Gaywool Dye Instructions

Gaywool dye is formulated specifically for raw or spun natural fibers. Gaywool Originals & Bush Blends are all-in-one acid dyes which have the acid component and the leveling agent essential to stabilize the dye bath at the correct ph level. The formulation includes the mordant and dye bath acidifier and thus includes all that is necessary to produce true to type color fast dyeing.  All dyeing of hand spun yarn should be done in skeins tied loosely in at least four places. It is also essential that they have been washed in a normal laundry detergent to sufficiently remove all traces of grease.

Gaywool Colors Oak, Coal, Nutmeg, Tomato

          Oak, Coal, Nutmeg, Tomato on 100% Suri Alpaca

In the first four minutes, 80% of the dyeing reaction takes place, consequently, it is most important to gently turn the fiber over at regular intervals or lift the fiber clear with a wooden spoon, drain liquid slightly and replace. Fiber then takes in a new mixture of dye and water thus keeping the dyeing even.

Basic Safety

  • Always wear gloves and a particle filter mask when handling dyes.
  • Turn off any fans and close nearby windows when mixing powder or crystal dyes.
  • Make sure your work area is well-ventilated; when cooking your dye baths, be sure to turn on vent fans and open a window.
  • Do not eat, drink or prepare food in your work area while you are preparing dyes.


Though I have not tried all, these are common techniques for dyeing with Gaywool Dyes with occasional notes of my own:

  1. Stove Top Method
  2. Steam Dyeing Method
  3. Microwave Method
  4. Random Dyeing Method
  5. Cold Water Dyeing Methods

1. Stove Top Method 


Dyeing Equipment.

dyeing fiber in dye pots with gaywool dye

Gaywool Original Colors Pumpkin and Plum

Dye Pot – Enamel or Steel
Spoons – Wooden or Plastic
Containers to Mix Dye
Heat Source – Gas Burner, Hotplate, Stove

Weigh fiber and record weight.

  • Weigh dye or use a heaped dessert spoon as an appropriate measure.
  • Rate is half an ounce of dye (12-16gms)  to 3.5oz (100gms) fiber.
  • Wet fiber thoroughly with warm water using a little kitchen detergent.
  • Fill dye bath with enough water to sufficiently cover the fiber.
  • Dissolve dye in hot water and add to dyebath and stir.
  • Add fiber to dye bath, gradually increase the temperature to boil.
  • Gently move the fiber in the dye bath with spoon. Do not stir rapidly as this may cause felting.
  • After 30 minutes (less for paler shades) remove fiber from dye bath into bucket. Rinse in    warm water and dry.

gaywool dye lily


See more about Dyeing In A Dye Pot With Gaywool Dyes

See Suri Fiber that has been dyed Solid Colors with Gaywool Dye.







Gaywool Original Color Lily

2. Steam Dyeing Method


This method is recommended for fibers that are delicate to handle and have a tendency which requires a more careful approach when dyeing at hot temperatures.  The steam set method is ideal to use for slivers, tops, and roving, especially if they have a silk component. This method is also very good to use on the luxury protein fibers such as alpaca, angora or cashmere.

Rovings Drying in Sun

Gaywool Bush Blends Colors Nutmeg and Primrose

Dyeing Equipment.

Dye Pot – Stainless Steel or Enamel with secure lid for steaming. (Do not use a steamer that has been used for food preparation.)
Wire Rack – to fit in dye pot
Spoons – Wooden or Plastic
Containers to Mix Dye
Newspaper – preferably older than a week
Old Towel
Ice Cream Container
Rubber Gloves


Use smaller amount of diluted dye at the start. You can always make the fiber darker by adding more dye. Experiment and record your procedure if trying to replicate your dyeing application.

Try to handle the fiber as little as possible.


Weigh fiber, record weight, and then soak in warm water.

