I have new hobby (not like I need something else that is more time/money), but it is hard to resist the allure of dyeing your own wool! Sharon Stewart taught a class on how to dye wool and it was a lot of fun, especially since you get to mix chemicals like a mad scientist and create new colors! The actual dyeing isn’t that difficult, but it is time consuming.
Since you are working with chemicals, it’s best that you have the house to yourself so there are no accidental exposures (especially around kids). Close down the kitchen and send everyone out to run some errands. You need a nice white enamel pot (white so you can keep an eye on the color), measuring cups/spoons, and your dye chemicals. Sharon recommends getting your dye at W.Cushing and Co., and they also have all the pots and measuring utensils (think one stop shopping)! Once you have the basics, you need a book that contains the dye formulas – which are basically recipes for creating different colors. Cushing has about 95 different base colors to choose from and several books that contain the formulas. Many formulas use 3 or more dyes which really allow you get some subtle color variations (great for rug hookers).
The wool is prepped for dyeing by putting it in hot water with a chemical that causes the wool the felt. This opens up the weave so it can soak up the dye. You then mix up your dye formula, add it to the wool and let it soak for about 10 – 20 minutes (you can dye around 1 yard of wool at time). When done, you rinse the wool with cold water and throw it in the dryer. Easy as pie!
While at Sharon’s we each got to practice dyeing one piece of wool. The color I had was called “Jack Boy Blue” and the other colors were Oyster, Antique Gold, Moss, and Pumpkin. You can see what a beautiful pallet of colors we had at the end of the day! The colors aren’t showing their best in the picture above – they were much softer in person, but still really vibrant.