I'm thinking of dyeing my little one's woolies...they still have a lot of wear in them, but they're just covered in stains that won't come out. Baby + white anything = never a good idea. Any recommendations for good dyes?
Dyeing wool (and silk) is really easy. You don't need to use proper fabric dye at all. I have used plain old food coloring, kool aid, and Wilton cake decorating gel. Or you can use beets for red, red cabbage for blue, and turmeric for yellow.
Before you start wash your wool and really rub some soap into the stained parts and let it soak. After you've rinsed it out transfer it to some lukewarm water with white vinegar in it. Let it soak in there for at least half an hour.
Put your color choice in a pot with some water and more vinegar. I like to add just a little of the color to start and add more if the color is not deep/dark enough. Make sure, especially if you use the gel, that it is really well mixed. Place your wool in the pot and very slowly bring close to a boil. Then turn the heat off and let it sit. Once the water is room temp take out your wool and wash it in room temp water.
These don't seem to be perfectly colorfast but it's cheap and easy and about as non toxic/natural as you're going to get. If you google kool aid dyeing or something like that you will probably find more thorough directions than mine. Have fun!
Hi! Mind if I ring in? Dyeing wool is so enjoyable and the results are always gorgeous--wool just soaks up vibrant color! I am a natural dyer, so I have a little different input than SageR.
There are so many ingredients readily available at your supermarket to make beautiful dyes--turmeric and saffron for yellow, coffee and tea for browns, red cabbage for fuschia and teal, beets for pink, spinach for sage, red onion skins for olive green...the list goes on. A little searching on google for natural dyestuffs will give you more ideas! You can also purchase dye extracts at a reasonable price online. I like the EarthHues company. These are powdered dyes that you add to a boiling pot of water--easier than extracting dye from the grocery items, but a little more expensive.
For the dyeing process, start by giving the woolies a good wash to get out any residues from stains. Then get a pot of water boiling on the stove (big enough that the woolies can fit with room to move about). To this you add a few tea spoons of Alum (the safest natural mordant, found in the spice aisle at the grocery store...people use it for canning). Vinegar is not actually a mordant (a substance that imparts a chemical bond between dye molecules and fibers) which is why it is not very colorfast. Let the woolies soak in this pot for at least an hour, stirring them about every now and then. Be careful that the water is just barely simmering and not boiling--we don't want the wool to felt!
Finally, prepare the dye baths and transfer the wet woolies to the pots of dye. The longer they sit, the darker they will become! It only takes a few minutes to get luscious, rich color. Then rinse the woolies to get out the excess dye.
Whew--long post! Can't tell I love dyeing or anything, can you? I'm happy to answer any other questions you may have! Happy dyeing!