  • Wrap fiber in old towel by using a rolling pin or empty bottle and squeeze out excess water but keep moist.
  • Dilute required amount of dye in a small amount of boiling water/hot water. If the dye does not dissolve well use a fine strainer or nylon stocking and rub the dye until it is completely diluted.
  • Make sure you do not add too much water to the dye. You only need enough dye to pour over the fiber without too much excess.
  • Wet newspaper sheets, (does not need to be too thick but thick enough not to fall apart when steamed).
  • Prepare steamer.
  • Place fiber on top of newspaper and then gently pour diluted dye over the fiber. Alternatively you can place the fiber into an empty plastic ice cream container, pour the dye over the fiber then using a wooden or plastic spoon gently spread the dye through the fiber. Again, another alternative could be to use a syringe to inject the fiber with the dye. After this, take out the fiber (use gloved hands or two large spoons) and wrap in the newspaper.
  • Place newspaper onto rack or steamer pot. Bring steamer to the boil, then simmer between 2-3 hours, gently turning the newspaper every 30 minutes. Make sure you have good rubber gloves on when doing this.
  •  Check pot for water levels regularly and replace when required.
  • After the steaming period has completed, take out fiber and put it in an old towel and into the sink. Use a rolling pin to squeeze out excess dye.
  • Wash fiber gently in warm water and dry.

Note: If you want to experiment using a variegated (rainbow) method, instead of diluting the dye, just sprinkle the dye powder or dye colours over the moist fiber. Wrap in newspaper and steam. Alternatively you could try to wrap the fiber in a plastic bag after you have applied the dye, making sure you do not have too much liquid.

mixing gaywool dye for dye pot

Gaywool Dye Original Color Lucerne

When Gaywool Dyes came in plastic jars, one capful of dye per 4 ounces was easy to measure.  If you have any of these jars, save a few caps for easy measuring.

3. Microwave Dyeing Method

Dyeing Equipment.

Plastic Container (ice cream container)
Containers to Mix Dye
Spoons (wooden, plastic or metal for mixing dye)
Rubber Gloves
Face Mask
Microwave Safe Container & Lid – either glass, plastic or ceramic.
Water Jug or Bucket

Exhaust Dyeing……Using one color or a combination of colors.

  • Weigh fiber/fabric and record weight.
  • Soak fiber in warm/hot water until it is thoroughly saturated. The longer you soak the fiber the better the migration of the dye through the fiber.
  • Measure the amount of dye to the weight of fiber. You can use a heaped dessert spoon as an approximate measure or use the rate of 12-16gms or half of an ounce of dye to 100gms/3.5oz fibre. Please note: these measurements are only recommendations. It is up to the individual dyer to adapt and record their own results to replicate and suit their own requirements.
  • Dilute the dye with a small amount of hot water (apx half cup) in a plastic cup or equivalent and stir until the dye and crystals dissolve, creating a dye liquid.
  • To your microwave safe container add enough water to cover the fiber. Add dissolved dye to water and stir thoroughly until dye liquid is evenly distributed.
  • Add wet fiber to container and gently move fiber around in container so that the fiber takes up the dye evenly. After you have done this a few times the fiber will be ready to heat.
  • Heat fiber on high at intervals of 3-5 minutes until the dye exhausts or is close to being exhausted. For the dye to evenly migrate into the fiber it is recommended to turn the fiber 2-3 times during the dyeing process.
  • Check water level and ensure that the fiber/fabric is still covered with water. It helps to pat down the fiber into the dye mixture when checking water level or turning over fiber/fabric.
  • After you are satisfied that the dye has absorbed sufficiently into the fiber/fabric leave the fiber in the container to cool (dye will continue to exhaust).
  • Rinse fiber in luke warm or cold water then hang to dry ( yarn ) or place on table/bench (fiber).
  • As heat settings on microwaves can vary considerably your microwave may be better suited to heat the fibre on a medium setting. It is up to you to discover the best setting which suits your microwave. To duplicate dyeing results it is recommended to record your times and settings.

