Dyeing Wool

Instructions for dyeing wool, the easy way. No fuss, no muss. Straight from the mess maker, of all mess makers! I have finally come up with a way to keep my hands clean. No gloves required!


Age: Toddler to Senior

Difficulty: Easy as pie (Easier)

Time Scale: Prep: 1 out of 2, not including wait time


  • Dye of your choice. Try food coloring, RIT, or natural dyes from spices, vegetables or flowers.
  • Wide mouth Glass Jar with lid
  • Vinegar
  • strainer
  • water
  • Wool roving
  • paper towel or old rag

It is easier of course to buy wool roving that has already been dyed. Recently, I was doing a project and I didn't have the right color wool. The place where I buy it is 100 miles away. The only choice I had at the time, was to color it myself.

There are two different types of dye that you can buy. One is a powder that you mix up yourself and the other is a liquid. I used a powder called Rit in a royal blue. Oh, wear gloves. Hey.. WHAT? Didn't it say "no gloves required"? I didn't wear gloves, because I always seem to convince myself that I am NOT going to make a mess, but I always do. My hands are still blue! This process and mess is what eventually lead me to plan B, the no gloves required way. Keep reading to find out how I did it!

Plan A:

Start with an 18-24 inch piece of white wool roving.

If you are using RIT, put the powder in a plastic container with hot water. Follow instructions on box for powder to water ratio.

Stir to dissolve.

Add the wool and let it sit.

Stir gently every few seconds to make sure the color will absorb evenly. 

The darker you want the color, the longer you will leave it in. Take a small piece out of the dye and rinse, to see how much color has
absorbed. You won't be able to tell what color it actually is, until it is rinsed.

When the color looks good, remove and rinse in cool water. To make the dye more color fast, you can add vinegar to the dye mixture.

Squeeze the water out carefully. Don't twist the wool or squeeze it too much. You don't want to turn it into a matted mess. Blot the rest of the water out, using paper towel or an old rag.

Hang to dry.


There are other things that can be used to dye wool besides RIT. Natural dyes can be made using plants, vegetables or berries.
Koolaid, tea, coffee or grape juice can also be used. These mixtures can be heated on the stove, but it is not always necessary.

Vinegar is added, to set the color.

I tried an experiment using beet juice. One was with juice that had been cooked and the other with raw juice. The raw juice was mixed with apple cider vinegar and turned out a darker shade of pink than the one with the cooked juice.

Oh, I read on the internet a while ago that you can use urine to set the color or some such thing. ICK! I'm still traumatized. I'll stick with the vinegar. Thanks. You won't be seeing anything sold here in the near or distant future that is advertised "pee by me." No disrespect to anyone that does choose to use pee.. I just think it is gross.

Yes, I did say there was a no mess way, that didn't require gloves. On to plan B....

Dyeing Wool the less mess way!

It was important to come up with a way of dyeing wool that was the least messiest way possible because I ALWAYS make a big mess, especially with beet juice. For me, this easy method, creates way less mess than any other... but is for small amounts of wool. (Most people can probably do this with NO mess.)

There is no heating on the stove required. No gloves needed!
Suits me just fine. All this was just experimenting, anyways. The magic trick for me, was a jar. Yep, a plain old jar.

beets-for-dyestrain beets from juice

After cut up beets with peels and all, have been soaked in water, it should take on a strong, deep red color.

Use a strainer to separate the juice.

Pour the beet juice and about a 1/4 cup of vinegar into a 500 ml, wide mouth jar. 

Add a bit of water if necessary, to fill the jar about 3/4's full. Don't dilute the color too much.

Stuff about an 18-24 inch long piece of wool roving into the jar and put the lid on. Using long pieces of wool may cause some color variation. If this is a concern, use a piece that is only about 12 inches long.

Give it a shake.

Now, let it sit.

After a while, give it another shake.

Tip it upside down and let it sit some more. What do I mean by sit some more? That is a bit wishy washy, isn't it? Two to three days will give the color a really good chance to absorb.

After it has really soaked in, dump the jar and rinse the wool. Ta dah!


It is so much fun, I decided to try dyeing wool using food coloring. Use about 4 ml of food coloring to the jar. (That will be over half of the little container.)

Fill the jar about 3/4's full with water.

Don't forget the 1/4 cup of vinegar. If you want to use a larger jar, adjust the vinegar accordingly.

Add the wool.

The blue food coloring made such a pretty color! It is my favorite.

If you leave this sit long enough, it is like a magic trick. You pour out the liquid, and it is clear because all the color has absorbed into the wool.

The only draw back to dyeing wool using this method, is that it can take two to three days for the color to absorb into the wool. If you are rushed for time, this won't be suitable.

I didn't need the wool right away because I was busy with other craft projects, at the time.  This works perfectly for me because it is so easy. It didn't make a mess and I can be dyeing wool in multiple colors, all at once.

There is a long list of natural dyes  for dyeing wool that can be made from vegetables and flowers. Try some just for fun.

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