How to Set Dye in Wool Yarn

Written by susan brockett
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How to Set Dye in Wool Yarn
Acid dye require heat to colour wool. (Dye image by vertellis from

The term, "dyed in the wool," refers to the method of dyeing wool fibre before it is spun into yarn. But you can create your own special colours of wool yarn with acid dyes. When processed correctly, acid dyes create a strong bond with the protein fibres of wool that cannot be washed out. If you've never dyed yarn before, a simple immersion technique is a good introduction to the process.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 50 grams of 100 per cent wool yarn
  • Basin
  • White vinegar
  • Rubber gloves
  • Acid dye
  • Measuring cup
  • Large pot
  • Stove
  • Dishwashing soap
  • Clean towel

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  1. 1

    Fill the basin with warm water, add a glug of white vinegar and swish it around. The acid in the vinegar opens the fibres in the wool so it will accept the dye.

  2. 2

    Submerge yarn--wound into a loose ring or hank and tied--in the water. Hold it down until there are no more bubbles. Let it soak in the water until it is totally saturated, about 20 minutes.

  3. 3

    Put on the rubber gloves and dissolve 2 tsp of dye in about 1 cup of warm water. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the yarn. Add the dye and stir to distribute it evenly in the water.

  4. 4

    Remove the yarn from the water and transfer to the pot with the dye.

  5. 5

    Put the pot on the stove and heat until it just barely boils. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for about 20 minutes or until the water is clear. The water should not boil. The heat sets the dye to make it colour-fast.

  6. 6

    Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool a little. Fill the basin with warm water, add a little dishwashing detergent and swish it around. Add the yarn and let it soak for a few minutes. It is normal to see some colour in the rinse water.

  7. 7

    Remove the yarn from the rinse water and gently press out some of the excess water. Roll it in the towel to remove more water. Hang the wool up to dry.

Tips and warnings

  • Wet wool felts easily, so do not agitate or stir the wool while it is cooking.
  • Don't crowd the cooking pot; the yarn needs a lot of room.
  • Use this technique to dye any 100 per cent wool garment.
  • Take caution when handling acid dyes. Wear gloves, a mask and eye protection. Also cover any surface that may come in contact with the dye.
  • Use separate pots and utensils for dyeing. Do not use the same pots that you cook in.

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