4. Random Dyeing Method



  •  Soak fiber for up to an hour in hot water.
  •  Place the soaked fiber into the container spreading it out evenly.
  •  Measure dye. If using two colors, allow for half of the dye quantities for each color that you would be using for exhaust dyeing.  Example: half a desert spoon for each color to 3.5oz/100gms fiber. Alternatively, 6-8 gms of each color.
  •  Mix each dye with half to three quarters of a cup of hot water to make your dye solution. Stir dye solution until crystals are dissolved.
  •  Use a syringe to inject the dye or pour dye solution over one end of the fiber & another color over the other end. Aim to leave some undyed fiber in between each color.
  •  Cover container with a microwave safe lid. Place a container of water in the microwave to prevent microwave atmosphere from  drying out. Spread the dye liquid through the fiber by patting down with a spoon.
  •  Heat on high at 2-3 minute intervals. Check moisture levels in container. If it looks too dry add a cup of water to container. Turn  over fiber and add more dye solution if required.
  •  When dyeing is complete take out container, gently take off lid & let fiber cool. When cooled take out fiber and rinse in either lukewarm or cool water and dry.


  •   Cover container with a lid which will let steam escape. If using plastic to cover your container ensuring that you make holes so the steam can escape.
  •   Place a separate container of water in to the microwave  to ensure the microwave atmosphere does not dry out.
  •   Use tongs or two wooden spoons to turn the fiber during dyeing intervals.
  •   If dyeing is uneven or has undyed patches this may be the result of either tying your yarn too tightly or not having your fiber adequately saturated with water. This could result in an insufficient amount of water/dye liquid migrating through the fiber.
  •   If fiber is too light in color with a substantial amount of dye still in the container you may not have heated the fiber for a long  enough period.
  •  If your fiber is the correct color you are aiming for, and you have excess dye left in the container, you may have used too much  dye. Please note that darker colors will not exhaust as well as lighter colors. Exhaustion rates will vary.
  •  You can try sprinkling dye randomly over your saturated fiber instead of using a diluted solution.
  •  Use the Gaywool color card to compare your dyeing results. Most yarns in the color card are dyed with a depth of shade between 1.5 – 2%, which are medium to deep shades. Experiment with different strengths of dyes to understand how each color can produce many shades.
  • Try mixing dyes to make your own new color.


Safety Issues.

  •  Do not use any metal containers or any other metal in your microwave.
  •  Handle hot containers with care. Make sure you let the steam escape from the container before lifting off the lid.
  •  Wear rubber gloves/oven mittens when handling hot containers and dye.
  •  Avoid acid fumes when lifting off lids.
  •  Use an exhaust fan if dyeing in your kitchen and have plenty of fresh air come into the dyeing area.
  •  Cover dyeing area such as tables and benches with newspapers or some other covering to avoid dye contamination.
  •  Keep dyes and all hot equipment out of the reach of children.


5. Cold Water Dyeing Method


Gaywool Dye Original Colors Musk, Honeycomb, Mulberry

Cold Water Dyeing Using a Shallow Dye Bath

Equipment & Chemicals

Shallow dye bath, plastic, ceramic or metal (suggested size Length 15″ (400ml) , width 11″ (300ml), depth 6″ (150ml)

Rubber gloves
Large spoons
Jug or kettle for hot water.
Urea & dyes. (Urea is a garden fertilizer which can be obtained from garden supplies.)

Quick Method…..45min-1hour.

Weigh fiber & record weight.

Presoak fiber in warm water until the fiber is completely saturated.

Mix urea with boiling water to dissolve  granules completely.  Rate is 100g per 1 litre of water or ratio 1:10.

Add urea solution to fiber and soak for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Fill dye bath with enough  cold water to adequately cover the fiber.

Following directions on dye packet measure specific amount of dye and dissolve in boiling water. Mix dye solution by stirring with a spoon until crystals are completely dissolved.

Add dye to dye bath and stir dye liquid so that is evenly dispersed throughout the dye bath. Add urea mixture left over from soaking.

Add fiber to dye bath and with your gloved hands work the dye into the fiber (very important). Leave dye to sit for between 45mins – 1 hour.

Remove fiber and rinse in warm water and dry.



You will have a good deal of dye residue remaing in the dyebath. We suggest that you use this by added more fiber to take up the remaining dye.  Most colors in the Gaywool originals color range and the deeper colors in the Gaywool Bush Blends would be in this category.

