Dyeing the wool.

I dyed wool once in my zinc-lime indigo vat and it didn’t work out well. The indigo formula turned the wool crunchy and it didn’t felt well. This made me not feel well as I was under a tight deadline. The wool was for the installation so I had to make it work by needle felting it to keep it in place.

This time I used acid dyes and the vat method to dye the wool. Due to the volume of wool I ended up with three dye vats.  I used two colors of blue dye so I would be able to blend them into various hues. I also changed the dyeing time of the last vat so I could have mottled colors to blend.

I weighed the wool so I could calculate the amount of dye to use. Dark colors require more dye so I adjusted the dye accordingly.

Weighing the wool.

Weighing the wool.

I put the weighed wool in the pot to see if it could move freely. Then I washed the wool while being careful not to start the felting process by agitating it too much. 

Washing the wool very gently.

Washing the wool very gently.

I do all my dyeing outside on the patio. I filled the pot with the garden hose. The temperature comes up rapidly over an open flame so no need to use warm water. A friend came to join me while I was pot filling. 

"Hey, what's with all this commotion?"

"Hey, what's with all this commotion?"

Following the directions carefully I measured out the appropriate amount of dye to use and made a slurry with it.  I’m uneasy around an open flame that is attached to a large container of gas (unless there is a marshmallow involved) so Patrick hung around as I lit my first burner.  

This is me following directions.

This is me following directions.

I added the dye slurry to the pot. Then I added the wool and brought the temperature up to 185°.  I kept testing the temperature because if the water gets too hot the wool felts. When the water reaches 185° it is time to add the citric acid which causes the dye to cling to the wool. 

Toil and trouble...

Toil and trouble...

Since the dye didn’t clear in an hour I added more citric acid and then the water really cleared.

Finally the water is getting clear.

Finally the water is getting clear.

I let the water cool down. Pulling on my lovely gloves I pulled the wool from the water. The water in the pot was completely colorless meaning all the dye had entered the wool.

Pulling the wool.

Pulling the wool.

I put the wool on the custom drying rack Patrick made me for this project.  Two more days of dyeing and voila! enough dyed wool to start the project. When I told friends and family I was dyeing on a particular day, I got odd looks until I added the word fiber in front of dyeing.

Racking the wet wool.

Racking the wet wool.