chemicals involved, the need for rubber gloves and a face mask, and I admit that scared me away.  But after I ordered 10 pounds of white wool (Domestic 56s), I realized I needed to do something, so–being the chicken that I am when it concerns “dangerous chemicals,” I opted for food colors, which are non-toxic and “easy to use.”  The Wilson icing gels I used met both of those criteria, so I happily dyed my wool in the microwave.  However, once I started wet-felting with the wool, I realized the colors bleed, even though I had followed the instructions (vinegar rinse).
That’s what led me to acid dyes, as I witnessed the beautiful results Forum members achieved through their use of acid dyes.  I went ahead and ordered Dharma yellow and blue (figuring I could make my own green), and began my dyeing journey.  I gathered my materials using Ruth Lane’s book “Complete Photo Guide to Felting,” even though Dharma offers instructions on their website.  I just do better with photos. Not pictured are the rubber gloves and mask I wore throughout the process.

5549Preparing to dye, I soaked the wool and silk according to the instructions.

5550While the wool was soaking I laid out the plastic as protection for my kitchen countertops.

5551I mixed the acid dyes according to Dharma instructions on the labels, double-checking with Ruth’s instructions.  I used glass jars, which are fine, but I have since ordered those squirt bottles for easier and more direct application of the liquid dyes.

5554 Here you see the wet wool and silk, ready to be dyed and steamed.

5555I poured the dyes on the wool and silk, first batch, and then repeated for two other colors, mixing the blue and yellow to make green).

5556Each different color of wool was wrapped separately in plastic wrap and stacked in a stainless steel vegetable steamer. Here you see my designated stainless steel large pot, never to be used again for pasta!  I put in an inch of water in the pot and covered.

5557I steamed according to instructions, used a soaking solution again …

5559… and rinsed well — and there you see my first packet of wool (green) laid out on plastic to cool.

5561bI continued the process with the blue and yellow packets of wool.

5563bHere you see all of the dyed, wet wool laid out to dry.

5564Here you see the beautiful blue habotai silk scarf stretched to dry…

5569… and the larger green silk habotai shawl as well.

5570bI now have a good supply of green, blue and yellow standard wool roving and pencil roving, along with a couple of silk pieces ready to be nuno-felted.  Would I do this again?  Absolutely!
Just received my new colors of Dharma dyes, ready to go again!

26 thoughts on “Dyeing Fabric and Fibres – Guest Post

  1. Great one, Cathy! I too am going to start dyeing my own wool (hopefully this year). Isn’t the process just amazing?
    I haven’t tried steam dyeing, only immersion dyeing. Did you find it different? Your wool looks wonderful, the colours so bright and lovely 🙂

  2. Thanks, Leonor, and yes–the dyeing process is amazing! I have never tried immersion dyeing but rather took the cue from Forum members who have had great success with the steam method. No stirring necessary! I am very pleased with my first attempt with acid dyes, and I am hoping this post will encourage others.

  3. Great post – I’m sure there will be a lot of people scurrying to buy dye to have a go. You’ve achieved some very pretty colours and I especially like the silk in the final photo.

    1. Thanks, Lyn! Taking the first step is the most difficult part, but with all of the encouragement on the Forum, one shouldn’t hesitate to take the plunge with acid dyeing!

    1. Somehow for me, the photos took away a lot of the mystery…I kept saying to myself…”you can do that!” Hopefully others (perhaps you?) will give it a try. I appreciate your comments!

  4. Cathy, the wool and silk colors look amazing. I’m glad you took the plunge. Great job!

    1. Thanks much! I am full speed ahead with my next attempt at dyeing this week.

  5. I really like the colours you got too, the last two photos of the scarves are gorgeous 🙂

    1. Thanks, Zed! I particularly enjoyed seeing the silk colors and I am beginning to see how worth it this process has been! Sure, I could go ahead and order scarves dyed by others, but why…when I can color them myself?

    1. Thanks, Judy. I have actually never tried the Rit dyes so am not familiar with their usage on wool. Once you get past the idea of “icky chemicals,” you’re full speed ahead on using acid dyes. I have asthma, and that was one of my concerns about the chemicals, but I did not have problems because I was careful by using the mask (and rubber gloves).

  6. Congratulations on giving acid dyes a go. You did a great job and I’m glad that my book was helpful in the process. What colors did you order now? I usually just get red, blue, yellow and black. Then I have fun mixing them together for other colors. I have always liked dyeing because you have more control over the process, it’s less expensive and once you have your supplies, you can have any color that you want without having to wait after you order it. Have fun 🙂

  7. I dye all my own wool for rug hooking and am now dyeing rovings for wet felting. It’s so easy, and so nice to dye something instead of ordering and waiting for it to show up in the mail. Are you in Fiona’s online class?

    1. Yes, Laura, I am in Fiona’s on-line class…are you as well? I seem to recall at least one Laura in our group.

    2. Yes, I’m LauraAnn in the class. It’s been wonderful, sad that it’s almost over.

  8. Thanks, Ruth! I ordered red, but not black. I figure I have enough with the basic
    primary colors now to do plenty of dyeing in the future. The dyes are surprisingly inexpensive.
    My only surprise was that the blue jar of dye ended up with “dregs” at the bottom.

  9. Great job with the dyeing. Your colours cam out great. you know the dyes are only dangerous in there powder form . Once they are in liquid form you are ok. Hope that also eases your and anyone else’s fears.

    1. Thanks so much. So the mask can be removed after the dyes are in liquid form? If so, that’s quite helpful!

  10. Superb website you have here but I was curious if you knew of
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    talked about here? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get advice from other
    knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

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