Dyeing Ile de France Fleece

John and I picked up some Ile de France fleece this past weekend and I had some fun washing and dyeing up part of the fleece. The fleece itself was pretty dirty and there was a lot of it so I just reached in and grabbed a handful of what looked like the nicest at the time.

I didn’t fuss too much with the tips and just washed the fleece in Unicorn Power Scour a couple of times. There was a lot of lanolin in the fleece as I washed it and I wasn’t sure if the yellow I was seeing was from lanolin or some type of staining but the next day after the fleece had dried I realized it was yellow staining. I’m not sure where the yellow came from. The yellow might be from the lanolin or maybe it was Canary staining I’m not too sure. I think canary staining is a brighter yellow but what do I know? Anyhow the fleece was pretty reasonable cost-wise and I was okay with the fleece not being bright white because I wanted to use these fleeces as practice for dyeing. No sense paying top dollar for quality fleece only to screw up the dye job.

Here follows a huge photo bomb of the process. I divided the fleece into two batches and soaked each batch in vinegar/water before tossing them into a pot dedicated for dyeing. The pot also had water with a cup of vinegar in it. I then used two different dyes on the fleece. I put a bunch of fleece into the pot, poured half the dye(s) on each side, put in the rest of the fleece and then poured the rest of the dye on top.

I then let the fleece sit for about an hour trying to keep the temperature around 180, needless to say the heat wasn’t consistent but I didn’t really care. For the most part most of the dye was absorbed with only a little bit of coloured water left in the pot. Of course when I went to do a wash-out in hot water lots more dye came out. Either I didn’t cook the whole thing long enough or most likely there was too much dye in the mix, maybe both. Anyhow I did about four rinses before giving up and letting the stuff dry. It’s doesn’t run in cold water and most people don’t wash their wool in hot water so I’m not too worried about it. Who knows I might never knit this stuff up, time will tell.

ile de france yellow staining
Ile de France washed, not too bad but some yellow staining and dry dirty tips.

ile de france in pot dry
Dry Ile de France in pot.

ile de france soaking in vinegar water
Fleece soaking in water.

dye colours used
Jaquard dye, Sapphire and Vermillion.

fleece starting dye process
On the stove, dye just added.

fleece after being cooked
Fleece cooling off on the deck, notice some mixing of the dyes in the pot.

dyed ile de france sapphire and vermillion
Dried fleece.

tips of locks lighter in colour
Notice that the dirty tips are lighter in colour where the dirt provided a resist to the dye. I had combed out some of the tips but decided to leave some to see if they dyed lighter and sure enough that’s what happened.

vermillion on comb
Vermillion loaded on the comb. There was some blue in there.

vermillion first pass on combs
First pass on combs.

second pass
Second pass on comb.

third pass
Third pass on combs.

dizing fleece off of comb
Dizzing fleece off of the comb.

sapphire and vermillion loaded on comb
Sapphire and vermillion loaded on comb.

sapphire and vermillion final pass
Final pass of sapphire and vermillion.

sapphire on comb
Sapphire on comb.

dizzed wool seconds from combings
I had a lot of fibre left over after I made the rovings so thought I’d try re-combing the wool to see what happened. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the combs got the remaining chaff out and the fibres weren’t as short as I thought they’d be. I dizzed on the smallest hole and got these 4 balls (16 grams) from what I thought was junk wool.

combed and dized wool
Sapphire and vermillion rovings.

From this batch of dyed wool I have 86 grams of roving. Not a whole lot of weight considering how much time and effort went into it, less than a bigger ball of yarn and I’ve yet to spin it but I had fun, right?

Next up are a few photos from the batch of fleece I dyed using Sun Yellow and Fire red. I’m still in the process of combing out the fleece so I’ll probably tack on a few pictures later after my thumbs, wrists and arms have a break.

yellow and red ile de france
Ile de France dyed using Jaquard Yellow Sun and Fire Red.

yellow sun loaded on comb
Yellow sun loaded on comb.

ile de france yellow sun
Final pass on combs (I found three passes enough to get rid of the chaff).

ile de france fire red loaded on comb
Fire Red loaded on comb.

fire red
Fire Red final pass.

yellow sun and fire red roving
Rovings done so far.

yellow sun fire red fleece
Fleece waiting to be combed and dizzed.

Wool combs are awesome tools for getting rid of dirt and vegetable matter out of fleece. I would have liked to use my drum carder on the fleece but having drum carded fleece with dirt and peat in it I can tell you that the dirt doesn’t fall out but stays in the batt. I might blend the rovings on the drum carder before I spin them I haven’t decided what to do as I’m still playing with the dyes 🙂


4 responses to “Dyeing Ile de France Fleece

  1. Those colours are absolutely beautiful. I love seeing posts with loads of photos in them, it’s really helpful. I’ve never tried the fleece you are using, was it easy enough to prep and wash? Don’t worry about the dyes still running, a lot of mine still do, yet when I knit with the resulting yarn it hasn’t run yet. I’ve never tried the combs either and I would have probably used a drum carder – I know what you mean about the vm though, such annoying stuff! Great post, thanks for sharing. ❤

    • I like photos as well. This fleece was easy to wash and dye and combing it was no problem. I thought the fibre was going to be finer than this closer to merino but it’s more springy. I haven’t tried to spin it yet as I have something on the wheel so it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.

  2. The colours turned out great! I’ve been flicking the ends of the locks open and then drum carding mine. My ends where discoloured as well but not yellow. I sure wish yellow stain could be seen before the fleece is washed. I find most of the junk is in the tips so flicking them open before putting in the drum carder seems to elimiate that. I haven’t tried combing any of it. I will do that with some. The Isle de France can be very soft but each fleece is different. I have one I spun up woolen that was soft enough for a child and had a wonderful halo but the one I’m spinning up now for socks is more a medium. Not course but not soft either. Out of the 8 fleeces I had a couple were pretty soft. Wondering now if they may have been lambs, Not sure. Love your process and all the pictures. I use Greener Shades and Magic Carpet dyes and don’t have to do all the soaking etc. you did with this fleece. Much easier to use. MAjic Carpet dyes are made in Wiarton Ontario. Wanda teaches rug hooking and dying for rug hooking and her info is awesome. I love the dyes. http://www.wandaworks.ca

    • I’m wondering if the yellow is from the dirt, I’m still not sure but the second washed lot didn’t seem to be as bad as the first so maybe doing the presoak helped. I can’t tell after the wool is dyed anyhow and I’m wondering if after combing some of the natural coloured fleece if I’d even notice any of the yellow. I think the fleece would just turn out to be cream coloured. I plan on trying it because I’d like to have some natural to go along with the dyed fibre as well.

      I noticed a couple of combfuls of fleece seems to be a bit softer but for the most part I think it’s a medium fleece. The fibres seem fine but there is a bounciness to it. I’m actually looking forward to spinning it woollen and seeing how it turns out. It’d be great if I could spin fine but have it puff out if that makes sense. It’d be nice to have a Jamieson and Smith type of fingering.

      Thanks for the link to Wandaworks I’ll put it in my favourites 🙂

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