Spring dyeing tutorial

I am loving the colours outside at the moment - blue hyacinth and yellow daffodil and narcissus. Someone else is loving it too - see if you can spot him/her sleeping in the hyacinth above...

To celebrate the colours of the moment I did some dyeing at the weekend. I got some acid dyes as a gift over four years ago, used them once and haven't touched them since so it was nice to break them out again.
On a sunny, springy day it is lovely to work outside, painting wool with them.

I thought I'd share my technique, which is pretty easy. 

I used Jacquard Acid Dyes and mixed some dye solution in cheap babies' bottles I bought in the pound shop. These were good for squirting the dye, but any squirty bottle will do. I made up the mix four years ago and stored it in the bottles, with a piece of string tying the teats shut. Most of the dyes were fine after so long, though a couple had gone mouldy.

Mix up your dye as follows, using rubber gloves:
1/2 tsp of dye
1 tbsp vinegar
100ml hot water

They can be mixed in the bottle, giving you less mess to clear up.

Prepare your fibre. I used wool tops (roving) and some white Kilcarra yarn. You are supposed to scour your fibre to remove any coating for 1 hour, but I have had no problems scouring for only 10 mins. Fill a bowl with boiling water, a drop of washing up liquid and a glug of vinegar and immerse the wool in it. For tops it helps to put a piece of muslin or netting in underneath and that way you can lift them out easily.

While that is soaking, prepare your workspace. Tape down a large black plastic bag and lay lengths of cling film along it. These should be slightly longer than your skeins of yarn/pieces of tops so that you can roll the yarn/tops up in them to make a little package for your steamer afterwards. Tape the cling film down.

Get your wool, and press all the water out of it, then lay it along your cling film. Use rubber gloves and get your bottles of dye. Squirt away to your heart's content.


Then wrap up your wool. Bring the two sides of the cling film inwards to seal the wool in and roll it up from one end so you have a neat package.

Place all your rolls in a steamer (one you will not use for food) or if you don't have a steamer, a stainless steel pot with a couple of blocks of wood in the bottom will do just fine. Add a glug of vinegar to the water.

Steam for 45 minutes, making sure the water does not boil off.

Allow your wool to cool then rinse it to get any dye out. Again wrapping the tops in muslin or netting can be very handy here. Add a glug of vinegar to the final rinse.