Let's Talk Turkey - Roaster!

From My Dye Pot: Autumn colors at your fingertips

Updated July 07, 2020

As a fiber artist, I often give dye demos and teach classes away from my home studio. In my studio, I use an electric range with an oven for the majority of my dyeing. Unfortunately, it isn’t very portable. I have tried many different solutions, and I have found that the most versatile substitute is the electric turkey roaster. It is great for all types of dyeing and very affordable, at around $30. Roasters can be found at your local discount stores in abundance at this time of year, and if you can wait until after the first of the year, they are generally on sale. I picked one up for $19 on clearance. For the dyer who does not want to use their kitchen stove (and I recommend you do not) the roaster is a great alternative. 

The Simple Overdye

The simple overdye is the most basic type of dyeing that can be done in the roaster. Gather up your wools and give them a soaking in warm water and synthropol or original Dawn dish soap. Work the wool into the soapy water to be sure there are no dry spots. This also will help prevent “white core.”

Fill the roaster with enough warm water to allow your wool to swim about. If you want some mottling, then use less water and let it swim less. I fill the roaster about half full for this type of dyeing. Crank up the temperature to high. Mix your dye solution and add it to the water in the roaster. Stir. Add your wool and stir. For more mottling, limit your stirring. For less mottling, stir more frequently. Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add a glug (approximately ¼ cup) of vinegar OR ½-1 teaspoon of citric acid dissolved in hot water. Stir and simmer for another 15–20 minutes. Turn off the roaster and allow to cool. Rinse wool in cool water and dry in the dryer on medium heat.
Formulas are for dyeing 1⁄2 yard of wool. You can use natural, white, or try them over some colors for variety. Be sure to try these formulas over different textures as well as white, natural, and other solid colors.

The Spot Dye

Fill the roaster with 1⁄2" of water. Crumple your soaked wet wool into the bottom of the roaster. Set the roaster to high heat. Mix up your dyes separately in 11⁄4 cup boiling water and add 1-2 Tbsps. of vinegar or 1⁄2 -1 t. of citric acid. Pour your solutions over the wool, here and there, one at a time. I am quite casual about pouring the dyes over the wool. Press the wool down with a gloved hand. Cover and process 40-60 minutes. You will have to turn the heat down on the roaster once it gets going. You want to simmer, not boil, your wool. Turn roaster off and allow it to cool before handling. Rinse and dry your wool.

I love spot dyes. They are so useful in tying a color plan together! Here are some of my fall favorites.
Along with white or natural wool, try these over other solid colored wools.

Jar-Dyed Gradation Swatches

I use a lot of swatches in my pieces, I like to have a wide range of values to choose from. I mainly dye 8-value swatches but have, on occasion, done 12. This strong contrast from the lightest light to the darkest dark is what makes a piece sing.
Soak eight 7" x 12" pieces of wool in warm water and synthropol or Dawn dish soap.

Fill eight wide-mouth, quart-size canning jars 1⁄2 to 2⁄3 full with water and place them in the roaster. I put the jars in two rows of four each, this allows the cover to fit on top properly. Fill the roaster with warm water within 1" of the top. Prepare your dye formula in exactly 1 cup boiling water. Spoon the solution into the jars as follows:
• ½ tsp solution in the first jar
• 1 tsp. in the second jar
• 2 tsps. in the third jar
• 3 tsps. in the fourth jar
• 5 tsps. in the fifth jar
• 8 tsps. in the sixth jar
• 12 tsps. in the seventh jar

Pour the remaining dye into the eighth jar. Turn roaster to high heat.
Add one piece of wool to each jar, stirring well. Cover and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. When most of the dye is taken up, add ½ tsp. of citric acid or 1 Tbsp. of vinegar to each jar and stir well. Continue simmering until the dye bath is clear. Turn off the roaster and allow it to cool before removing your wool. Rinse your wool well and dry.

Some Autumn Beauties

These three gradation formulas work beautifully together as they are created from the same three PRO Chem dyes. As suggested for the other dye methods, try dyeing these formulas over colored wools as well.

You can also do dip, transitional, casserole, sausage, and other dyeing techniques you can think of in the roaster. Dive in and enjoy!  Remember, the best way to become a better dyer is to embrace mistakes. There is no ugly wool. It may sit on your shelf for a while, but you will always find a use for it!

  1. Oak Leaf Study using Autumn Oak Leaf, Glorious Gold, and Jack-o-lantern Orange spot dyes

Dyeing Safety

• Remember that any appliance or tool used for dyeing should never be used for cooking.
• Never dye where there is food or drink present.
• Always following the dye manufacturer’s safety precautions.

  1. Overdye in the roaster

Glorious Overdye Fall Formulas

  1. Overdye Acorn Brown
    1⁄4 t. 501 PRO Chem
    1⁄32 t. 560 PRO Chem
    1⁄32 t. 502 PRO Chem

    Mix dyes together in 1 CBW (cup boiling water)

  2. Overdye Brilliant Orange
    1⁄2 t. 122 PRO Chem
    1⁄32 t. 351 PRO Chem

    Mix dyes together in 1 CBW (cup boiling water)

  3. Overdye Blazing Maple Red
    1⁄4 t. 351 PRO Chem
    1⁄4 t. 228 PRO Chem
    1⁄8 t 719 PRO Chem

    Mix dyes together in 1 CBW (cup boiling water)

  4. Spot dy in the roaster

Glorious Spot Dye Fall Formulas

  1. Spot Dye Jack-o-Lantern Orange
    1⁄2 t. 122 PRO Chem
    1⁄32 t. 372 PRO Chem
    1⁄32 t. 255 PRO Chem

  2. Spot Dye Autumn Oak Leaf
    1⁄2 t. 122 PRO Chem
    1⁄8 t. 123 PRO Chem
    1⁄8 t. 255 PRO Chem
    1⁄8 t. 372 PRO Chem
    1⁄16 t. 255 PRO Chem

  3. Spot Dye Glorious Gold
    1⁄4 t. 228 PRO Chem
    1⁄4 t. 122 PRO Chem
    1⁄32 t. 123 PRO Chem
    Gradation swatch in roaster

  4. Gradiation swatch in roaster

Gradational Autumn Beauties

  1. Falling Red
    1⁄4 t. 306 PRO Chem
    1⁄32 t. 228 PRO Chem
    1⁄64 t 707PRO Chem

    Mix together in EXACTLY 1 CBW

  2. Falling Orange
    1⁄4 t. 228 PRO Chem
    1⁄32 t. 306 PRO Chem
    1⁄64 t. 707 PRO Chem
    Mix together in EXACTLY 1 CBW

  3. Falling Green
    1⁄4 t. 707PRO Chem
    1⁄32 t. 228 PRO Chem
    1⁄64 t. 306 PRO Chem
    Mix together in EXACTLY 1 CBW

Karen Poetzinger is a McGown certified teacher and actively teaches in her home studio as well as for various workshops. She is a juried member of the Piedmont Craftsmen Guild and Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild in NC and has appeared in Celebration twice. More info can be found at


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