Dyeing Wool Fibres with Food Colouring
Dyeing wool fibres (here curls) is great fun and the results can be amazing! Here is a simple easy method of dyeing fleece with food colouring. If you have raw (unwashed) fleece to dye, see our guide to the basics of washing raw fleece.
You can dye any natural fibre which has had the lanolin removed by washing, such as our natural batts (lighter coloured fleece is best if you want a bold colour), and dyeing natural curls / locks is lots of fun!
Dyeing fleece can change the properties slightly, so you may find it could felt differently after dyeing.
The colours don't always make sense, sometimes they split into different colours - We once used pink and teal thinking it might make purple and it made green instead!
You will need:
- Something to heat up the wool and water in - this could be an old jug or old bowl and saucer on top in the microwave, old saucepan on the stove, even a slow cooker!
- White vinegar
- Water - enough to cover wool
- Fibres to dye - wool batts / tops / curls / pre-felt / other fibres - even silk.
- Food colouring - be aware that you might not always get the colour you expect! Its all part of the fun of dyeing. If using powdered food colouring see notes below
- Old towel / paper towels / cardboard etc (to lay fibres on to dry)
*Using Powdered Food Colouring: You can mix the powdered food colouring with a little water to turn it into a liquid. You can experiment with different amounts, to give you an idea to start off with you can mix 1 teaspoon powdered dye to 1/4 - 1/2 cup of water. You could also try just sprinkling the powder on.
- Pour a splash of white vinegar into the water, place the wool in and leave to soak, leaving for a longer time (overnight) will result in more intense colours. I use about 1/4 cup white vinegar to 500ml of water, you can experiment with different amounts.
- Add food colouring to the pot. If you want an even colour tip the liquid into something else, add a few drops of food colouring, mix evenly, and then pour it back over. If you want to experiment with different tones or different colours on the same fibre, you could try taking the fibres out of your vinegar water and lay them out on something they can be heated on (such as a flat bowl with saucer on to in the microwave (be careful that the fibres don't burn if using hob etc). Sprinkle the dye over the fibres, you could use two or more different colours to see what effect they have.
- Gently heat the wool and liquid. Do not stir otherwise the wool will felt! Keep heating until the water is just boiling, and the wool takes on the dye. Alternatively you can put the wool into the microwave in a microwave safe container and heat for 1.5 - 2 minutes each time until it is boiling hot, it takes about 3 - 4 goes.
- Leave to cool slightly.
- Drain fibres and rinse in clean water the same temperature as the wool. Sudden changes in temperature can shock the wool and cause it to felt. Rinse until the water runs clear, and then drain out as much water as you can.
- Leave to dry spread on an old towel, or use paper towels over a piece of cardboard.
- You can re-use the vinegar water dye bath provided you are dyeing a similar colour - just add more food colouring.
In the picture below the dyed fibres on the left had only just been put in the vinegar water, the fibres in the middle were soaked for 2 hours and the darker ones on the right had been soaked overnight.