to dye or not to dye

notes on dye safety

first of all, you must note that i am a messy, creative type. when i used to paint, it would be all over me. when i saute onions, they fly out of the pan at their own will.  i am also a hack when it comes to dyeing.  i had one class and dye nothing like i was taught there… you have been forewarned.

corriedale farm wool

here are my recommendations
1) mix your dyes into some sort of stock solution.
the most dangerous part of dyeing is inhaling the powder, so you want to get that powder into a non-powder state as soon as possible. when you mix the dyes, you will want to wear a mask. a plain white mask works, although i use a slightly more heavy duty one. also, wear rubber gloves of some sort whenever dealing with and touching dye.

if you don’t have access to an outdoor space for mixing, mix somewhere that you have the most control. i do it in my bathroom ;) small space that can be wiped down easily. you mostly just don’t want lots of stray powder around.

2) good ventilation
open windows, doors, turn on fans etc. i do not wear a mask during this part, so dyeing in the spring/summer/fall is best for me. i have been dyeing in our bathroom in crockpots during the winter – with the fan on and windows open. that also seems to work pretty well.

3) separate
have separate clothing, towels, pots, pans, measuring implements and everything for dyeing. when you are done dyeing, wash everything down.

ideally, we would also have separate kitchens. but that’s another topic. i have a collapsible table in the dining room where i do most of the stuff with dyes and utility sinks in the basement for rinsing. that way i’m not really using my kitchen counters much at all, just my stove and oven.

corriedale and shetland farm wool

choosing dyes

hmmm. this is a hard one. i originally used ciba washfast acid dyes form maiwa, because i was in vancouver and maiwa is awesome. after a while, i would pick up jaquard yellows at the art store near my house (pesky yellow!). i believe that you can mix and match as many different kinds of acid dyes as you want.  you could probably mix food quality and ‘professional quality’ too.  one major difference might be in the amount of time it takes for the different dyes to exhaust.

as to colors, in deb menz’s color in spinning she recommends having the primary colors each leaning towards each color next to them. for instance… a red that leans purple and a red that leans orange. my advice is simply to buy some colors and play. if you decide you’re not getting the results you want, try different dyes (or techniques).  or ask around and see what kinds of dyes other people use.  play!  and starting with koolaid is quite alright.  i did!

mountain of CVM

i found the following helpful when i first started dyeing
Hello Yarn’s dyeing tutorials’s dyeing tutorials
twisted sister’s sock workbook

i know a lot of you who read this blog are also dyers, so i’d love to hear your two cents on any of these topics! everyone does things differently.  what resources do you like?  what do you do for safety?  how did you choose what dye set to get?

3 thoughts on “to dye or not to dye

  1. I also started with Kool Aid and Wilton’s dyes, but quickly progessed to acid dyes. I’ve tried all different things, but my current set up uses ice cream buckets for the dyeing, and a multi-tier steamer pot for steaming/setting the dyed skeins. I like Jaquard dyes, but find that they’re awfully bright and difficult to tone down, so I’ve been experimenting with other lines of acid dyes and have been really pleased when I mix the Jaquard with something more muted and end up with color that’s vibrant and rich. My best advice is–have no fear! Navy blue, purple, black, and red can overdye just about any botched skein you create! And those overdyed skeins are often my favorite. Also, Yarns To Dye For by Kathleen Taylor is a great book for beginners.

  2. I’m feeling a little inspired… If only I had more space. I love seeing how an artist works. It always makes me respect both the craft and the end result even more.

    I’ve been meaning to pop into your Etsy shop and peruse for some gift knitting. Off I go!

  3. Thank you so much for the great info, Cosy! The pictures are beautiful :)

    I have been dyeing with food dyes for a few weeks and I think after reading this I will finally start using jacquard acid dyes. I feel more free to mix the dyes at home after getting a feel for what another dyer does. A lot of online articles about dyeing are confusing and seem to contain contradictory information.

    I have been applying dye to fiber and yarn in two ways. One is putting fiber/yarn in roasting pans of water, applying the dye by dripping it/squirting it into the water then cooking it at 250 F in the oven. The other way is using mason jars full of dye and water and “double-boiling” them in a canning pot on the stove top.

    I have tried both of these methods with success with solar heating instead of the oven/stove, just by setting them on my fire escape in the sunshine. Has anyone had success setting acid dyes with solar energy?

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