Class Details for Wool Dyeing

Number of Lessons: 5
Price: US$ 50.00
Tutor: Marjorie McWilliams
Start Date: 13 October 2017
Weeks Open: 7.5

It’s easy to dye your own custom colors on wool fibers such as flannel, felt, roving or yarn. In this five lesson course, I will show you how to dye solid colors, mottled colors, bright or pastel colors, and combinations of hues on the same piece of wool for a spectrum of beautiful results. Making your own colors will take your wool projects to a new level of artistic sophistication and professionalism.

Supplies and Outline

Dyeing Wool With Acid and Natural Dyes

In most of the lessons, we will be using acid dyes on our wool fibers. Having the correct kind of dye and using 100% wool products are absolutely essential for your success in this class.  Do not substitute other kinds of dye or supplies that are NOT on this list. They will not make you happy. If you have questions, contact me before you spend the money and are disappointed with your results.

It is possible to use wool blends as long as they are protein (animal) based fibers. Good blends include wool/mohair, wool/alpaca, and wool/silk. Other combinations such as soy silk and nylon work well with acid dyes but we will primarily be working with wool fibers. You can try a few blends such as wool/cotton or wool/bamboo, but the cellulose-based fibers will take the dye differently from wool. The primary fibers used in the class projects should be wool.

Supplies marked with an asterisk (*) are available online at these fine stores: (Canada)

You will need:

* Acid dyes.  I recommend that you buy 8 ounces of powdered dye for each color, which will be more than enough to do all the projects in all the colors in each class.  You can buy a minimum of TWO 2 ounce jars of each color if you want to be on the conservative side, but if you plan on dyeing more than the minimum in each lesson, buy the 8-ounce jars.

Here are the names and numbers used to identify the colors at these major companies.

Fabric Designs
Acid Dyes


Dharma Acid Dyes

#404-Sapphire Blue
#402-Fire Engine Red
#414-Sunflower Yellow
#413-True Black

Pro-Chem - PRO WashFast Acid Dye  
(aka Nylomine Dyes)

#490-Brilliant Blue
#672-Jet Black

Jacquard Acid Dyes

#621-Sky Blue
#617-Cherry Red
#602-Sun Yellow
#639-Jet Black


#621-Sky Blue or #623-New Blue
#618-New Red
#601-New Yellow
#639-New Black

Maiwa - Ciba Washfast Acid Dyes


Kemtex Acid Dyes (Acid Milling)

#433-Acid Blue
#333-Acid Red
#301-Acid Yellow
#324-Acid Black

Wool Products

There are many fine places to buy 100% wool fibers.  I offer the basics on my web site,  Click on supplies.

Make sure the wool products that you select are a very light, natural color and not already black or dark brown.

*If you plan on dyeing wool yarn only, expect to have a minimum of about 400 yards that you can break into smaller skeins of about 30 yards each to test the projects in class.

*If you will be dyeing wool roving only, have a minimum of about 21 yards for the projects in class.  The roving can be cut into a minimum of 13 lengths each measuring 58" in length.

If you will be dyeing only wool felt, flannel or fabric, then expect to have on hand a minimum of 2 yards in whatever width it comes in - 36", 45" or 60".  We will cut the fabric into different sizes as we go along.

If you would like to experiment with a combination of all of the above, then plan accordingly.

The wonderful thing about these classes is that you can pick and chose which colors and projects you would like to do for your own fiber art needs.  Some students will want to do all the projects and all the colors, which is wonderful! Plan accordingly.

Citric acid powder (1 pound), or white vinegar (8 ounces).  If the smell of vinegar is unpleasant to you, you can use the citric acid powder.  The vinegar smell goes away with rinsing and air-drying.  There is no advantage to using one over another.

Other Supplies

Any containers, spoons, tongs or thermometers you use with dye should never again be used for food preparation or storage.  Make plans to store these items outside the kitchen.

