Dyeing wool is an art in itself, worthy of all the time you would like to give it. The more you dye, the more predictable the results can be. But what if you are going for unpredictability? Dyeing wool for the magic of seeing dramatic and beautiful colors unfold! Then read on!
I have been experimenting with a process called Ice Dyeing. A fiber friend told me about this method of dyeing wool roving used for spinning into yarn. The pre-mordanted, undyed wool roving is spread out on a screen or rack and then covered with ice. Dye powders are then sprinkled over the top. The melting liquid drains through to a bucket below. When the ice is completely melted, the roving is steamed to set the colors.
Well, I thought that this idea could be adapted to wool fabric. I started playing with the process, making some changes along the way. The results were surprising and unlike anything I have seen.
dye powders The dyes used for wool and other animal fibers are called acid dyes, and they come in many brands. The two that I use most often are Cushing Acid Dyes and Pro Chemical & Dye Acid Dyes. The colors I like to use are of a muted palette.
In Cushing Dyes I used colors like Maize, Peach, Rose, Terra Cotta, and Cardinal for this experiment. I was going for more of a warm finished color. Use whatever colors you have in dye powders and see what happens!
The Pro dyes that I used were soft colors like Clay, Gold, and Pink Sand.
citric acid or white vinegar This is the mordant, or what sets the color (along with simmering or steaming) in the wool. I like to use citric acid because it smells less and takes up less storage space than vinegar. I don’t measure my acid, but for a 1/2 yard of wool you need to use about 1+ teaspoon of citric acid, or 1/4 – 1/2 cup of vinegar .
dish soap A touch of Dawn or a product called Jet Dry (used in dishwashers) is all you need to make your wool soak in the water. Whatever dish soap you have at the sink will work.
wool in a light faded kind of color Since I don’t want any white showing in my finished piece, I use a light-colored wool like gray, tan, soft yellow, taupe, etc. For my experiment I used a light gray/taupe color. I like to dye a full yard at a time, however you may choose to dye 1/2 or a 1/4 yard piece.
ice Make sure that you have plenty of ice for this project. You will need enough ice to cover the top of your wool in the pan. For my 1 yard piece of wool, I used my whole ice drawer plus 2 or 3 additional ice-cube trays of ice. You could also buy a bag of ice cubes or crushed ice. If you use crushed ice the technique may come out a bit different. When in season, snow is another option, which may come out interesting.
electric turkey roasting pan This is a wonderful dye pot! Look for them at thrift stores or yard sales.
ICE DYEING WOOL FABRIC – 1 yard
Pre-mordant your wool by soaking it in just enough warm to hot water to cover it, that has a several drops of dish soap and a 1/4 cup of citric acid dissolved in it. Add wool to the roasting pan, reserving liquid for later.
If you are using less wool, there will be less scrunching to do. I think that scrunched up wool will add to the effect you get, so make sure you have some folds and pleating.
I want to catch an ice-cube with the dye powder so that it doesn’t just form a solid dark blob of color on the wool. Some dye powder will fall onto the wool, but the goal is to let it slowly dissolve on the ice-cube, and drain down onto the wool on its own.
Don’t disturb the ice, and let it do its thing. The ice will start melting and dripping onto the wool below almost immediately. You can let it go slow, but I am not that patient, so I put the cover on and turned the roasting pan on to a temperature of 300° for 1 1/2 hours.
Try to reserve judgement until the wool has been dried. Wet wool can look dark and dismal, so be patient.
Through the steam, this was my first peek at the ice dyeing magic.
I gave the wool a cold water rinse, and then ran it through the spin cycle in my washer to remove the excess water. Then it went into the dryer. I added an old towel or two in with the wool to help it move around and dry nice and fluffy.
I hope that you will have fun with this process, and experiment with what I have done. Sharing crafty knowledge is my joy! I have a feeling that you are going to run right out and give this easy dye method a try! What do you think?
Be so kind as to refer others to my tutorial here on my blog and let them know where you learned about ice dyeing on wool fabric.
Happy creating, Karen