How to: Dyeing Wool Felt

As promised, here is my tutorial on dyeing 100% white wool felt. This would also work with other wool.

Here is what you will need:

  • white 100% wool felt
  • fiber reactive dyes
  • dust mask
  • gloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon
  • mixing containers. I used old yogurt containers.
  • hot water
  • salt
  • white vinegar
  • Large enamel, stainless steel or glass pot – not aluminum or copper
  • quart jars
  • Something to keep jars off the bottom of the large pot. I use a tamale pan which includes a platform in the bottom.
  • Stirs – I used chopsticks.
  • towel, potholders

Since I wanted to dye several colors on small pieces of felt (8 x 10 inches), I used quart jars. If you want to dye a larger piece you can go ahead and dye it directly in the large pot. If you decide to dye a large piece and use the large pot for the dyeing, don’t use aluminum or copper.

For these pieces I used 1/2 teaspoon of dye. Add this dye to a small amount of water until it is dissolved. Always use a dust mask when working with these dyes. Once they are mixed in water you can remove your mask.

Next add a cup of hot water to this paste and stir.

Add 1 tablespoon of plain salt to the dye colors. Since the dye water is warm, the salt melts. However, if you like you can dissolve the salt in warm water before you add it to the dye.

Now is the time to fill your large pot about half full of water and turn on the heat to medium while you’re finishing the dye containers.

Now back to the dye containers. Add the dye water to the quart jars and add the dry felt.

Add enough water to cover the felt. Don’t fill it to the top since we’ll need space to add the vinegar later.

Push down the fabric into the dye.

Not put the quart jars into the water pot. The water in the pot should not be boiling, just a low simmer. Again, if you are dyeing in quart jars like this make sure they are not sitting on the bottom of the pan. As I mentioned earlier, I’m using a tamale pan that comes with a raised platform. This container also can be used as a steamer for silk or cotton if you’re looking to justify the purchase!

Be sure the water in the pot is just below boiling, and that the water comes up to where the fabric is in the quart jars. Heat for 10 minutes. Stir frequently.

After the first 10 minutes, add two tablespoons of white vinegar to each jar, and continue to simmer. Stir frequently for 10 more minutes.

Turn off the burner and remove the jars from the pot. Be real careful since the jars are hot. I used potholders to remove mine from the water.

Dump out the dye and rinse each piece separately in hot water. Then continue rinsing going from hot to cold water. When the water almost runs clear, I let them set in the cold water for 30 minutes.

Now to wash them. I rinse them again with hot, fill up the bucket with hot water and Synthrapol or another textile detergent. You could also use Blue Dawn. I let them soak for another 30 minutes in the soapy water.

After the soapy soak, I again rinse them in cool water until the water runs clear. Then they go into the dryer.

When they are dry, I iron them and this is what I end up with.

I noticed that the blue did not dye very dark. I tried it twice, and both are still pretty pastel. Next time I dye with the blue family I’ll add more than 1/2 teaspoon. Also, cooking the blues longer could produce a deeper color.

That’s all there is to dyeing wool. You can also use this process for dyeing silk. Now to use these pretty pieces.