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