Introduction: Wool Dreadlock Tutorial

About: Professional Hollywood costumer. I make stuff for film/television. Based now in Los Angeles

Since our Original Tumblr Tutorial received a lot of love over the past few years, I figured it was time to repost it here for those who prefer the more comprehensive Instructables format :)


Parkers and Quinn (SteampunkPandQ)

Step 1: 1. Materials List

Here's a List of all the items you will need to follow along on this:

Making the Dreads (1st half of tute):

  • wool roving (doesn’t really matter what type of wool it is, as long as it is listed as “roving”)

  • Spray Bottle (with water and a bit of dish soap in it- couple drops of soap will do)
  • A towel (larger the better- you are going to wrap this over your legs and under your bum to secure it so it doesnt move on you. also something that isn't super shed-y or pill-y. I find that the shorter pile of a beach towel is far superior to the longer/more plush of a bathtowel for making dreads)
  • A pot ( soup pot or other large pot works great) I personally use a cheapy econo enamel number from a bargain store. it's the same one I use for my masks. just pick something you want to dedicate to NON-FOOD items... especially if you will be using this pot to dye your wool dreads later!
  • Your hands!

Dyeing the Dreads (2nd half of tute):

  • Food coloring
  • kool-aid ( or similar)
  • Rit/Dylon or other easily found fabric dyes for "organics"
  • Jaquard textile acid dyes ( which will be used in the 2nd half of this tute!)
  • basic white Vinegar for the acid dye(if you go that route)
  • Table Salt (for the rit/dylon depending on what the package states)
  • Some gloves to keep the dye off your hands
  • Eye protection if you are working with the chemical dyes, better to be safe then sorry!
  • a bowl for soaking the dreads- pre dyeing.

Optional items:

  • A dryer
  • things to throw in frustration -just kidding! ;)

Ok, Got all your stuffs?! Let's go!

Step 2: 2. Making the Dreads Pt 1. (getting the Dreads Started)

1. Start off with some wool roving. it doesn’t really matter what type of wool it is, as long as it is listed as “roving” I purchased 2 pounds thinking it’s better to have too much rather then not enough- and damn, 2 pounds is alot! I got mine online from (Mohair and More) for about 40.00 shipped. the exact type is Colonial Wool in ecru (color). Above is a photo of one pound (16 oz, when the bag was full) of mine.

2.Pull off a chunk about as long as you want your finished dread to be. you can do single ended dreads ( as I did) or double ended and just loop it at the halfway point.its easier to make thinner dreads then it is thicker, since you have to roll and felt them mostly by hand- to get them started. the process is far faster and more real looking for the end result if you go with thinner dreads. once you have a length of roving pulled, roll it between your hands a bit to help it bunch up.

3. for the next part you will need a spray bottle with some water(and a little dish soap) in it, and a towel wrapped around your leg. you can see here the towel I used is really very small and it made this process a whole lot harder then it needed to be- due to wrestling with the stupid thing to keep it in place- It helps if its big enough that you can sit on it and stretch it flat so there are no bumps!

Spray the wool a bit so its quite damp but not dripping.

4. then its time to rub! start with the fat end of the dread, and roll you hand on it with some pressure, back and forth while pulling the other end so you roll all of it. keep doing this over and over till it starts to mat up. you can reverse it and pull from the skinny end rolling towards the fat end to mat it more-so, just use less pressure so you don't undo the matting/felting you have already done.

If you are having trouble picturing it, think of it this way... you know when people spin a stick(handdrill)*** between their hands to start a fire using friction out in the woods? it's sorta like that, just with one hand- and also sideways. O.k. maybe not the best example. but really- you are getting all the hairs to weave together- crumple, intertwine and " felt" together. so yea. keep rubbing that wool and compressing it down. it works, it just takes a bit of time and elbow grease.

Step 3: 3. Making the Dreads Pt 2. (further Hand Felting the Dreads)

Ok, so once you have spent about 2-5 min with the spray bottle, the wool and a towel -the semi-dread should be somewhat together/ get it pretty bunched up depending on how the wool is matting and if it’s cooperating lol. it wont be completely tight, but it should be somewhat shaped. it’s time for the next step, now its time to actually put the wool in some hot water.

