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Dyeing Wool with Kids

In our family we love rainbows, and once in a while we wish for rainbow colored wool.  While pure wool yarn is not difficult to obtain here in Kenya, the colored part is the challenge, unless you are into some DIY and crafting with kids. . .

A few years back I learned that it is rather easy to dye your own wool with food color of all things.  Food color easily dies protein fibers (e.g. wool and silk), but not others like cotton and man-made fibers.  This makes it a great craft project to undertake with your kids as most spills in clothes will easily wash out again.

What you need for this project:

  • Wool yarn
  • Food coloring
  • Vinegar
  • Plastic gloves (food dye can stain your hands for a day or two)
  • Cling wrap and/or old towel
  • A microwave (alternatively use a steaming pot or the sun)

First, in the event that your wool is in a ball, unwind it and create a skein.  It’s easy to use the back of a chair to do this.  Tie the skein loosely in a couple of places with some left over wool, or another string.

Soak the skein for an hour or longer in a solution of half vinegar and half water.  This vinegar bath is the mordant for the dyeing process and it is important to ensure the bath is completed before starting this craft with your kids.

Select the colors in which you want to dye your wool and mix them with some water to the desired shade.  The amount of ‘dye’ depends on the number of colors and amount of wool you want to dye.  I used five colors and each color was less than half a glass of fluid.

Cover your work surface with cling wrap, or if you are eliminating the use of plastic an old towel will also work well.  Take the skein out of the mordant and squeeze excess fluid gently out of the wool.  Place the skein on the work surface and carefully spoon the dye onto the wool.  Gently squeeze the dye into the wool, ensuring that it gets absorbed well.  Work color for color and be aware that the colors might blend.

Then carefully transfer the wool to a microwave safe dish or plate and cover it loosely with cling wrap.  Microwave the wool for 5 minutes, check on the progress and then microwave it on high for another 3 minutes.  This cooking of the wool will help set the color.

If you do not have a microwave you can also steam the wool in steamer pot, or have the wool covered with the cling wrap steam in the sun.  Do an internet search for the timing and instructions for these steaming methods.

Place the wool in an area where it can dry, but make sure it is not in the direct sunlight.

Once the wool has dried, you can wind it into a ball and it is ready to use.

A fun project to undertake with kids, and there is more fun to be had in deciding together on a new project in which to use the yarn!

Happy dyeing!

Andrea

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  • Heather Mentzer

    I’m surprised at how simple that is, I think my kids would love it! Thanks!

    • Andrea_from_ziezo

      It’s very easy indeed

  • http://oast.etsy.com Rachel Ford Blanchard of OAST

    That looks like so much fun. Thank you for posting.

    • Andrea_from_ziezo

      It is Rachel, and the kids love it. . .

  • Katrina

    This is a great idea! I was wondering, though, if you had an opinion about dyeing raw wool. We’ll be felting it, but I wasn’t sure if we should dye the wool before or after the felting process. Thanks!

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