The pastel shades in both the Gaywool Originals & Bush Blends have much less dyestuff and we recommend when dyeing with these colors with this quick method, increase the quantity of dye by 15 to 20%. If you have a dyeing result which is not even we suggest that you add more dye to the dye bath and re-dye, not forgetting to work the dye into the fiber. Make sure that when dyeing skeins to tie loosely in three or four places. This will allow the dye liquid to evenly penetrate the fiber and prevent skeins from tangling.

The use of urea is optional but we do recommend using this as it assists in swelling the fiber to allow the dye to migrate and produce an even dyeing result.

 Please note that this quick cold water method will absorb less dye than the longer 24hr-48 hr method.  Some colors will not absorb the dye solution as well as others but most colors do work well considering the quick dyeing time and lack of heat. This dyeing system does have a flexibility which will enable the fiber craft person to accurately mix and repeat colors knowing that their dyeing results can be quick and easily achieved.

Alternatively … another quick method which only takes 30 – 45 min


Light coloured plastic or stainless steel container or pot (I used a round container a little bigger than my plastic plate)
Chosen dyes
Measuring Spoon
Chosen Fiber
Plastic plate
Weight of some sort (I used a large jar filled with water)


Wet wool and ensure entire skein is damp before wringing out loosely. Dilute the dye as per wool weight ratio in a small amount of hot water first to ensure the granules have dissolved. Add this to the cold water in your container. Stir.  Add fiber to the cold dye bath. Place plastic plate on top of wool and weight on top of plate to ensure the wool remains submerged for the entire dyeing time.

Leave for 30 – 45 min.

Remove wool from dye bath and rinse in cold water until water is clear. After this, with any dye session, I give the wool a quick hand wash using a cold water washing powder and then lay the skein or roving on wire racks to dry. For best results, dry in shade or overnight.



Cold Water Dyeing Using a Shallow Dyebath


Slower Method………………….   Dyeing time 24 to 48 hours 


Weigh fiber & record weight.

Presoak fiber in warm water until the fiber is completely saturated.

Mix urea with boiling water to dissolve  granules completely.  Rate is 100g per 1 litre of water or ratio 1:10.

Add urea solution to fiber & soak for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Fill dye bath with enough  cold water to adequately cover the fiber.

Following directions on dye packet measure specific amount of dye and dissolve in boiling water. Mix dye solution by stirring with a spoon until crystals are completely dissolved.

Add dye to dye bath and stir dye liquid so that is evenly dispersed throughout the dye bath. Add urea mixture left over from soaking.

Add fiber to dye bath and with your gloved hands work the dye into the fiber (very important).

Leave dye to sit for between 24 – 48 hours  in the sun if possible.

Remove fiber and rinse in  cold or warm water. This will depend on the color and the depth of shade you have used.

Hang to dry.



With this cold water method, most Gaywool colors are colorfast, work very effectively, and have the same excellent results as the hot water methods.

Rainbow Dyeing

Raw fleeces may be dyed washed or unwashed. Place fleece in a container, fill with water 3/4 of the way (do not cover the fiber, or the dyes will run together).

While bringing the water close to a boil, sprinkle the dyes at random over the fleece, using compatible colors.

Gently poke the fleece into the water, do not stir, simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Several colors can be used together, e.g. Raspberry and Logwood, Cornflower and Indigo, or just one color using different strengths.


Yarn in skeins can also be dyed using the above directions.

For more muted colors, instead of sprinkling the powder, dilute the powder in boiling water first, then pour or spray.













Gaywool Dyes are easy, dependable, colorfast, earth friendly, cost effective, and they come in so many different colors.  Inspired by the colors of Tasmania, the explanation of the Gaywool name is quite interesting.  It starts with some colorful early history and carriers through to the present day.  Be sure to read Gaywool Dyes Have a Colorful History


Be sure to see:

Two Color Immersion Dyed YarnDyeing Yarn with Kool Aid
How to Dye Speckled Yarn
Shibori Dying with Gaywool Dyes.