1. Get a pan or pot with some Hot hot water, as hot as you can bear. you don’t want to scald yourself, but the hotter it is, the better this will work!

2. Put the dread into the pot and let the wool soak, try to get the air out and let the wool get saturated. about 30 sec or so seems to work.

Fish it out and squeeze most of the water out of the wool. if your want, use a chopstick to get it out of there. I do use one to poke the wool down so it soaks and then to fish it back out. hot water is hot!

3. Place the damp wool dread back on you leg towel and pull and rub again! You will notice that the wool is felting much better and getting more densely compacted. YAY!

4. Keep on working the dread fibers for about 3-5 min, you will see the wool go from looking loose like picture 5 to tighter and felted like picture 6.

Go back and repeat this process until you have a good mess of dreads for the next step!

Got a bunch? Onto the next step! DRYER TIME! (optional) --------->

Step 4: 4. Dryer TIME!

Once you have a nice bunch of *mostly* felted dreads:

1. Now it’s dryer time! if you have never wet felted anything, its a REALLY good idea to read up on it a little, or check the dryer every 5-10 min. Also, dont forget to clean the lint trap! Put the damp* dreads in the dryer, on medium to high heat for 20 min. MAKE SURE TO CHECK ON THEM! you don't want to crank the dryer on high, and leave them in there for 50 minutes, they can dread/felt together!

*it's really important the dreads are damp- not soggy but at least damp. spray them with a bit of your spraybottle water if they have dried up- then toss them into the dryer.

2. As you check on them, the dreads will get poofy as they felt. if they are still damp you can give em a quick rub on your leg, or if they are dry, spray them with a little bit of water and then rub them to condense them down. Honestly, I used my carpet, cause it was right there and I was being lazy. I don't recommend the carpet tho- as if you have pets or anything those fibers and danders/dirt can get rubbed into you fresh dreads, and oils and things can make your wool not take dye correctly later on!

3. then back into the dryer!

When they are done ( which can take 20 min-50 min depending on how well/dense they were felted by hand) they should look something like this in photo 3. don't mind the wrinkles. you can hang them after you dye them to straighten them if its needed.

they should be one piece, and you shouldn’t be able to pull them apart at all!

then just repeat the process till you have enough. for the bundle of dreads shown, I think i went thru about 1/8 of the one pound bag, so a little really does go a long way!

YAY. Congrats, you now have made some felted wool dreads!!

Up next DYEING! ------>

Step 5: 5. (Intro) Dyeing Your Wool Dreads!

So, you've made these soft, woolly felted dreads... what's the next step? it’s time to Dye them!

you can use many things to dye Wool and other natural animal/plant fibre.

Food coloring,Kool-aid, dylon/rit or similar. heck you can go old school and use berries, fruits and roots!

but personally for bright,vibrant colors (as well as control over multi colors on one dread) the best seems to be an Acid dye heated up on the stove top. Jacquard is one of the best for beautiful bright colors. I got mine ( 6 color kit) from Knitpicks for 30.00 shipped. its comes with primary colors to make all colors if you don't mind guessing a little, as well as a nice strong black. you can always purchase single colors in a larger amount too which i would suggest if you are going to be making many sets-or for colors used most often like black, it just works out to be cheaper in the long run. there's also this set of more eco/living critter friendly dyes, and you get a larger variety of color(tho not as bright) for about the same price here

Don't be fooled - it may not seem like a lot of dye when you first open these up but These little ½ Oz jars of powder can dye up to 2 Pounds of wool. you can also pick up this 4 color kit w/ citric acid at amazon and ebay easily.

here's the (acid)dye supply list again:

Dye powder( Koolaid,Rit,Textile dye)

Pot (that old NONFOOD enamel pot!)

Gloves and eyewear

A Large bowl for pre-soaking (important)

a small scoop or way to measure the dye

a disposable mixing/drinking cup

chopsticks or something to stir with (that you can toss or dedicate to nonfood!)