You will need:

  • Access to a stove top as your heat source - all dyeing is done in very hot water
  • Rubber gloves
  • Candy or canning thermometer that is heat resistant and goes up to at least 212º F (100º C).
  • Mixing spoons
  • Small glass or plastic mixing containers that can hold 1 cup of liquid
  • A pair of old panty hose, tights or a knee high for filtering the dyes 
  • Pencil/ paper/ notebook for journaling recipes
  • Large set of tongs to lift the wool out of the dye baths
  • 4 large glass jars that can hold about 4 cups (32 ozs) of very hot water, such as ones you get with spaghetti sauce or pickles
  • 4 old coffee mugs that can hold more than 1.5 cups liquid (12 ozs)
  • Rubber bands, plastic clothespins
  • 2 or 3 C-Clamps, 4-8" size
  • 2-3" bull nosed binder clips
  • Plastic jar lids that can withstand hot water or blocks of wood about 3"x 2" to use under the C-Clamps.
  • Plastic drop cloths to cover workspace - large trash bags work
  • Earl Grey or other black tea bags-4-8.  Decaffeinated or regular.
  • Red Zinger tea or Rooibos, any tea with berries or hibiscus or pomegranate in the mix.
  • Spices from your cabinet such as chili powder, paprika, turmeric, curry powder
  • Onion skins- about 2 cups worth
  • Red wine, frozen berries (raspberries, blueberries or black berries), grape juice, at least 2 cups of each you want to try.

OPTIONAL for Spice and Natural Dye Section-Alum- *Alum (Aluminum ammonium sulfate) powder - This can be found at pharmacies, in grocery stores in the canning/pickling sections, or at in the supplies section.  This chemical makes beautiful gray and blue colors when used as a mordant instead of vinegar.  Alum is a generic name for several sulfate compounds containing aluminum.  Some tea stain dyers insist that Potassium aluminum sulfate is the best alum for tea dyeing although I have tried both and see very little difference.  The only real difference is the price and the very important fact that Potassium aluminum sulfate is poisonous! Use care when handling and be sure to use designated utensils if you choose to use this kind of alum.

If you are having difficulty locating this item, go to Type in "Alum" in the product search slot and you can order it directly from them.

UK source - or Artvango.

Australian source -

  • Baking Soda-you will only need about 4 Tablespoons total.
  • 4 plastic juice containers or large jars (plastic or glass) that can hold 8+ cups of liquid, preferably with screw on type lid.  Wal-Mart has them, as do thrift stores.
  • Cream of Tartar
  • A dust mask to be used for mixing powdered dyes.  You can find these at any hardware store.   Buy the package of 6 with the bendable metal clip over the bridge of the nose and a rubber band that slips around your head. 
  • Measuring spoons.  If you can find a set of spoons that has a 1/8 teaspoon and smaller, get it.   Otherwise, you will need to eyeball it for some recipes that require 1/16, 1/32 and 1/64 teaspoons of dye powder.

    Note:  If you do not trust your measuring skills, I would highly recommend that you invest in some *very small spoons for this class.  You can order a set of the mini spoons I use from my web site:   The sizes are 1/8 tsp, 1/16, 1/32.  Very convenient and accurate!
  • Large pots for stovetop dyeing purposes.  Make sure they can hold at least 2 quarts of water plus the wool.  Old roasting pans work well when we dye in gradations since there will be room on the bottom for three containers of dye color.  

Glass, stainless steel, enamel or porcelain lined are the best for dyeing wool.  Aluminum pots and pans are okay for wool dyeing but not acceptable for your natural dyeing projects, as the color can be affected by the chemistry of the pot. Galvanized tools or pans will rust and corrode eventually, so they are not recommended.  They should not be aluminum or copper.

Thrift stores are wonderful sources for many of these items.  I have four burners and therefore have four pots for wool dyeing which saves time if you are a multi-tasking person.  If you can find an enamel electric turkey-roasting pan that will only be used for dyeing wool, you have hit the jackpot!

Remember, once used, these items will be dedicated to dyeing purposes only.

  • Optional: Postal scale for measuring weight of wool items


Lesson One: Basics

  • Safety and supply information
  • Preparing the fabric
  • Mixing the dyes for brilliant solid colors of the spectrum
  • Dyeing three values on the same piece of wool
  • Dyeing multiple colors on the same piece of wool

Lesson Two: Dyeing Pastel Colors

  • Dyeing pastel colors of the spectrum using dye stock solutions
  • Dyeing three values on the same piece of wool
  • Dyeing multiple colors on the same piece of wool
  • Mottling

Lesson Three: Shibori Dyeing

  • Clamping, twisting, knotting and banding for shibori dyed effects

Lesson Four: Overdyeing

  • How to overdye to create new colors and revive drab ones
  • How to overdye using black to achieve new shades of colors

Lesson Five: Tea, Spices, Natural Dyes

  • Basic recipes for tea, flower, fruit, spice, vegetables, and nut hulls.