Dyeing Fleece with Food Colouring

Dyeing fleece 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!

We also supply unwashed Pickwick Cotswold fleece - if you would like to try washing fleece and then dyeing it. We are lucky enough to live close to the Pickwick Cotswold flock - this flock is well renowned even in America for the whiteness and fineness of the fleece - spinners love it! It is also great for dyeing due to its whiteness (would need washing first). We also love it because Rob Harvey Long clearly loves his animals and each sheep in the flock is named after a character from history, we have had the fleece from Adriana, Gigi and Czar Nicholas II ! 

Dyeing fleece can change the properties slightly, so it may felt differently after dyeing.

    Dyeing fleece

    You will need:

    • Something to heat up the wool and water in - this could be old jug in the microwave, old saucepan on the stove, even a slow cooker!
    • White vinegar
    • Water - enough to cover wool
    • Clean fleece to dye (see above!)
    • Food colouring for dyeing - be aware that you might not always get the colour you expect! Its all part of the fun of dyeing.
    • Old towel.

    Method:

    1. Pour a splash of white vinegar into the water, place the wool in and leave to soak overnight.
    2. Add food colouring to the pot. If you want an even colour you may want to tip the liquid into something else, add a few drops of food colouring, and then pour it back over. Otherwise, just put a few drops of food colouring here and there and see what happens! You could use two different colours and see what the effects are - the colours don't always make sense - I used pink and teal thinking it might make purple and it made green!
    3. 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. I did mine in the microwave and heated for 1.5 - 2 minutes each time until it was boiling hot, it took about 3 - 4 goes. 
    4. Leave to cool slightly.
    5. Rinse wool in water the same temperature as the wool. Sudden changes in temperature can shock the wool and cause it to felt.
    6. Leave to dry spread on an old towel.
    7. You can re-use the vinegar water dye bath provided you are dyeing a similar colour - just add more food colouring. 
    8. 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.