Someone suggested they would like to hear more about dyeing on my blog.  Often you see I will share photos of dyeing in progress and the finished fibre.  But I rarely share dye formulas or methodology.  There’s a reason for that: there are a lot of variables in dyeing.

Different brands of dye react differently to fibre.  Different fibre respond differently to the dyes. Different chemicals in the water can cause a color to come out differently.  Depending whether you’re in the city on municipal treated water, or country on well water, you can get different colors.  Sometimes in the city different chemicals will be added to the water different times of year, resulting in different results in the dye bath.  Also there’s the question of mordant – what you use to set the dye.  Different mordants give different colors too.  And there are more variables yet.

While dyeing can be a fun experiment, to actually dye a specific color twice can be a challenge.  That is why commercial yarn dyers use dye lots on their balls of yarn.  The best advice I can give in the dye business is to dye more than you think you’ll need for a project.  Better too much than too little.

As for safety in dyeing?  Always wear a mask to protect your airways from breathing in dry dye powder when you mix the dye powder with water before adding it to the dye bath.

Wear rubber/latex gloves to handle the dye powders. Dye powders can make a person very sick, so be cautious!

When mixing the fibre in the dye bath there are special dye gloves you can use that insulate you against simmering water.  These are nice for just picking up fibre and transferring it between pots, sink, etc.  They come in different sizes, like regular rubber gloves and the latex gloves.

Always work in a well ventilated room.  When I dye in winter it is only on warm days when I can open the windows and doors and get a cross breeze flowing through the house.  I keep the fan on in the kitchen at all times.

Protect the surfaces you are working on with newsprint or an old cookie sheet with sides that you are designating specifically for dyeing, or both.  I actually have an old metal cookie sheet with sides that I line with newsprint flyers to set my dyes on and mix them.

It goes without saying whatever touches dye does not touch your mouth or get used for food consumption in any way, shape, or form.  Keep a separate measuring cup and measuring spoons for dyeing.  As well as a separate large wooden spoon, tongs, and dye pot.

Akin to the above rule is “Do NOT eat while you are dyeing fibre”.  There are too many chances for things to go wrong.  If you must eat, do it in another room.  Do not prepare food around the dyeing process either.  You would be surprised how easy it is for dye to spatter or loose powder to get on the countertop without you knowing.  I just don’t risk it.

Have a roll of paper towels/some old dishcloths designated as dye cloths to wipe up spills.   Comet will wipe up stains on laminate countertops.  Not sure about granite and the like.  Wash the dishcloths separately from your other laundry and store them with the dye equipment.

Never leave the dye pot unattended.  It boils over easily in my experience.  Nothing like a dye bath mess to clean up on your stove!

That’s about it for the first post on dyeing.  Catch up with you later for more!


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