Monday, November 7, 2011

Kitchen Dyeing Yarn: The Basics

This is a page I created for the "What a Kool Way to Dye" discussion forum on Ravelry. I am republishing it here so that it can be used as a resource for those who are not part of Ravelry.

So, you want to dye some yarn in your kitchen, huh?

What do you need?
protein-based fiber (usually pre-soaked)
artificial colors

What happens?
These ingredients undergo a chemical reaction that bonds the color to the protein.

Hand-dyed yarn or spinning fiber

Types of protein fiber
Wool is the most widely used protein fiber when dyeing with acid dyes. However, other fibers will take acid dyed colors as well. Here’s a partial list.

Nylon (the only synthetic that this will work on)
Odd fibers
Some have had difficulty with soy, but chemically it should work. My personal experience was that it took higher temps (~210F) for a longer time. I also added more acid for good measure.

Basically, any animal hair should work. However, I’ve heard that dog hair does not work (someone can correct me if I’m wrong) and it may vary with the breed as well. Milk-based yarn is made with protein as well. If so it should also take acid dyes.

Here is a great blog post by brewergnome that discusses the chemistry of what dyes with acid dyes & what doesn’t.

Dyeing 101: The Chemistry of Fibers - Soy, Milk, Chitin, Etc.

Sources of Artificial Color
Kool-Aid (the packets that make 2qts & have no sugar or artificial sweetener)
Any generic version of this is fine as long as the ingredients state an FD & C numbered artificial color.
Klass drink mix (the acid in these is Fumaric acid)
Food coloring (liquid or gel)--not “gel writers”
Common U.S. brands are McCormicks and Betty Crocker.
Wilton’s Icing Colors (not white)
Easter egg tablets
Sugar-free Jello (some have gotten gelatin residue in their yarn…I will see if I can find the trick to avoid this)

Types of Acid
Lemon Juice
Citric acid
This is an ingredient in the Kool Aid packets mentioned above so you don't need to add more acid. It is also sold as "Fruit Fresh" in the grocery store or can be purchased in bulk from dyeing suppliers.*
Invisible Kool Aid (in packets)
This is basically the same as using citric acid

Sources of Heat
The trick to heating is that you need to get near boiling and hold it there for long enough that the color will exhaust (complete bonding). For example, wool’s target temp is 170F and silk is 180F. A meat probe or candy thermometer can come in handy to monitor this. For non-superwash fiber, boiling will lead to felting.

Stove top (stock pot or steamer basket)
Crock Pot
Rice Steamer
Dishwasher (steam)

Have fun dyeing!