Dying wool fibre with just coffee, water and vinegar

Knitting and coffee are two of my favourite things, and I discovered this morning that I can combine the two into one, awesome activity. I was googling to see if there was an easy way to dye wool fibre, as I have a lot of it and thought it’d be exciting to create my own colours, but many of the dying processes called for difficult, time consuming methods or chemicals I didn’t recognise and certainly didn’t have around the house.

So, I summarised all I had read, pared it down to what was in the cupboard and experimented. My most successful colourway resulted from an out of date jar of instant coffee diluted in three litres of water, in which I boiled 50 grams of wool top in my rice cooker.

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I pre-soaked the wool in a 1 part vinegar 10 parts water solution for 45 mInutes and then just draped it oer a wooden spoon so alternating sections were submerged in the coffee. After 30 minutes I pulled the spoon to the back of the pot, removing some of the dyed wool from the coffee and left the remaining in for a further hour – this did not seem to make much difference, colour absorption seems to be at maximum after 45 minutes with istant coffee. I also had 25 grams fully submerged for the final hour and it turned out much the same colour as that with 30 minutes of exposure.

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Here are the dry, plaited finished products ready for spinning. I am certain that strict adherence to chemistry and dye preparation could result in more vibrant colours, but as afternoon projects go, this one is quick, cheap, entirely non-toxic and super easy. Plus, your kitchen smells like a coffee shop, which I think is a bonus!

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