Dyeing Mohair & Wool
The information below is directed more at mohair as folks don’t always know how to work with mohair. The directions for wool are the same. Just be more careful handling the fiber as wool felts easily.
Mohair dyes beautifully! There are lots of methods out there. You can dye and wash at the same time or wash the fiber then dye it afterwards. For consistency from batch to batch and to get even color through the length of the locks, I suggest you wash the mohair first. To experiment and to get a variety of color depth in the same batch, don’t wash first. I don’t look for consistency but instead enjoy experimenting and playing with colors. Mohair dyes easily and brilliantly. A little dye produces a lot of color.
- Mohair can take high temperature dyeing without felting but should not be boiled.
- Tight locks need to be teased open to make sure the locks accept the dye clear to the core of the lock. It is frustrating to dye mohair and find that the center is still white, especially if you are dyeing for doll hair. I don’t mind it if I’m spinning the fiber as the variegated colors add to the character of my yarn.
Experiment with dyes, whether on the stovetop, oven dyeing or sun dyeing (like sun tea!) You will be hooked!
Fun Dyeing – techniques that go beyond the basics shown below.
Dyeing Doll Hair – Carol wrote a series of articles about dyeing doll hair and provides copies to our doll hair customers.
My favorite is Jacquard Acid dyes specifically for mohair and wool. The instructions given are perfect for mohair and I don’t really have much more to add. The only “acid” in this method is vinegar so it is safe. It is recommended that a dust mask should always be used when working with powdered dyes, however.
I’ve used Rit dyes with varying results. On some, I think the dye weakened the fibers when I used them. Rit dye also leaves gritty bits on the fiber on occasion, like the powdered dye didn’t completely dissolve. Since Rit dye is formulated both for protein fibers (like wool, silk and mohair) and for vegetable fibers (like cotton) there is a considerable amount of dye that is not used when dyeing mohair and must be washed out repeatedly. I find the Rit dye continues to bleed after multiple washings where acid dyes do not. Kool-aid dyeing is fun especially when working with children. Search the internet and you will find lots of links for Kool-aid dyeing.
Collect equipment for dyeing that you use only for that purpose. Do not use the same equipment for food preparation. Select large enamel canning pots or large stainless steel pots with lids. If you have an electric stove-top, look for flat bottom pans. I get all my supplies from thrift stores.
Have a variety of tools available for dyeing;
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- wooden or plastic stirring spoons
- squeeze bottles (like restaurants use for ketchup)
- large strainer or two
- Stainless steel steaming basket
Raw or Washed? You can either wash the fiber first or dye it raw. When you dye raw, some of the dirt and grease acts to resist the dye and the result is a variegated color. Dyeing washed fiber will produce more consistent and deeper color. When you dye raw fiber, your dye won’t completely exhaust because the dye attaches to the dirt and grease in the water.
Dyeing raw saves a step and produces a different result. Which ever method you use, skirt your fleeces well so you get the best results. A fleece full of garbage will produce a pretty colored fleece full of garbage when dyed.
Fiber, Roving & Yarn – These procedures can be used for fiber at any stage of processing. Be gentle with roving so it won’t become felted or disturb your ability to spin it. For things like Angora blends, I suggest you not dye roving but instead dye the yarn. Yarn can either be dyed in a skein or, if in a ball, you can squirt dye in the ball with a syringe at multiple locations or dye the entire ball and get variegated colors; darker on the outside and lighter on the inside.
Wet the Fiber – For all dyeing methods described here, start with wet fiber. Soak it in water for a minimum of 30 minutes to make sure it is completely wet. Some people recommend overnight soaking. Squeeze the water out so it is not dripping. Wet fiber draws in the dye better and disperses color throughout the fiber. You can try some of the methods on the 2nd page (like microwave dyeing) with dry fiber. You will find that you will get deep color where the dye touches but not much color will bleed into other areas of the fiber.