I haven’t shared this much on my blog, but I used to make dolls — specifically Waldorf Dolls. They are handmade dolls made with natural fibers and very minimal facial features. The hair is usually wool or mohair. I had a specialty in fairy and elf dolls — which reminds me, I need to share a tutorial my method for making elf-looking ears on a waldorf dolls sometime soon.
I started dyeing yarn because wool and mohair yarn are expensive, and I love boucle mohair for making doll hair. Often, you can find it in normal hair colors, but as you can tell from my photo, I like funky hair colors. So, finding curly mohair or wool yarn in those bright beautiful “fairy” hair color can be almost impossible.
I love dyeing things, and one of my favorite materials is dyeing wool yarn. It’s such a satisfying process, especially because it’s so easy.
You can use these same methods to dye yarn, roving, batting, even wool felt. Included in this tutorial are two dyeing methods – The Kool Aid method and The Rit Dye method.
- Large pot
- Chopsticks or something small to stir with
- Rit dye plus white vinegar for acidity
- packets of Kool Aid (the ones without sugar)
- Wool – yarn, roving, batting, felt, etc. (this needs to have a high wool content 70-100% for good results)
1. If you are using yarn, you will need to unwind it from the ball or skein. I hold my hands apart about 1 foot in width and quickly unwind it into a large circle. Then I take two scraps of yarn and tie around the top of the circle and bottom to keep the yarn together.
2. Thoroughly wet your yarn (don’t use hot water or it might felt) and let it soak while you prepare your supplies.
3. For the Kool Aid method, you just need various packets of the drink mix. Make sure you choose colors that when combining on the yarn will not turn into a yucky brown color. I choose yellow, orange, pink, and red.
4. For the Rit Dye method, you will need to add vinegar to your dye bath to increase acidity for good dye uptake of your fibers.
5. Add your wool to a pot and cover it with water. You don’t need to wring it out from soaking.
6. When adding the dye for either method, I like to think of the pot as a clock add equal parts of each dye to opposite side “wedges” of the pot.
7. Add 1 cup of vinegar to the pot for the RIT DYE ONLY (NOT KOOL-AID).
8. In this example above with the purple and pink Rit Dye, I broke the yarn up in the pot into 4 wedges. I poured about 3-4 tbs of the pink dye on the left and right. Then added 3-4 tbs of the purple dye at the top and bottom. I took my chopstick and swirled at each place I added the dye to ensure the yarn in that area would soak it up.
9. In the example with the Kool Aid dyes in red, orange and yellow, I broke it up into a clock. Starting on the sides at the 3 and 9 o’clock postions, I added lemonade, then moving to the 8, 10, 2, and 4 o’clock positions I added orange, then at the 7, 11, 1, and 5 o’clock positions I added strawberry, and finally at the 6 and 12 o’clock positions I added cherry. At each of these positions, I swirled the dye until the powder was completely mixed up. Do not swirl or stir too much so that the dyes don’t all mix together.
10. Now you will turn the burners on to medium low and watch the pots until they reach a slow boil. Do not let them reach a big rolling boil or that will mix all the dyes together.
11. During this time, the water bath in both methods will be cloudy and opaque with dye.
12. Once they have started a slow boil, turn the fire down and cook them for 30 minutes.
13. As they cook, the yarn will absorb the dye.
- In the Kool Aid Method, the dye will be COMPLETELY absorbed by the yarn and the water will be clear. This is when it’s done.
- For the Rit Dye Method, the water will still be the color of the dye, BUT it will no longer be opaque, but clear. You will be able to see the bottom of the pan and the wool clearly. This is when it’s done.
14. At this point, turn off the fire and allow the wool to sit in the pan until completely cool. I left mine about an hour.
**If your yarn is labeled superwash, remove your yarn as soon as you can touch it, even if it’s still hot.**
15. Once the yarn is cool, rinse it in cool water. Take a small amount of dish soap and GENTLY wash the yarn. I get a tiny tiny squirt of Dawn and lather it in my hands, then gently run my hands around the yarn. Then, I rinse it a second time to remove any bubbles and to make sure the water runs clear.
**If you use too much soap or the water is too hot, you run the risk of felting your yarn or roving.**
16. Next, gently wring out your yarn. Then, roll it up in a towel and gently squeeze out the excess water. Then, hang your yarn to dry. I just wrapped them around Mason jars with the towel under them and hung them off my kitchen island.
These are my finished yarns. I’m very happy with the colors. I think the orange and red one is my favorite, but I can’t wait to use both of them.
Have fun! This is something fun you can do with the kids when making wool balls. Check out this tutorial to make wool balls in the dryer!