Wool dyeing

As much as we all appreciate the many wonderful natural sheep colours we get here in Iceland, sometimes you just want even more colour.  Icelandic wool lends itself well to the different ways of dyeing protein fiber. You can dye the unspun fleece as well as the yarn.

Natural dyes are either derived from plants or animals. Dyeing with plants is a somewhat complex but rewarding process: from collecting the plants, preparing/mordanting the wool to cooking it all over a stove or in a cauldron and not knowing exactly what the result will be.

Another method is to solar dye: put everything in a jar and keep it in the sun for some time. Plants readily found in Iceland can easily do the green to yellow spectrum: birch leaves, lupine, lady´s cape just to name a few. The very slow growing and therefore precious lichen parmelia saxatilis (Icel.: litunarmosi) will do a glorious cognac rusty colour and has been used since the Viking times. Today we use it very sparingly and ask you to not harvest it in order to protect the species. For pink and reds we mostly use imported plant pigments like madder and cochineal (derived from lice). Indigo of course is also imported for its wonderful blue.

Modern methods and pigments provide another way to dye wool. Synthetic dye pigments are relatively easy to use: heat and a splash of vinegar (hence the name acid dyes) will activate and set the dye in the wool. This can be done on the stove, the oven or even in the microwave. There are many different shades of colours available. Acid dyes have opened the door to new and creative kinds of dyed yarn like speckled yarn, colour changing yarn and self-striping yarn.