Hi all! Time for another edition of Dyeing Tips. 🙂 Bear in mind these tips are ones I go by when dyeing the bright colors I prefer to use in my wall hangings. Whether your color is lightfast or not (lasts a long time) depends a lot on the type of dye and chemical used to set the dye, as well as the methodology used for dyeing. I hope this helps people.
Depending on the wool, pre-wash it before dyeing. Because my yarns are not pre-washed, I don’t pre-wash a lot of my fabric. However, I simmer both yarn and fabric in the dyeing process, so they are ‘fulled’, or partially felted, when they dry out. Any undyed fabric or commercial fabric is pre-washed (for example, up cycled fabric or fabric I want to use off the bolt). It should be noted here that I am creating wall hangings, not rugs for the floor. You may feel more comfortable running everything through the washing machine and dryer before hooking, especially if it is a floor rug made completely from wool fabric.
Soak fibre in water with Synthrapol or DAWN original dishwashing liquid soap overnight before dyeing. Not doing this can cause the dye to absorb unevenly on wool fabric, leaving the inner part of the wool white and the surface blotched. When the inner part is left white after dyeing we call it “white core”. It is not good as the color doesn’t stay on the surface of the wool fabric as long as it normally would.
Squeeze out the soaked wool and rinse before putting in the dye bath. Some people dye with the Synthrapol in the dye bath. I find it bothersome as the foam or suds get in the way of seeing how well the color has absorbed. Plus the dye bath seems to have a greater tendency to boil over.
Never ‘shock’ the wool. If it’s been sitting in cold water overnight, put it in cold water on the stove and heat up gradually. It usually takes 15 minutes on my stove to go from cold to simmering.
Dyeing wool should be simmered, not boiled to death! We’re fulling the wool, not boiling it for a coat. Also, dyes absorb best at a certain temperature…simmering or just below simmering.
A word about mordants. A mordant is the agent used to set the dye. Rug hookers often use vinegar or citric acid, but you can also use dyer’s alum and other chemicals. Add the mordant according to directions. You can pre-mordant, simultaneous mordant, and add mordant after the dye stuff is added. I prefer to add the mordant once the fibre has been in the dye bath and comes to a simmer (approximately 15 minutes on the stovetop). Be careful not to add too much mordant. It will make the fabric stiff in some cases (alum) and cause it to disintegrate prematurely.
Vinegar acts as a mordant, but is really a ‘modifier’. It does not hold color for very long compared to other mordants. I prefer Citric Acid for this. Though dyer’s alum is good too. There are many different types of mordants and before use one needs to research the safety requirements and suitability for the fibres they are dyeing. A word about alum: be sure you have dyer’s alum and not regular alum. Dyer’s alum is a different chemical that gives different colors.
Leave the fibre in the dye bath until all the color has been absorbed. This usually takes 45 minutes to an hour on my stove. I suggest ‘cooking’ the fibre for one hour after it comes to a simmer. Not leaving the wool in the water long enough can also result in white core. It can also result in the color fading more quickly than it would otherwise.
And last, but not least, keep a record of everything you do. That way if you have to go back and dye more, at least you have a guideline to go by. Better to have something in writing than counting on your memory or trying to color match a swatch or stripette (worm) by eye. Ask me how I know!
There you go! Those are my general tips for dyeing fibre. I’ll post another final post on dyeing resources next week. Have a great weekend everyone!