How to Dip Dye Wool
Welcome back to part two of my coat making journey. Today, I am going to share how I dip dyed the two-tone ombre hem. It is important to note that I did not dye the finished coat. I constructed the sleeves and the main body and dyed each of the two separately before finishing construction.
I am not a dyeing expert by any means but I do feel pretty strongly about using good quality dyes and avoiding some of the store-bought ones. My preference is for Dharma Trading Co dyes. They have an amazing selection of colors and types. Since my coating is 100% wool I choose to use their Acid Dyes, which are meant for protein-based fibers. Dharma also has several tutorials on how to best go about dyeing. Parts of this tutorial have been adapted from the instructions on Dharma Trading Co’s website.
- Acid Dye
- Mixing Spoon
- Small Bowl
- Tablespoon (TBS)
- Half Cup
- Latex/rubber Gloves
- White Vinegar
- Old Towels
- Dharma’s Professional Textile Detergent (not pictured)
*Keep in mind all of my mixing supplies are strictly for dyeing only. They are never used for food prep.
First, fill your stockpot with enough water to allow you to easily dip the hems of your garment. In this case, I filled it just over halfway. Let the water warm up to just before boiling. While that is warming up you will want to prep your fabrics and dye. I started by washing my wool by hand in the sink. Yep, washing wool! This removes any oils that may prevent the yarns from taking on the dye color. I used the textile detergent for this. Soaking the wool also helps it take on the dye more easily too so don’t skip it.
After I had prepped the fabric, I moved on to prepping the dye. You do not just want to dump your dye into the large pot because it will make it harder to dissolve. Instead, you mix a small amount of dye pigment with water to make a concentrated version. Since we are dip-dyeing a hem we do not need a lot of dye. I used a ratio of 1 TBS of dye to a half cup of hot water. You can take this half-cup from the warmed up water in your stockpot or just use super hot water out of the tap. Mix this in the small bowl ensuring all the dye has dissolved.
Dump mix into the larger stockpot water. Stir pot to mix well. Add 1/4th cup of vinegar to the pot and stir. The acidity of the vinegar acts as a mordant, helping the wool to absorb the dye pigment and set the color so it doesn’t bleed. Similar to why you use vinegar when you dye Easter Eggs. You can also use 1 TBS of citric acid instead of distilled white vinegar if you are sensitive to the vinegary smell. Both options provide the acidity you need to lower the pH level of the dye bath make the dyes react well with wool protein fibers.
Before you start to dye your garment, you will want to test dye samples. I used several pieces of my scraps to test out different dye techniques. I played around with how long each piece was sitting in the dye bath to determine how vibrant I wanted the colors to be. Based on testing, I determined I wanted to dip the lighter green (Radioactive) for 15 minutes and the darker green (Emerald) for 10 minutes.
While I was waiting for my samples to dry, I started construction on the shell of the coat. To make the dyeing process easier I only constructed parts of the coat. I completed each sleeve minus lining so I could dip dye each sleeve hem without having to hold up the weight of the entire coat. For the main body, it has pockets in the side panel/front seam and I did not put them in until after the dyeing process. Instead, I temporarily basted the front panels to the rest of the body in order to keep my dip dye even across all panels.
Now comes the fun part…dyeing the actual coat!! I started with the lighter green and progressively dipped it over the total 15 minutes. I started by dipping the first 4″, which included the 2″ hem allowance, and let it sit for a couple minutes. Then I dipped it another 2″ and let it sit for a couple minutes. I repeated this another two times each at about 2″. Progressively dipping it allows it to create an ombre sort of effect giving your material more color depth. After the initial dipping, I repeatedly dipped the entire length at once to even out the breaks. Keep in mind that however dark the color looks while dyeing it will lighten up when you rinse the out the excess dye.
Once I was satisfied with the dye color I squeezed out the excess dye and allowed it to cool down a bit. Then I rinsed it in lukewarm water in the sink until it ran mostly clear. It definitely took some time for that. When it was clear I used the detergent to wash it in cooler water to finish getting out the loose dye. You want to be careful not to go from the hot dye bath to cold water too quickly otherwise it will shock the wool and felt it.
I repeated this entire process for the emerald green making sure not to completely dye over the radioactive green. I then took it outside to drip dry. Once it was mostly dry I tossed it in the dryer for about 10 minutes to finish. After that, it was time to finish putting it all together!
Overall, I am ecstatic with the final coat. I loved the dyeing process and learned so much throughout. I cannot wait to try out some Shibori dyeing next.