Painted Wool Roving Tutorial

Dyed Roving
Dye Painted Roving

In a previous post I discussed how I dye locks of wool in a kettle.  In this post I will cover the steps to dye painted roving.  Some also refer to this as steam dyeing.  This method can also be used to dye yarn.

Painted roving allows you to make solid, gradient or variegated coloured roving for spinning or felting.  As each piece of roving is individually wrapped it also allows you to dye many colours all at the same time.  Let’s go through the steps.


acid dyes
roaster or pan with a steaming tray
plastic wrap
rubber gloves

Soaked Roving
  1. The first step is to soak the roving.  Well saturated wool will take up dye more readily,  Therefore this step is quite important.  Allow the roving to sit in room temperature water for about 30 minutes.  I often add Namaste Farms “Wash and Dye” to the water.  It really helps the dye take well.
Acid Dye Mix

2. While the roving is soaking it’s a good time to mix up your dyes.
Be sure to follow the dye companies directions.  I use the Primary Fusion dye kit available from Legacy Studio.  I begin by measuring out the dye colours needed for the colour I want and add to a small amount of vinegar to make a paste.  Then add more vinegar to make a quarter of a cup.  Top up to 1 cup with hot water.  By doing it this way the dye is mixed up evenly and there will be no clumps of dye powder floating in the mixture.  Pour the dye into a container and label.  Reusable drinking boxes or condiment containers work well for this.  Some dyers also use a large syringe.  Allow the mixture to come to room temperature.

Supplies to paint roving

Prepare  your work station.  I use a black plastic garbage bag to protect the countertop.  This method of dyeing can be messy, protecting the countertop, wearing gloves and old clothing is highly recommended.

Place a long sheet of kitchen wrap on the counter.  I recommend a heavy wrap such as glad wrap as it holds up well through the process.  Squeeze out a piece of roving and lay out onto the plastic wrap.  Generally I have the roving folded into quarters and placed side by side.  If dyeing variegated you may want the roving  to be placed going back amd forth across the plastic.

Dye poured on roving

Slowly pour the dye over the roving.  Try to cover all of the surface.  (If you want variegated leave a small space between colours.  As the wool soaks up the dye that area generally becomes a blend of the colours place size by side).  Squeeze down on the roving to ensure the dye is getting deep into the fibre.
Once you are happy that the dye is saturating the fibre,  it’s time to seal up the package.

Sealing up roving to steam dye

6. Fold in the edges of the plastic wrap starting at the short ends.  Then fold over the long end beginning at the top.  Roll towards the bottom like a jelly roll.  One you reach the end fold the bottom plastic wrap towards the top making sure you have a good seal.

Now from a short end roll to the other end.  You will have what looks like a cinnamon bun.

Roving steaming in a pan

7. For steaming the roving I use an old turkey roaster that has a steam tray.  Any roaster or large pan that allows for a rack to be placed in it will work.  The key is it needs to be deep enough for an inch or two of water in the bottom and a spot to rest the roving so that it is NOT in the water.  Place the roaster on the stove over medium heat.  Once you have steam, you can turn down the heat to medium low.  Now place the roving packages over the steam tray or rack and cover with a lid.  Steam the roving for about 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove roving from the roaster and set aside to cool to room temperature.   Be careful these packages are very hot. Using tongs or heat resistant rubber gloves is advisable.

Once the packages have cooled it’s time to rinse each one separately.  Remove the plastic and place into a colander.  Run your tap until the water is  the same temperature as the wool.  Begin rinsing.  I use the spray nozzle and continue to flip over the wool roving.  Slowly increase the water temperature from the tap until it is hot.  Our water heater is set to give us water that is about 125 degree Fahrenheit.  Once you see the water is running clear you should have a colour fast product.
Squeeze out the roving and place on a rack to dry.

Dyed Roving Drying

If your roving colour is not as even as you would like or has become a bit disheveled in the process, just run it through your drum carder.

This method of dyeing gives you many possibilities and allows you to dye multiple colours all at the same time.  It’s my go to method when dyeing smaller quantities such as for sock yarn.

Acid dyes are toxic.  Never use pans or utensils used in the dyeing process for food.

Give it a try and let’s us know how it worked.  We would love to hear from you.  A video has been added to our Murlo Discovery Channel.  Be sure to subscribe to be notified about our next post and video.

Until next time, happy dyeing.