Last week I wrangled up the supplies to dye two balls of wool with natural plant dyes in my own private Kitchen Stadium. It was show time.

The first step was to wash the wool (which sounded boring, and like the perfect step to skip if I was going to skip a step). I unwound the merino into loose coils and dropped it into a pot of lukewarm water and dish soap. I simmered this mixture for 45 minutes, and then was supposed to wait for it to cool. I lasted an hour before moving on, which surely wasn't enough (because it was pretty hot to the touch), but I was bored.

The next steps were to dissolve the mordant (a substance used in dyeing to fix the coloring matter) in a small amount of hot water, add more water, and heat to lukewarm before adding the wet wool. I misread this section, skipping the "heat to lukewarm BEFORE adding the wet wool" part. Instead, I mixed the mordant in hot water with the safflower, added lukewarm water from the tap, and directly dropped the wet wool coils into the pot. This part was pretty scary, as the coils were ripe for felting (heavy, stretchy, and twisted). I fired-up the range and cooked the wool for an hour.

I probably could have left the coils to cool in the pot overnight, but I wasn't sure what would happen to wool submerged in water for more than eight hours. I rinsed it out after two hours and 10 minutes (again, probably not long enough – the coils were still very hot), handling the heavy, wet mess nervously, and as delicately as possible. I tried not to freak out every time a coil twisted on its way out of the pot.

I squeezed the wool gently until the water ran clear, once again conscientious about the big F. I hung the coils to dry over the basement sink on a make-do drying rack I built out of string and shelf brackets. Exhausted, I hit the lights.

Next Week: The Result

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