Hair, fibers or yarn should be washed before dyeing to remove oil, dirt, or sizing. You may dye over any already existing colors. The various wool dye colors that I’ve tried mix very well, too. You generally can’t dye things lighter than they already are. If you need red deer hair, don’t start with dark brown. Dark colored fibers or hair will not have the same color as lighter fibers and hair dyed in the same batch.
You should not dye hair-on skin this way; the leather will shrink up and be ruined. However, if you want to dye the hair while it’s attached to the skin, and cut/pull the hair off the skin to use, this will work.
NOTES: It will take an hour or so to dye a batch. You will want to clean up spills quickly, following instructions on the dye packages to treat any accidents. Keep the kids away; these dyes may be slightly toxic, depending on the brand you use. Follow safety instructions on dye packages. Use gloves or risk skin reactions or at least funky colored hands.
- Prepare dye:
If using acid dye, such as Kiton or Procyon (available from the Woolery or other internet sites specializing in wool dyes), put 1/4 oz. of dye powder into a cup and add tiny amount of water to make a paste. Add more warm water to dissolve. Add less dye for pale shades.
If using RIT dye, dissolve 1 package of dye in a quart of hot water.
- Put 2.5 gallons of lukewarm water into dye pot. Use an enamel coated or stainless steel dye pot. Don’t use aluminum or galvanized steel. Put in the dissolved dye (from Step 1) and stir to distribute.
- Put in clean, wet yarn, hair, fiber or fabric and stir gently. If dyeing hair, you may want to put it in a muslin bag to keep it together. Leave soaking to 10 minutes with no heat added. Then gradually heat the dye pot for 10 minutes or so to about 120 degrees F. Gently poke the fiber/hair/yarn to help the dye penetrate evenly.
- Set dye by adding 2 cups of white vinegar (if dyeing 1/2 pounds of yarn, add 1 cup of vinegar). Stir gently first 5 minutes or so after adding vinegar, then every 4-5 minutes. It should take 30 minutes or so for the dye water to reach a full simmer. (190-212 degrees). Hold at this temperature and stir gently and occasionally for thirty minutes or so until desired color is reached or until water is almost clear. It won’t hurt your wool if it boils as long as you don’t ” shock” it by changing from hot to cold too suddenly. Hair is more resilient than wool; it usually won’t “felt” if shocked.
- Remove yarns/hair/fiber from pot and rinse in hot water. Wash in warm, soapy water and rinse. Squeeze yarns/fabric in towel or if you have a lingerie bag or muslin bag to put them in, spin in washing machine. You can just rinse hair out and lay it on paper to dry.