In Part One of this set, I started laying out what you would need for prepping your yarn and picking your fiber. Now, we’ll look at some dye choices so you can pick the best one for you pick the best dye for your fiber. Again, this will be a picture light, technical post, so try to stick with me. Once we get to the end, I’ll do a couple specific walkthroughs with lots of photos for y’all to follow along with.
Acid Dyes (recommended for natural fibers)
This picture was borrowed from Knitpicks.com where, conveniently, you can also purchase this kit.
You will need: an Acid Dye like some of these and White Vinegar (or citric acid powder)
A quick note on Acid Dyes: if you’re using acid dyes, anything that touches the dye should NOT be used for cooking later. Anything used in this method has the potential to absorb the dye that you are using and then seep into the next thing you work with. You may not see the color show up, but you may have the chemical in the dye resurface later.
Acid Dyes are really the top of the line for animal fiber dyeing. While some of them do work on specific manufactured fibers (like nylon) you will need to check the individual jar of dye or the company website for the dye you are buying to know for sure. They allow you some serious color control when you’re trying to get different shades and work the best for hand painting. The start to finish time on their coloring process is relatively short (about 45 minutes), but they can be pricey. For what you’re getting it’s usually worth it though.
Most of these dyes will have instructions for their favored method of dyeing fabric or yarn. Immersion dyeing is the most common–whether by kettle, slow cooker, or washing machine–but can usually be mixed and used for other methods (like low water immersion or hand painting.
You will need to take some precautions with these dyes. Always wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) like gloves, and a dust mask and make sure your room is well ventilated by opening a vent or window. Try to avoid using a fan because it can blow the dye powder around and make a mess. Acid dyes are chemicals, just like hair dye, so be sure to keep children and pets out of the way. If you are pregnant or nursing, you may want to skip these all together in order to keep baby safe (being as I am currently pregnant, you won’t get any pictures of this dyeing method from me–better safe than sorry). These dyes are VERY permanent. Either wear and apron or clothed you don’t mind changing color. Chances are if you spill some whatever they get spilled on will take that color, so covering surfaces is a smart thing to do as well.
Need the short version?
PROS: Permanent color, minimal fading, color control, hand painting, relatively quick to dye.
CONS: Not safe for pets or children, pricey, best for animal fiber only.
Composite Dyes (recommended for natural fibers and SOME manufactured fibers)
These dyes are commonly found in either bags (pictured) or boxes. Usually in the laundry aisle at the grocery store or with the tie dye kits at the mega-mart or craft store. They can be purchased online at a number of retail stores.
You will need: A Composite Dye (like the kind found in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores)
A quick note on Composite Dyes: if you’re using composite dyes, anything that touches the dye should NOT be used for cooking later. Anything used in this method has the potential to absorb the dye that you are using and then seep into the next thing you work with. You may not see the color show up, but you may have the chemical in the dye resurface later.
Acrylic Paint (recommended for Acrylic Yarn ONLY)
Acrylic paint can be found in many shapes and sizes; and at most mega-marts and craft stores. I had these small bottles on hand, but I would recommend getting a larger bottle if you’re going to dye a lot of yarn or do this regularly.
You will need: Any color of Acrylic Paint and Water
A quick note on Acrylic Paint: This stuff dries FAST. If you get some on your clothes, be sure to get it out straight away or be ready to have new painting clothes. Like Acid and Composite Dyes, anything used in this method has the potential to absorb the paint that you are using and then seep into the next thing you work with. You may not see the color show up, but you may have the chemical in the paint resurface later. Non Toxic does NOT mean Food Safe.
Food Safe Dyes (recommended for Animal Fibers ONLY)
Food coloring (pictured) can be found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. Powdered drink mix is usually in the water or juice aisle, but can be elsewhere.
You will need: Either your favorite food coloring (I’m using drops, but gel or powder work just as well) or your favorite powdered drink mix in the appropriate color and White vinegar (optional for brightening colors)
A quick note on Food Safe Dyes: These methods will work best on animal fibers. The oil from the animal fiber helps to lock the dye and make it permanent. If you try these on cotton or acrylic, they will eventually fade and may disappear entirely–especially after washing.
Next week, I’ll get into methods of dyeing yarn, along with some practical applications and project ideas for home and school projects. Home-school parents, teachers, and camp leaders you will NOT want to miss this.