Fiber Preparation for Dyeing Yarn

Fiber Preparation is an important step before dyeing yarn to ensure true lasting color.

| June 19, 2013

Harvesting Color

Make beautiful natural dyes from plants with the help of “Harvesting Color.”

Cover Courtesy Artisan Books

Harvesting Color (Artisan Books, 2011) is the essential guide to natural dyeing and creating gorgeous color from plants. Author and master dyer Rebecca Burgess presents over thirty plants which yield stunning natural shades and illustrates just how easy the dyes are to make. In this excerpt taken from part one, “Getting Started,” learn the suggested fiber preparation process before dyeing yarn.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Harvesting Color.

Fiber Preparation

When I buy yarn from a yarn shop, I generally prewash the skeins. Yarns coming from unknown sources can be treated with softeners or finishing agents—these substances can have color-altering properties. So, if you decide not to wash your yarns, your dye results may vary. When using yarns or roving from the farms in my area, I generally forgo the step of washing because I’m familiar with the fiber preparation process before I purchased them. If washing a raw fleece, a rather in-depth cleaning process is required, depending on the quantity of grease and plant matter residing in the wool.

Washing Wool

A stainless steel or enamel vessel is best.
Enough water to completely submerge your wool with plenty of extra to account for evaporation
pH-neutral soap (1 tbsp. for each ½ lb. of wool)

Heat the water until it reaches a temperature of 140 to 180°F. Add the soap and stir to distribute throughout the pot. Gently place the wool yarns into the wash water without agitating or stirring. Delicately prod the yarns to help submerge them, and then allow them to sit in the water for approximately 1 hour. Rinse the yarns in similar temperature water to release the residual soap, and then hang dry, or place them immediately into a similar temperature mordant bath.

Washing Fleece

This recipe makes use of a top-loading washing machine for washing fleece. This streamlines the process of washing and spinning the water out of your yarns. If you don’t have access to a top loader, see the basin procedure later in this article.

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!