Solar dyeing

I have discovered a new super cool thing to do in my teaching – solar dyeing.

We were making felt, so we had some white wool tops. Then I stumbled across a whole lot of online chat about solar dyeing in a wool enthusiasts group.  I asked about it, and a helpful person posted the instructions (see below).

We decided to give a go.  We got the children to mix up colours with edicol dye.  We added vinegar, and put the coloured water and wool in ziplock bags, so we did not have to worry about broken glass.  We taped them to a window in the sun – and enjoyed the stained glass effect from inside.  The weather promptly turned cold, so it took longer.  But after two weeks, when we had a look, lo and behold, the dye had indeed ‘exhausted’.  We rinsed them out (we just used cold water) and we had brightly coloured wool.

Like magic.


This was so easy.  We already had the wool and the other materials were things we already had around.  It is safe.  The colours are gorgeous.  Though I suppose we will find out eventually if it is colourfast.

We did it with wool tops for felting, but you could probably do it with knitting yarn as long as it is pure wool.

Basically what you should do is soak the fibre you want to dye in a tepid/hand warm vinegar/water solution before you put it in the jars. Make sure the Fiber is saturated, and no air pockets remain within the fibre (you can usually see them)

Once that’s done, gently wring them out taking care not to rub them or vigorously smoosh them together.

Get your jars half filled with tepid/handwarm water and add your food dye, ( I would say about 1/4 of a bottle of queens food dye) and give them a good stir. Add a good slurp of vinegar (I would say for about a 500gm jar you would need about 50ml (approx) BUT to be honest I just put a good glug in. You will have problems if you don’t put in enough, but putting in too much is not an issue apart from a vinegary smell. I don’t measure amounts too much with food dyes.

Layer your fibre into the half filled jar, the more room in the fibre has in there, the more saturated and consistent the colour will be. But if you like a little bit of a semi solid look then chuck a bit more in there. I tend to pack my jars out, because I like the variation.

Top the rest of the jar up with more water (same temperature) fill it right to the top, so that when you put the lid on there is very little or no air left in the jar.

Set them outside in an area that gets sun for most of the day!

Temps generally need to be in excess of 30deg for a good 8 -12 hrs for the colour to fully exhaust. If the weather is not as hot as that, then leave them out a few days.

You can test the jars to see if the dye has exhausted, by opening the jar, and using a white plastic spoon to sample the fluid in the jar, if there is no pigment in the fluid in the spoon you sampled, then the dye has exhausted and your ready to rinse the tops and hang out to dry!

Remember that the jars can become reaaaaly hot especially is your using thick walled mason or preserving jars.

Take them inside open the lids and let them cool, tip out the contents into your laundry tub and them them completely cool.

Once cold, rinse in water the same temp as the tops. (If you are seeing dye washing out of the fibre, stop rinsing, and make a bath of vinegar and water (same temp) to fix the dye.

Hang up to dry and viola ! Food coloured dyed fibres!!!!”

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