Having Fun with Dyes
I use Jaquard Acid Dyes formulated specifically for protein fibers like wool, silk and mohair. The acid used is non-toxic vinegar.
These are my favorite methods. Experiment and find what fits you best.
Use an enamel or stainless steel pot. Heat the water to just below boiling. Do not simmer as that is a type of boiling. Add dyes and an amount of fiber that will free float in the pot. Cook until the dye exhausts. You can either add vinegar at this stage or add vinegar to the initial soak water you use when you wet the fiber. A good “glunk” of vinegar does the trick. Follow the directions on the Jacquard Acid Dye instruction sheet for best results. If you want consistent perfect color, wash the fiber first and tease the locks apart so the dye can reach all sides of each hair. Leaving the locks in-tact results in a tie-dye effect which I love to spin. It makes a beautiful yarn.
Use your canning pot with the large mouth quart jars to dye multiple colors or multiple shades of the same color at once. Fill the jars and the pot with water. The more fiber you stuff into the jars, the more of a resist you will create. Having the jars with free floating fiber and teased locks will create a more consistently dyed fiber. Heat the pot until it simmers (the water in the jars will not simmer) and heat until the dye exhausts.
I like adding small amounts of dye in one jar and slightly increase the amount of dye in subsequent jars to get different shades of the same color. You can also blend colors. Use a small amount of one color to several jars. Add different colors to some, more of the same dye to some and you will get a nice blend of colors that go well together.
Use a large dyeing pot with a stainless steel steaming basket in the bottom. As this is a steam dyeing process, the basket keeps the fiber off the bottom of the pot and prevents scorching. Place enough water in the pot to come up to the bottom of the steam basket.
Place a layer of fiber on top o the steamer basket (regardless of the type of fiber being used.) Then, sprinkle dry dye over the fiber. (Remember, it needs to be wet!) Add another layer of fiber, more dye, and repeat until the pot is full or you are out of fiber! I can get a full medium sized fleece in a single pot.
You can either use a single color or multiple colors. When using multiple colors, either divide the dyes as in a pie chart or randomly sprinkle dye powder as you go. The color charts below will help you understand how the colors will blend. I prefer to have the dye color show in a large triangle in a pie chart lay-out and use colors that will allow a pleasant blend of colors where they overlap. When steaming, use a spoon or chop-stick to periodically push the fiber around to further blend the colors as desired. Also add more water periodically to prevent the pot from going dry. I sometimes pour the water through the top of the fiber to help blend colors. Steam for about 45 minutes.
If you steam roving, work the fiber a bit less. You also can dye yarn this way either in the skein or the ball. A ball wound on a ball winder is more open at the center, allowing more dye to saturate the yarn.
Another variation on steam dyeing is to squirt liquid dye (Jacquard Acid Dye mixed in water) over the layers of fiber/yarn/roving. Use the same pie chart technique to divide the colors into 2, 3 or more colors. The liquid dye disburses throughout the fiber more than the powdered dye and you will get more color blending. I use the squeeze bottles listed under equipment, #5.
The Color Wheel
The COLOR WHEEL has 12 segments that consist of primary, secondary and tertiary colors.
The three PRIMARY colors are RED, YELLOW, and BLUE. They form a triangle on the wheel. These colors cannot be mixed by combining any other colors. They are indicated on the color wheel with a P.
The three SECONDARY colors of ORANGE, VIOLET, and GREEN (marked on the chart by an S) are created by mixing equal parts of the primary colors they fall in between; ie, VIOLET is the secondary color produced by mixing equal parts of RED and BLUE.
TERTIARY colors (T) add YELLOW-ORANGE, RED-ORANGE, RED-VIOLET, BLUE-VIOLET, BLUE-GREEN AND YELLOW-GREEN by mixing equal parts of the primary and secondary colors immediately next to them. Form additional colors by varying the amount of dye used of each color or by blending other colors.
Analogous colors are any three colors which are side by side on a 12 part color wheel, such as yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange. Usually one of the three colors predominates. In the illistrations below, the left flower arrangement displays multiple shades of yellow, green and yellow-green. The analogous color illistration on the right has blue, blue violet and violet. Analogous colors are any three colors which are side by side on a 12 part color wheel, such as yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange. Usually one of the three colors predominates. In the illistrations below, the left flower arrangement displays multiple shades of yellow, green and yellow-green. The analogous color illistration on the right as blue, blue violet and violet.
This is fast and works well especially for roving since you don’t work the fiber much.
- Lay down several long sheets of plastic wrap. Make sure they overlap well so the dye doesn’t leak out between the seams.
- Put your fiber on top of the plastic wrap. Roving & yarn can be placed along the length of the plastic wrap so you get distinct stripes with the dyes.
- Sprinkle with powdered dye or liquid dye.
- Fold the long sides over the fiber first. Then, roll the plastic from one long end to the other as if you were making a cinnamon roll.
- Place the plastic wrapped package in a microwave safe bowl (used only for dyeing) and place in a microwave. I also have a microwave that I use ONLY for dyeing.
- Set the microwave on high for 2 minutes and cook. Let it sit for 2 minutes (rest) then cook for 2 more minutes. Repeat until it has cooked for 6 minutes and rested for 6 minutes.
- Your dye will not exhaust with this method. Left over dye in the bottom of the dish can be used to dye more fiber.
Whatever your method, wet the fiber first for the most color saturation, and don’t forget to use vinegar and adequate heat to set the color.
AFTER DYEING – Always wash the fiber well to remove any remaining dye residue. This will also remove all remaining dirt (if the fiber was dyed raw) and eliminate dye bleed in the fiber. The fiber can be washed immediately after dyeing. No need to let it dry before washing.