Published on September 12th, 2011 | by Julie Finn5
How-to: Overdye Upcycled Felted Wool to Create Custom Colors
Last year for Christmas I made a LOT of felted wool Christmas trees out of upcycled and washing machine felted wool sweaters (check out my tutorial on how to felt wool sweaters if you don’t already know). I was sort of mindlessly cutting and stacking my felted wool Christmas trees while watching a movie, and I didn’t notice, until I’d already completely finished them, that six or seven of the trees had become a little heavy on the pink. Yikes!
I wasn’t happy with my pink Christmas trees, but by that time it was too close to Christmas to bother fretting over them. Instead, I just stuck them in storage and crafted something else for those six cousins and family friends.
The weather has turned here, however, and as I dug through my bins of autumn clothing last week, I happened upon those pink wool Christmas trees. Fortunately, since then I’ve had several months’ worth of playing with acid dyes under my belt, and so within the hour I had brand-new (to me) green-tinted felted wool Christmas trees drying next to the sink. I’m apparently getting my Christmas crafting done early this year!
If you have a wool piece, whether it’s a finished product or an unfelted sweater that you’re ready to upcycle into something new, with a color that doesn’t appeal to you, it’s simple to overdye that wool to create a new color. Here’s how:
While I use one best method when I dye play silks, for instance, because I want perfect and consistent results, overdyeing a fabric that’s already been dyed is an artform that you can play with. For instance, I made several concessions from my usual strict dye routine:
- I mixed up my dye bath as if I was dyeing one pound of fabric, and re-used that same dye bath until it was exhausted (when the color’s gone from the water, you’ll know that your dye is exhausted).
- I heated the water to boiling to help the dye saturate into the bath, then lowered the temperature to merely warm so that I could manipulate my felted wool trees in the dye bath with my bare hands (yes, they’re green today!).
- I did not pre-soak my trees. I just need a new tint, not a fully saturated new color, so I didn’t bother with the full prep of the fabric to be dyed.
- I did not dye my trees for the recommended time period. Instead of soaking them for half an hour, I soaked them for perhaps a minute. Overdyed fabric, especially if it was originally a dark color, can get much darker very quickly, something that I did not want.