Jelly and Crepe Paper Dyeing

As promised, after a very looooong wait, photos and details of my jelly and crepe paper dyeing day.

Jelly, crepe paper and jelly bean dyeing is not only incredibly easy (and tasty cause you get to eat the left over jelly beans…vbg) but also heaps of fun and even the kids could do it it is so simple.

A little note here before I begin.  You need to use pure wool.  Acrylic and all that other stuff won’t take up the dyes.  Either commercial pure wool or hand spun wool (if you’re into spinning and have some spare) are the way to go.  Not only do you get a fantastic result but you also get beautifully coloured wool to knit or crochet into something scrummy later on.

Starting will Jelly Dyeing – cause that springs to mind first.   Basically you soak your wool skein (approx 50 grams in weight)  in a little vinegar.  Put your pot of water (approx a litre) onto boil, throw in the jelly a splash of vinegar and a dash of salt and stir until jelly is dissolved.  Add your squeezed out wool and simmer gently until either the water comes clear (which means all the colour has now been adsorbed into your wool) or you are happy with the colour of your wool.   See I told you it was easy.

Left – hand spun white alpaca  Right – commercial pure wool.  Both dyed in same dye pot with Port Wine Jelly.

Another note – the instructions said to use “name” brand jelly. We used everything from generic brands, diet jellies, name brands and even some “vintage” jelly that one lady had found in her cupboard with the packets dated from the late 70’s to the early 80’s – obviously jelly is not one of the five food groups in her household…vbg.  All of them worked and worked well so if you want to play use up what you have got and have fun.

Crepe paper dyeing is another goody.  Again the instructions said to use sheets of crepe paper not the crepe paper streamers however we tried both sorts and the streamers actually gave the best results.  Perhaps it’s because there were more edges for the dye to bleed from – I don’t know but it worked.

Hand spun white Alpaca dyed with purple crepe paper.

Again – and this is very basic – put a litre of water in a pot throw in your crepe paper and a splash of vinegar.  When your dye is the colour you want remove the crepe paper (trust me leaving it in there with the wool makes a horrible mess) add your wool (which has been soaked in vinegar) and simmer gently for at least fifteen minutes.  Pull it out, rinse and admire.  I found that half a small roll of streamer gave a really good result and seemed to make no difference to how strong the dye was when comparing it to a full roll of streamer used in the same manner.

Left – commercial wool dyed with Teal coloured crepe paper.  Right – commercial wool dyed with Blueberry Jelly.

Jelly Bean dyeing was fun…..especially eating the jelly beans at the end…vbg…but I admit I’m not a huge fan of it.  The other ladies had far more successful results than I did yet I did put plenty of jelly beans on the wool like they did.  Maybe my skein was too thick, I’m not sure but I’m not thrilled with the results and so far haven’t bothered to experiment further.

Again and this is basic – layout some cling film/glad wrap/plastic wrap on your bench and spread the skein of vinegar soaked wool on it.  Layer on your jelly beans and wrap so the jelly beans can’t fall off the wool but not so tightly that the wool and jelly beans are strangled.  Place the entire package in a steamer/colander over a pot of boiling water and put on the lid.  Steam for about 40 minutes (or until you are sick of waiting) then remove and rinse off.  Now the instructions do say to squish the jelly beans towards the end of the steaming with a wooden spoon.  I think I got a bit carried away with the squishing part and had a terrible time removing squished clear jelly bean from the wool….sigh.

I came home and did some more experimenting with jelly dyeing using three different colours and putting approx a third of a skein in each jar with the jelly liquid  and steaming for about 20 minutes in my rice cooker.  Not a bad results but as much as I love bright colours this was a bit to bright so I have now overdyed the wool with port wine jelly which is far nicer and gives and interesting result.  Sorry no photo of that bit yet.

You can find printable instructions at the Tasmananian Handspinners, Weavers and Dyers Guild. Just click on the link and on the left hand side of the page , towards the top are the links to bring up PDF files on crepe paper, jelly and jelly bean dyeing.

Now as always – cause I get completely carried away with any new project – I have been experimenting further with jelly dyeing and I have also been dabbling in dyeing with plant materials as some of the ladies had wool they had dyed with plants.  Absolutely stunning.  Very subtle colours and very natural so I have been raiding my garden and playing quite a bit.  The rice cooker (which I  rarely used for cooking rice) is invaluable for all this experimenting and sit outside permantly now ready for the next batch of wool.  Details of those experiments when I find the photos.

PS….and I have only just thought of this.  One of the ladies, Julie, dyed her beautiful hand spun sheeps wool in the most stunning shades of brown and fawn.  As she said she just isn’t into white wool.  Even with the darker base the dyeing went wonderfully. You could still see the jelly and crepe paper colours but they were darker and scrumptious.  Worth a try if you don’t have any white wool on hand but still want to experiment. It’s on my list to do.  The brown sheeps wool I have is washed and piled in a washing basket ready to card and spin – I just have to find time.

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2 thoughts on “Jelly and Crepe Paper Dyeing

  1. Catherine, I love reading of your experiments with the dyeing. I think your jelly bean wool looks fabulous, even if you don’t and I think you will be amazed how it knits up. I’ll have to pass your URL to my DD Catherine as I know she’s got plenty of pure wool. 🙂

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