A stove

a sink (or you can hose off the dreads outside if you prefer)

Since I won't be covering methods for doing Koolaid, food coloring or other similar dyeing methods, I've linked some write ups done by others on this process below :)

Kool aid

Food Color ( or you can follow along with my tute since we use vinegar too- just a few drops instead of a scoop of powder dye)

Rit (and salt, you will need salt instead of vinegar for this dye)

Got this stuff? OK LET'S GO!


These are the directions that come with my dye. we are doing exactly this. we don't mind if there are temp changes tho- as we are felting anyways!

as for the washing in detergent? if you don't want to pay money for their suggested rinse, I just placed a little bit/ couple drops of laundry soap in the final rinse bath after all the dreads were dyed. if you use a powder, make sure you dissolve it in a small cup and then add to the rinse bath(then add the dreads) it is important to do this step tho as you do need to remove or neutralize the vinegar that is still in the dread. it's bad over time for the fiber- plus vinegar doesn't smell the nicest :)

Step 7: 7. Add Your First Color

1. Soak your dreads in your pre-soak bowl for about 15 min-30. you just want to make sure the lukewarm water gets all the way to the core of each dread. in a bundle like mine i soaked for a few hrs while i set up all the dye stuffs. just rotate it and press it down to make sure you getting the air out. you need a good soak thru or the dye can ( and likely will) come out splotchy and uneven. at this time take your NONFOOD pot and put some water in it, should be enough to over the dreads, a few inches deep should be more then enough if you are doing multicolor. you can dye them in stages, just remember to work from light to dark, and wash/ring out gently by hand in-between can dye them in stages, just remember to work from light to dark, and wash/wring out gently by hand in-between colors. For just a solid color, fill it up to where you can fit all the dreads in and they have room to move around a bit.

2. Put on your gloves and measure out a bit of your first color. you want to use enough dye to get the color you want, but not so much that the wool cant absorb it all- it's expensive to waste!. put the scooped amount in your mixing cup with a bit of water. stir until its dissolved and you have a concentrated color mixture. I cannot stress this enough. DO NOT BREATHE THIS DYE IN. this stuff is bad news for your lungs. srsly. pour the color concentrate into your NONFOOD pot, and then turn on the heat. STIR

3. Once the water is heating up ( but not near boil) its time to add the dreads. I'm doing a color fade/transition so Yellow first! once the dreads are in the bath, pour your vinegar into the side of the pot. try not to get it right on the dreads. STIR carefully

4. After about 15 to 30 min you should notice the water is nearly clear. this means the dyebath is spent and that color is now on and in the wool fibers.

5. carefully rinse.

REPEAT STEPS 1-5 until you have dyed all your dreads. don't forget to pre-soak if your wool is dry!!

Just some photos in order to show the rest of my process.

Once you are all done. make sure to rinse thoroughly in some water with just a tiny bit of detergent, to neutralize the vinegar. just don't put much in, you don't want to be trapping soap in your dreads, it takes so long to get it out :) Rest the dreads on a dark towel, to dry out a bit. or hang from something OUTSIDE and let them drip dry(just incase they shed dye). If you really want while they are still damp, you can give them another 10 min tumble in the dryer. just watch them as if you leave them in too long they can puff and get fuzzy. I prefer to put them in the dryer for about 10 min then hang them over night.


Step 8: 8.ALL DONE!

Now that you have some beautiful new dreads, what to do with them?!

After all that, feel free to add wood and ceramic beads, feathers, leather, whatever you want depending on the look you are going for :) then you can put them on ponytail holders, ribbons(to tie on around pigtails for dreadfalls) have them braided/sewn into your own hair, or sew them on to something ( Like I’m doing for the Head-dress in the photo- on the band ontop of the head here!) Anyways. Congrats on your new dreads!

Hopefully this helps someone. Remember, Google and Youtube are your friends!
as always, if you have any questions feel free to hit me up! Let us know how your project turns out!!

This, and other Headdresses made by me are for sale and can be found --->HERE<---

Till next time, -Quinn

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