Gaywool Dyes Have a Colorful History

When it comes to dyeing alpaca, I love Gaywool Dyes!  From Australia,  no additives are required, the mordant and acidifier are already in the Gaywool dye formula.  They are easy, dependable, colorfast, earth friendly, cost effective, and they come in so many different colors.  Inspired by the colors of Tasmania, the explanation of the Gaywool name is quite interesting.  It starts with some colorful early history and carries through to the present day.

Gaywool…… a colorful History

gaywool dye color inspiration

Bay of Fires

Tasmanian Rain Forests

Tulips in the Northwest Coast

Early History

  • In 1807 John Youl, was sent as a layman  preacher to Tahiti in the Pacific islands to work as a missionary.  During this time many of his companions at the mission had come to an unfortunate end and found themselves in hot water with the native population.  Luckily for him, John Youl was not a very well built man. He was tall and skinny.  He had been observed by the natives shaving every morning with his trusty razor. The native Tahitians gave him a chance of survival if he could shave the chief’s beard and also the other men in the village without spilling any blood. This he managed to achieve and some time later, he made  his way to the new colony of New South Wales (Australia).
  • After settling in Sydney, NSW, John Youl became very good friends with Dr. Thomas Arndell.  Dr. Arndell was appointed as the assistant surgeon to the new settlement of NSW. He was one of seven assistant surgeons to Dr. White  on the first fleet to Australia with Governor Phillip.  He was later appointed as surgeon at Paramatta.  Because of this friendship, the name Arndell, was incorporated into John Youl’s family name.  In 1810,  John Youl married Jane Loder and they named their first son James Arndell Youl.
  • In 1815 John Youl was ordained as an Angligan priest.  In 1818 he was  commissioned by Earl Bathurst to become the first chaplain at Port Darymple, Northern Van Diemens Land (Tasmania). Reverend Youl and his family arrived in Van Diemens Land in 1818 to start work in the new Parish.
  •  James Arndell Youl became a successful grazier but is best remembered for introducing trout and salmon to Australasian waters.  Early attempts in 1841 and 1852 of transporting ova from England to Australia had failed and also shipments in 1860 and 1862 but finally in 1864, with the help of many people, thousands of ova were packed in moss and stored in the ship’s ice-vault, and the living ova arrived safely in Tasmania.

Foreward to the late 1960’s

  • The family connection to Dr. Arndell continued and in 1967 Gillian Arndel Youl (married name Thomas), a farmer and enthusiastic hand spinner of wool started a business specializing in breeding colored sheep for hand spinners and weavers.  To start her flock she initially purchased sheep from other farmers in the district.  She started her breeding program with 10 throwback corriedale ewes.  She then purchased a Border Leicester Ram in order to obtain a long fleece. Over a period of time she built her flock of sheep and her business and also started her own shop.  Her customers were far and wide and the wool was sent to many parts of Australia and also to the United States, Canada and Holland. Gill also became the first distributor of Ashford Spinning wheels in Tasmania.
  • With her family involved in the business her son Chris, suggested that there should be even more color in the business and with the assistance of an Industrial Chemist, Barry Harding from Coats Patons Launceston developed some easy to use, quality dyes for the home dyer. In 1974 the dyes were first packed and distributed in an old shearing shed on the family farm Gayfield, Longford Tasmania.  Years later the dyes were now being sent and distributed to many parts of the world including, the USA, Canada, United Kingdom and Japan.

The  name of the business came from the initials of Gillian Arndell Youl (GAY).  Her husband was Richard Field Thomas and the business was originally called Gayfield Wool and then later changed to Gaywool.

Gaywool Dyes continues to be in the family with the name of Arndell given to some family members.  Gill is now in her 80’s and her enthusiasm and energy for life is admired by her many family and friends.

Check out the original story published in Australian Womens Weekly 1976.

Gaywool Dyes at Alpaca Meadows


Alpaca Meadows offers the Gaywool Dye Originals …

…and the Gaywool Dye Bush Blends.

