How to Cooler Dye

If you are a Hand Spinner, then I’m sure you’ve bought prepared, dyed roving before. Maybe you thought about trying to dye some for yourself, but thought that it would be too difficult and make a big mess. Here is a technique that keeps the mess contained and is nearly fool proof. And the color is up to you!


Choose a Protein Fiber (one that comes from an animal, not a plant). Then find a cooler large enough to hold it. It will squish down once wet so it can be packed rather full. This cooler should be one that you plan to use solely for dyeing and not for food at a later date due to the chemicals in the dye.

You’ll need some Acid Dye for this. I’m using Jaquard Dye. It’s readily available on the internet. Perhaps the vender that sold you the wool will sell it as well. I like to use at least 3 colors.

This dye is set with Vinegar. You will need 1/4 cup per pound of fiber according to the directions on the dye. I end up using more like 1/2 cup.

Bring 2-3 large pots of water to a boil – enough to cover the wool completely. Remember it will squish down once wet.

Place the dry wool in the cooler. Sprinkle it lightly with dry dye. You may want to lift up the top layer in order to reach the lower layers or fiber. I personally do not measure the dye. Just go lightly. You can always add more if you aren’t happy with the results.


Drizzle 1/4 cup vinegar on top of the wool. This will cause the wool to grab the dye in the areas where the vinegar has landed, giving some nicely saturated spots in the roving.


Now add  1/4 cup vinegar to the pots of hot water and pour them slowly, one at a time, into the cooler. Try to pour along the side, not directly on the wool. The idea is to avoid agitation which can cause felting. Now you’ve probably been told that you can’t just add hot water to wool without felting it. It isn’t the heat – it will not “shock” it. It’s the combination of heat and movement that is the problem.

Once all of the water is in the cooler, take a long handled spoon or utensil and gently push the fiber down to submerge it.

Close the lid and walk away. Try to avoid peeking for 24 hours.


The next day when you open up the cooler, the water may still be a bit warm. Let it cool with the lid open until it has reached room temperature. Pour out the water and remove the wool. Let it drip dry. Laying it out evenly once most of the water has run off will help it to dry quickly.


Now it’s ready for spinning! I love the random affect this method has. You don’t have to worry about color repeats at all.


I made a vest with this one…


Here’s some others…


This one became a Triangle Shawl that won 3rd place at the Fair. I call it “Easter Surprise” because I started the day before and looked at it on Easter Morning.


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I made a vest from this one too…

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This one became a hat…

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And I just did this – haven’t made anything …yet!



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One Response to How to Cooler Dye

  1. Michèle says:

    I like the random effect also.