Dyeing a Fine Fleece

Dyed spinning fibre
Dyeing Fine Fleece

Remember as a child dyeing Easter eggs with food colouring and vinegar?  Well dyeing wool is the same principal.  Protein + colour+ acid (vinegar) = dyed protein.

Material List
A plastic sheet to protect the countertop from dye
20 quart stock pot
white ladle or spoon
 measuring spoons
Large plastic strainer


Picture of wool dye supplies
  • In our last post we scoured the fleece.  If you dye your fleece the same day, your wool will be fully saturated for the dyeing process.  If, however you are dyeing wool that is dry, the first step will be to fully saturate the wool by soaking it in room temperature water for about 30 minutes.  Wool that is not saturated fully will not dye evenly.
  •  Once saturated, pull the fleece out of the water and squeeze out the excess water.  Do not wring it out, only squeeze.  If you are using a wash and dye product to aid the dying process, now is the time to  use  that.  Squish it into the fleece and wait 10 minutes, do not rinse.
  • While you are waiting, mix up your dye according to the company directions.  I find using boiled water and add the dye to the water first making a paste and slowly adding the water works the best.
Acid Dye Mix
  • The dye I use is Prochem dyes and I use the Primary Fusion book along with those dyes. 
    This is a method of using the three primary colours; red, blue and yellow along with black. 
  • The Primary Fusion kit has swatches that are numbered and the book contains a corresponding number with a recipe to get the shade you want.
  • I use these because I don’t generally dye pounds of the same colour and this gives me more choices with few dyes to store.
20 quart pot
  • For the dyeing process you will need a large stainless-steel pot. (Do Not use aluminum as it reacts with acids).  The pot I use is a 20-quart pot.  This provides ample room to dye several bags of clean locks at once.  Water should be the same temperature of the soaked fleece and the pot needs to be at least 2/3 full of water.
  • Add the dye to the pot and stir well to mix.  Add the wool.  I heat the pot over medium heat and slowly bringing the water to a simmer.
  • Once steam forms, I then add the vinegar. I use approximately 1 cup of household vinegar.  This can fluctuate depending on how hard or soft your water is, and a more intense colour will likely require more vinegar.
  • Mix the fleece around often, if the fleece cannot access the dye, you will end up with a patchy dye colour of light and dark.  Allow the pot to simmer NOT boil for 30-45 minutes.  Prochem dyes require 185-190-degree Fahrenheit to properly fix to the fibre.  Periodically check the colour of the water.  If the water is clear the wool has exhausted the dye.  If dye still remains, leave it a bit longer, or add some more vinegar.
Exhausted dye
  • Dyes seem to strike at different rates.  I have found yellows to be faster than red and reds faster than blues.  This can be a bit scary if you are dying a purple for example.  Remember the colour wheel?  Purple is red and blue.  Your wool could look rather red in the pot with the water looking blue.  Don’t panic this is normal.  Once the dye is exhausted the fibre will be purple.
  • Once the dye is exhausted allow the pot to come back down to room temperature.  At that point you can remove the fibre and begin rinsing. 
Rinsed dyed fibre
  • I use a strainer dedicated for wool only and rinse using the spray nozzle at the kitchen sink.
  • Start with the water the same temperature as the fibre and slowly increase to hot.  This will rinse out residual dye and ensure the fibre is colourfast.  Adding a scouring agent like the wash and dye product will also eliminate residual dye.  Follow with another rinse, squeeze out the water and set out to dry.
natural and dyed rambouillet fleece on a drying rack
  • Once dry you are ready for the next step to prepare the fleece for spinning.


Dyes are toxic.  Buying strainers, pots, and spoons specifically for dyeing is advised.  Never use for food preparation.  Facial masks when working with dye powder is advised.

Until next time take care and happy spinning.

Head over to Murlo Discovery Channel for the video.