– Changing Colors of Wool

I have just added a Power Point presentation with audio that explains How to Overdye Wool for rug hooking, plus a bit more. There are also instructions for Marrying and Stewing Wool, so I have removed that information from this page. Please have a look at the page containing the Webinar Series. I will be adding more there as I can create and edit additional modules.

Spot the Cat Hooked Rug

Note: If you are not sure about complementary colors, check this web site for an example of a color wheel; complementary colors lie directly across the wheel from one another.

Marble Your Wool!
This is a great technique for creating different colors of wools to use in the same background or in the same rug, that are very well coordinated but not the same color. ….. Thanks to Karen Kahle from Primitive Spirit for creating this great technique. Be sure to visit her web site and request her catalog- she has really great designs and cool instruction books, too!Pick a dark wool, like hunter green, and then it’s complement—medium to dark red or burgundy. Then pick a light shade of either of those (pink, light green), or pick a neutral, like camel or tan. Layer pieces of approximately the same size one of top of each other, alternating the colors and tones (dark, light, dark, light, etc). Roll them together long ways like a snake or a jelly roll. Take rubber bands or twine and bind the roll in several places (think tie dye). The number of binding ties will vary the effect you get, but use at least five. You can also use twine or strips of wool for tying up the bundle. Coil the roll of wool up like a snake and put it in the bottom of your pot. You want the coil to just fit inside the pot, so if you are doing small swatches, use a smaller pot. Pour in just enough hot tap water to barely cover the wool, and then add about a tablespoon or two of liquid detergent. Smoosh the wool down in the water with tongs to mix in the detergent and to wet the dry coil of wool. Put the pot on the stove, cover, put the burner on medium high and allow it to come to almost a boil and keep it there for 30 minutes (do not boil the water or you will felt the wool—not good to do!). You can turn the coil over in the pot after about 15 minutes if you want—this is something to experiment with as it will vary your results.. After 30 minutes, add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar to set the dyes back into the wool and let it all simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the water is clear and the dyes have all been taken up. Dump it all in the sink and rinse it in cool water. When the wool is cool enough to touch, cut the ties or rubber bands and unwrap your wool and be amazed at the results! Run your wool through a rinse and spin cycle in your washer and then toss it in the dryer with a terry towel and a dryer sheet. Here are some color combinations that work especially well for marbling:

  • navy/soft yellow/golden brown
  • olive/camel/maroon
  • dark red/light red/black or dark plum
  • russet brown/camel/eggplant
  • blue/oatmeal/olive green
  • blue/white/brown

As you can see these do not always follow the complement formula I gave you with the red/green scenario. Some great subtle effect can be achieved with a more monochromatic combination such as brown/camel/mustard. Experiment with anything you think might look good together. You can do it with 3 small swatches in a small pan to get an idea of how it will turn out before you use large amounts to avoid unhappy surprises with larger pieces of your precious woolens! Some wool will release more dye than others, so you’ll have to experiment and see what you get . . . it’s always a surprise!So go buy lots of recycled wool (make your Goodwill store happy) and make them beautiful!!It’s also a good idea to keep some notes when you are dyeing wool, or otherwise changing the color of your wool. Snip about a 2-inch square from each fabric before you put them in the dye pot. Staple each one to an index card. Then write on the card what you did to it like, “Marbled this with olive green and camel wools”— then, also staple a piece of the ‘after’ wool to the same card. If your color alteration comes out really good and you want to do more, you have a record of what you did to get it. Believe me, you will forget! Later, if you decide to use dyes and overdye some woolens, write the dye formula on the card, and any changes you made to it, along with the before and after pieces of wool.Until next time — happy hookin’!


7 thoughts on “– Changing Colors of Wool

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful information. I have lots of rug hooking wool and want to begin experimenting right now. Thanks for sharing something I will definately use. My mom always tried to get me interested in dyeing with the complicated formulas, but it sounds too hard!
    Thanks, Deanna Mcclure


  2. Is it possible to overdye random strips of wool that have already been cut (mostly 5 and 6 width) to make them more related in color? Thank you, another Happy Hooker Laurie


    • Hi Laurie
      It is more difficult to overdye cut strips, but if you have a lingerie bag that you don’t mind getting dye on, you could try putting the strips in that and putting it into the dye bath, or just give it a try with the strips swimming around. I would avoid the dryer, only because they will get all tangled together. Squeeze them out well, and lay them on a towel to dry. Let us know how you make out – nothing is impossible Go for it!


    • You can try to simmer the black wool in a pot of water that you have added about a Tblsp Tide powder to and see if some of the black bleeds out. You might have to do it a few times until it stops releasing dye. Just take the wool out, rinse it, change the water and soap in the pot and go again. Some wool will let go of dye well and others, not so much.
      If you want to use it for marbling, follow the directions here and roll it up with maybe a red or tan wool. Keep in mind that some blacks use a lot of blue dye and others use brown, so your results will be a surprise, but should be pretty.
      Good luck – just have fun with it.


  3. Hi Haven’t tried this marbling yet…but just tried the marrying of wools….my wool turned out the exact color I wanted!!!THANK YOU SOOOO much for sharing this !!


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