Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dyeing a wool felt blanket

I have been reading the blog over at and then we set it on fire and in December they were talking about dyeing wool blankets. Of course, "dye" and "wool" grabbed my attention and I happened to find a cream wool blanket at the thrift store this week for $6. (In truth, I was pretty sure it was wool, but it had no tag so I did a burn test when I got home to make sure.)

I wanted to try to "confetti dye" some pieces, similar to Carol R Eaton's confetti dyed cotton fabric. Of course she was using Procion dyes on cotton, and I am using acid dyes on wool, but I didn't think it would be much different. Acid dyes are a bit more potent than the Procion dyes, so I expected fairly strong colors.

I cut a bunch of 16" x 16" pieces for some projects and also had some long strips. I soaked these in a mix of vinegar and water then wrung them out and put them in a bucket.

I plan on steaming the fabrics in plastic wrap bundles, and since I have nice new ivory counter tops in my kitchen, I set up a burner plate on a table in the backyard. (Yay for mid-50 degree weather in December!)  I needed to color and wrap my fabrics outside anyway, since I was using loose dye powder.

Here are my dyes, gloves, mask, mesh strainer, and plastic wrap.

Here is my burner, steam pot (for crafting use only) and a wool piece on two joined pieces of plastic wrap.

I sprinkled dye powders on the damp wool using the strainer. I found the strainer holes too big and got a lot of blotchy spots. Next time I might add a layer of cheesecloth (or similar) to slow down the dye sifting.

With dye sprinkles.

I put a piece of plastic wrap on top and then rolled it up in the plastic wrap that was underneath the wool. Here it is after steaming. It's pretty dark and I don't love the color combination.

On some of the confetti pieces, the backside was nice, but I find this one a bit boring.

I don't have any more "before" pictures of the other confetti sprinkled pieces. For this one, I did not put plastic wrap on top before rolling, I folded it in thirds, then rolled it, and then wrapped it in plastic wrap.

It looks pretty cool but I think it would be better if I used less dye.

 Back side:

This one looks like a 70's shag carpet to me. This one was folded in half, then rolled, then wrapped in plastic wrap.

 Back side:

I planned to steam all my packets at the same time and I was concerned that the confetti dyed pieces might be a disaster so I switched to liquid dyes. (1/2 tsp dye to 4 oz water and about 1 tbsp vinegar, which was probably not needed since the fabric was soaked in water/vinegar mix).

 Squirt, squirt.

Then I folded it and squeezed it to distribute the dye. I opened it to make sure there were no blank spots, then rolled it up with the plastic wrap trapped in the rolled fabric (like making stromboli). 

The results.

 This one was red and yellow squirts, which became orange during steaming. When I squeezed it, a bunch of extra dye came out and I mopped it up with the small rectangular piece below.

Leftover orangy-yellow dye from the piece above, plus some added Chartreuse.

These long strips were folded in half longways, then rolled or folded to become a small packet. Each side got squirted with a different color dye.

Here are all my wrapped fabrics ready for steaming. I steamed them about 45 minutes (with the lid on), and let the pot and fabrics cool for an hour afterwards.

I wasn't worried about them felting, so I rinsed them while they were still fairly warm. All of the liquid dye fabrics did not have any excess dye in them (their rinse water was clear). The confetti dyed fabrics had a lot of excess dye and I rinsed them in the sink for a bit.  I threw them all in the wash machine on delicate cycle with some Synthrapol detergent, then dried them in the dryer on low heat.
After steaming
After steam dyeing the packets, I made a pot of black dye and dyed a long narrow piece black.

I am looking forward to playing with these, but it will probably be a month before I have the time. (And I still have about 1/3 of the blanket left for some future project).

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