Although I use mostly colored materials in my studio, I really like to dye merino wool by myself. It allows me to obtain a variety of colors and create products that are truly unique. Watching how the dye penetrates the fibers gives me a lot of joy.
Merino wool is a protein fiber (it is of animal origin), which is why I dye it with acid dyes. The acid I use in the process is vinegar. It helps to preserve colors making them vibrant and long lasting.
So, how to dye merino wool? The process itself is not difficult, but it requires a bit of practice and patience. I start with placing wool tops in a pot with warm water. I immerse them carefully so that all the wool becomes wet. Then I put the pot on fire and warm the water up. In the meantime I prepare a solution of the acid dye, warm water and vinegar in a jar. Finding the right proportions can be difficult, especially if you do it for the first time. You need to read the instructions on the dye carefully and modify them according to your needs when you become more experienced.
Having prepared this solution, I add it to the wool and stir the pot gently with a wooden spoon. It is crucial to distribute the dye evenly throughout the wool, so that all the fibers become colored. At the same time, you should not agitate the fibers too much. Otherwise they become tangled and half-felted.
After stirring I keep the heat below boil for a few minutes and then keep the pot covered until it cools down. When the wool is cool, I take it out, drain it and hang it to dry in a warm and shady place. I avoid direct sunlight because it may cause the color change or fading at this stage. Wool tops can dry up to several days, so you have to wait before you use them for felting or spinning.
As you can see, the dyeing process is not very complicated. If you are not sure if you can handle it, do not hesitate and just do it. When you dye merino wool by yourself, you always feel like in a chemistry lab and you never know exactly what you get. But this is what makes the dyeing worth a try! Sometimes the final effect is a bit disappointing, but other times you just get something marvellous.