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Roving Rainbow — Dyeing Fleece With Acid Dyes

In this tutorial we will show you a way to quickly dye up a rainbow of roving all at once with just the primary colors of dye. You can use your roving for all kinds of felting projects without being stuck with pre-dyed colors.

Let's Get Started

Here are the supplies you'll need:

Dharma Acid Dyes — we used colors: #414 Sunflower Yellow, #411 Deep Magenta and #404 Sapphire Blue

(You can also use Jacquard Acid dyes too)

Citric Acid or White Vinegar

Wool Roving — we used ROVE-38: 54's Australian Corriedale Wool

6 Quart sized mason jars

Large pot(s) that will fit 3 — 6 quart jars at a time

Chopsticks or skewers

Dharma Professional Textile Detergent (or Synthrapol)

Measuring scale (optional)

Mix & Prepare

Start by dividing up your roving. You can weigh it out if you like to use up the whole 8 oz bump or just pull off about an arms length for each color and save the leftovers for white or to dye later.

Pre-soak your roving in some warm water with a little Dharma Professional Textile Detergent while you get everything else ready. Fill up your pot with enough water so that when the jars are placed in the pot, the water rises at least halfway up the outside of the jars, but not more than ¾ of the way up. Put the pot on the stove (without the jars!) over medium to maximum heat to let the water heat up. Weigh out one gram of each color, which is about ½ teaspoon (but weighing using a scale is more accurate). To each color of dye powder add one cup hot tap water and stir to dissolve the dye.

Pro-tip: always add liquid to powder! Not the other way around.

Dye Ratios With Dharma Acid Dyes

Set out your mason jars and add dye solution to them as follows:

Jar 1: 4 TB (tablespoon) of #404 Sapphire Blue

Jar 2: 4 TB of #414 Sunflower Yellow

Jar 3: 4 TB of #411 Deep Magenta

Jar 4: 2 TB of #407 #404 Sapphire Blue and 2 TB of #411 Deep Magenta

Jar 5: 1 TB of #404 Sapphire Blue and 3 TB of #414 Sunflower Yellow

Jar 6: 1 TB of #411 Deep Magenta and 3 TB of #414 Sunflower Yellow

Pro-tip: these recipes are just suggestions, play around with ratios to get different shades. You can even try adding a drop or two of the third primary to darken or muddy the shades. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Filling Your Jars

Now fill each jar a little more than half way with more hot tap water. Add one length of roving to each jar and then top it up with more water to cover the fiber, if necessary. Stir gently with a chopstick or skewer to help the dye penetrate the wool.

Adding Some Heat

Place the jars in the pot on the stove. Adjust the water in the pot if needed to make sure it comes up at least half way around the jars, or take water out if it comes up more than 3/4 of the way. Too much water in the pot and the mason jars will move around too much, which is not safe!

Let the jars simmer for about 15–20 minutes. Don’t let the water in the pot boil as bubbles may form under the jars and “bump” them, which can result in broken jars and a mess to clean up. Stir each jar only every few minutes to help the color penetrate but gently so you do not felt the roving.

Adding the Acid/ Fixative

Now add one tablespoon of vinegar or citric acid solution to each jar. Stir well after you add it in.

Pro-tip: citric acid doesn’t smell up the place like vinegar does!

Let the roving simmer for another 15–20 min., stirring gently and often, until the water in the jars has turned mostly clear.

Cooling It Down

Once the water in the jars is mostly clear, turn the heat off under the pot and let everything cool. This may take an hour or two. The jars are way too hot to pull out and the last bit of color will exhaust (soak into the fiber) as the water cools.

When everything is cool enough to touch without oven mitts, pull the jars out and take out the roving. Rinse the roving in a tub of cool water. If desired you can soak the roving in a fabric softener rinse, or just lay them to dry.

Pro-tip: a cookie rack over the sink or in the bath tub is great for drying roving and will keep it supported so it doesn’t pull apart with the weight of the water.


Now you have a 6 color rainbow of roving ready to play with! What will your roving be turned into? A needle felted softie? A nuno felted scarf? Grab some friends and have a felting party!


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