Gaywool Dye Instructions

Dyeing In A Dye Pot With Gaywool Dyes

Another thing I was eager to learn after purchasing our first alpacas, right after spinning yarn, was dyeing yarn and fiber.  You can’t really make a mistake – it is kind of like tie dying a T-shirt – you don’t know what you’ll end up with until you’re done but the results are always good.

Natural colors are beautiful – and alpacas have 22 of them – but oh, there are so many others!  For breeders of fiber animals that are looking for ways to sell your fiber, this is one way to add value to your fiber without adding much expense. I tried kool-aid dyeing first, but then I found Gaywool and love it, so I’ve stuck with it.  Gaywool dyes come from Australia, are very safe to use, and they have both the mordant and dye bath acidifier in them, which is all that’s necessary to produce true-to-type, color-fast dyeing.  Gaywool Dyes Have a Colorful History.

Gaywool Dyes

Gaywool Dyes come in over 50 different colors.  The Originals are vibrant hues and Bush Blends are more subtle colors that you might find in nature.


Though there are a variety of methods, dyeing a solid color in a pot is probably the simplest, especially if you are just learning. 

Weigh Fiber

I begin by weighing my fiber or yarn and I don’t usually dye more than a pound at a time.  When dyeing fiber, I use zippered lingerie bags to contain it.  If dyeing yarn, it should be wound into skeins and tied loosely in four different places.  I then soak the fiber or yarn in warm water with a bit of detergent.  This allows the scales on the fiber to open and be ready to accept the dye.  Soak for at least 15 minutes.

It is not necessary to wash the fiber first, there will be plenty of rinsing after it is dyed.

Place your yarn or bags of fiber in your dye pot and fill it about half full. It makes no difference how much water you use as long as you use enough dye stuff for the amount you are dyeing.  Be sure there is enough water so that you can turn the fiber over easily.  Place on stove and bring water up to steaming, just below a simmer.

Add Dye

Measure the dye stuff and dissolve in warm water.  One capful of is enough to dye approximately 4 ounces of Fiber, Roving, or Yarn. I recycle dish detergent bottles and use them for mixing the dye. Fill the bottle about half-way with warm water and using a funnel, add the dye stuff.  If you are doing a pound of fiber, you will need 4 capfuls.  Once dye is dissolved, add liquid dye to dyebath and stir gently so that it is evenly dispersed.

Heat it Up

Keep the dyebath just under a boil for about 30 minutes.  Turn off heat and let cool completely.  This may take the rest of the day or overnight.  Don’t rush it!  This allows the dye to be fully exhausted.

Rinse and Dry

Remove and rinse the dyed fiber thoroughly in warm water.  Do not allow water to run directly onto it, this can cause felting.  Fill your sink or bucket, allow it to soak, then using up and down motion, rinse fiber, empty sink, refill, repeat process until water in sink is clear.  Squeeze out excess water.  Wrap in a towel to absorb excess moisture.  Hang yarn to dry. Lay fiber on screens or skirting table to try.  Circulation above and below fiber is best to allow fiber to dry more quickly.

More Instructions

Be sure to see Gaywool Dye Instructions for other types of dyeing with Gaywool.  Other methods include Stove Top, Steam Dyeing,  Microwave, Random Dyeing, and Cold Water Dyeing Methods.  You might also enjoy reading an excellent article on dyeing with Gaywool written by Karen Kinyon and published in Alpaca Magazine in the Fall 2006 issue, called
In Search of the Purple Alpaca: Mysteries of the Dye Pot Revealed!

Gaywool Dyes are available in the Farm Store at Alpaca Meadows and on our website.  While they once came in jars of 100 grams (3.52 ounces) and 80 grams (3.82 ounces), they now come in small ziplock bags of the same amounts. 

Online Classes

Want to learn more?  Check out these Online Classes by Craftsy!

Professional Yarn Dyeing at Home

I do a small amount of affiliate marketing, and there are several links in this post that lead to products that we don’t sell at Alpaca Meadows, but we do receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase those items.  Every little bit helps pay the bills, so thank you in advance!

Next Steps in Yarn Dyeing


Relax and have fun – you’ll love the colors you can produce!

Alpaca Meadows