How-to: Overdye Upcycled Felted Wool to Create Custom Colors


my felted wool Christmas trees are pink!

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:

prepare an acid dye solution for the felted woolFirst, choose your dye method. If you’re familiar with my tutorial on Kool-aid dyeing and my review of professional acid dyes, then you’re all set–if not, just pick one. They’re not hard!

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.

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5 thoughts on “How-to: Overdye Upcycled Felted Wool to Create Custom Colors”

  1. Thank you for sharing this technique. I’m wondering since the trees were rinsed and not washed, if there would be a problem w/color fastness…would the overdye bleed if they were placed on a tablecloth or other cloth surface? This is definitely a technique I will consider as I am rummaging through old wool sweaters!

    1. There would be a problem with color-fastness if the trees got wet. Three solutions:
      1) Whenever possible, overdye your felted wool before you create with it. I only overdyed a finished project because it was a craft emergency!
      2) If it’s a decorative object, like my felted wool trees on a cloth tablecloth, glue something waterproof to the bottom of the object, such as a piece of an old plastic grocery bag.
      3) Hand-wash the object, which will allow you to completely rinse away excess dye as well as keep the finished object sound.

  2. Pingback: Crafting a Green World | Crafty Christmas Projects for Upcycling Old Sweaters | Page: 1 | Crafting a Green World

  3. Pingback: Wool Felt Thread and Felting –wool challenge « easy sewing projects, beginner sewing projects, sewing techniques, tips on sewing,

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