There are resources out there to help you in choosing a dye powder and mordant, and that tell you how much to use. I highly recommend checking them out. The following are my suggestions and opinions based on what I’ve used in the past 33 years of dying.
One resource is Karen Casselman’s “Craft of the Dyer”, which goes through various mordants for wool and has a handy chart that shows you how much of a mordant to use for one pound of wool. She focuses on dyeing with lichen, which can be difficult to find in parts of the country.
Another is “Dyeing Wool and Other Protein Fibers: an introduction to acid dyes” by Susan Rex. The author provides a comparison between the more common dyes and provides formulas for figuring out how much you need of each type to get the color you need. This is a difficult to find resource and you are more likely to find it on a used book site like Abes Books.
Note: neither of these books is for the faint of heart or the beginner. These are detailed dye books for the intermediate to advanced dyer.
For beginner dyers, I recommend Majic Carpet dyes. These are food grade dyes, but don’t be fooled. From the distributor of Majic Carpet dyes “My dyes are professional grade acid reactive dyes…Majic Carpet Dyes are for master dyers and beginners and everyone in between.” (please see comment section below for further comments about the dyes from Wanda Kerr). You still need a mask everyone! And separate utensils and pots.
While I enjoy using Majic Carpet dyes, and have used them for years, I also have found them to not be as lightfast as other dyes. However, lightfastness can also be affected by the dyeing process and the mordant you use. I used to use vinegar, but now use citric acid.
Books using Majic Carpet dyes are: Barbie Baker-Dykens dye books (“Formation of New Formulae” and “Basic Color Theory”), or Susan Logue’s “Past & Present Antique Colors & Spots”, Christine Little and Susan Logue’s “Antique Colors and Spots – Book II”, Christine Little’s “SkyBluePink With a Green Smell – Book I”, and “Seeing Spots Before Your Eyes – Book 1”, available from Encompassing Designs in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia.
If you want to use ProChem dyes there are a multitude of dye books out there too. I like Gene Shepherd’s “Prepared to Dye”, but I also bought the DVDs for the book to clarify some issues. If I had to choose between one or the other, I’d buy the DVDs first.
There are a lot of dyeing resources available. Many more new ones since I started dyeing. Plus if you search the Internet you can find detailed instructions on different dyeing methods. Just make sure they are suited to the fibre you are dyeing.
Silk and wool are animal fibers and take up dye differently and use different dyes than cotton or synthetics. Nylon will dye with the same dyes used on silk and wool, but all three will take up color differently. I find silk to be the lightest, then wool, and then nylon the darkest. Also some colors are made up of more than one color pigment, and different fibers prefer to take up different colors. Meaning you could put nylon, silk, and wool in a medium green dye bath and get a blue green nylon, a light yellow green silk, and a wool closer to the desired green color. Of course, this also depends on the dye used.
So there’s a few resources for you to work with to get started. If you have any favorite resources, post them below. We’d like to know.