How not to dye fleece.

I’m learning to spin, as you should all know by now. Before I show you my first yarn, I wanted to demonstrate how not to dye fleece – I tried it yesterday, and it completely failed. I know this is out of the order of things, but I promised some people on Ravelry

I did have a relatively successful attempt at dying some fleece green, but when it came to yellow, I just don’t know what happened. I watched a lot of videos on YouTube, and used this one as my template as I didn’t want to buy a lot of fabric dye.

Corrie dyes some fleece

I bought Dr Oetker food colouring for 79 p in the local Costcutter and decided to use that. I had green, yellow, blue and red, and wanted to give it a go with the yellow and green. I did the green, and it was relatively successful, although the dye wasn’t all absorbed. Frustrated, I gave it a go with yellow. JS caught it all on camera. It’s a long video (7 minutes) – I did try cut it down, but I talked quite a lot, apparently.

My analysis of things that I may have done wrong:

  • I used the wrong vinegar, and I neutralised it with soap.
  • The food colouring has fewer artificial ingredients in it than American food colouring does.
  • I may not have left it in the heat for long enough.
  • I used yellow. I think yellow may dye poorly. I might use a darker colour later (this doesn’t explain the green though).

I’ve tried again and eliminated two of these factors – I didn’t neutralise the vinegar this time, and I used white wine vinegar. I also nuclear-blasted it for bloody ages.

The left-hand one done this morning, right-hand the one I dyed last night "Here's one I did earlier"
The left-hand one done this morning, right-hand the one I dyed last night “Here’s one I did earlier”

It didn’t work, not really. It’s drying at the moment, it does look more yellow than it did before. I would really love any advice, especially if you’ve used Dr Oetker. You can comment here, or there is a thread over at Ravelry.

Much love,

Corrie xx

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5 Responses to How not to dye fleece.

  1. Trish Berry says:

    I don’t know much about this but I read somewhere you can use natural body fluids that are yellow to best effect …. but maybe try some saffron instead to begin!

  2. SpindleImp says:

    Hi Corrie,
    you know me from the One Stitch group on Rav.
    Your dyeing efforts did make me smile.
    There are a number of things I can probably help you with here:

    1). Greasy wool will not dye properly. You need to wash as much dirt and grease as you can out of it before doing anything else.
    2) you didn’t use nearly enough vinegar. For a jug that size I would add at least half a cup of vinegar. Also, you get the best results if you leave the fleece soaking overnight in a mixture of vinegar and water before dyeing it. You can also add the washing up liquid at this stage. The fleece has to be completely wet through and this won’t happen if you’ve left any grease in it.
    3) the fleece won’t take up the dye if not enough heat is applied…I think you should have left it in the microwave for much much longer. You may get a better understanding of the dyeing process if you start out by doing it on the stovetop in a saucepan. Put the water, vinegar and dye in a saucepan on the stove, bring almost to the boil (that’s when you start to get the tiny little bubbles rising) then add the fleece. Let it simmer gently until the wool has absorbed all the dye. Do not agitate or you will have felt. The water in the saucepan should be clear or almost clear. Let the fleece cool down in the water in the saucepan, when it is cold then rinse to remove any excess.

    The food dyes I use here in Australia are the Queen brand. Not sure if you have them there, but would be surprised if you didn’t.

    Let me know how you go, and if you have anymore questions then message me on Rav or send me an email


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