Direct Dyeing

Direct Dyeing

Direct dyeing is a method where the dye is applied directly to the fibre. This can be done with very small or fairly large amounts of fibre depending on what utensils are available to you, but it is particularly good for smaller amounts. One advantage is that the fibres don’t move around so there is less tangling or felting. Another advantage is that very small amounts of dye can be made up, reducing the risk of waste.

Dyed Silk Throwster’s waste

 I have written a step by step tutorial with lots of photos and a table to help work out very small amounts of dye/solution. I apologise to anyone more familiar with imperial measurements, the quantities used are so small that the tiniest measuring spoons are used and they are metric, so it was easier to stick to one measurement. And also US and UK fluid ounces differ, and even cups have metric, US and Canadian versions 🙂  If anyone needs a converter I find online conversion is excellent for everything.

Direct Dyeing Tutorial, please click for PDF

21 thoughts on “Direct Dyeing

  1. Fantastic tutorial. Thanks Zed!

    I’m wondering if it’s possible to dye finished/felted pieces with this process too. Has anyone tried that?

    1. Thanks a lot, Shana 🙂
      Yeah, it works on already felted pieces, I haven’t tried it myself yet, but I have a couple of white sample pieces I was thinking of trying. I should measure them first to see if there is further shrinkage.

  2. Please let us know how that goes!

    The only dyeing I’ve done has been with Kool-Aid in the microwave. Works quick (and smells great!), but my art-conservator friend yelled at me for using them. Time for “grown up” dyes 🙂

    Do you think using the microwave instead of a steamer could work for setting? I suppose you risk contaminating the microwave, huh?

    1. I don’t have a microwave so haven’t tried it, but I know others have, so hopefully someone will reply 🙂
      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using Kool Aid, loads of people do 🙂

    2. Shana, I have set in the microwave and it works really well – as long as you don’t over-cook it like I did and it burnt. And you are not supposed to use the same microwave that you cook in. Acid dyes are very toxic over time. I have been known to bend the rules but was told off right royally!!

    3. Good to know Liz. Now I know how to get that new microwave I want 😀

      The issue with Kool-Aid & food coloring agents is that they are only meant to last until it’s imbibed. They *might* even hold up to years of wear & washing, but if you’re making art objects it’s better to stick with lightfast dyes.

    4. You shouldn’t use the same microwave for dying as for food. if you are using food colour you would be fine. I got my dye microwave on a local freecycle site.

  3. Thanks Zed, looking forward to felting then dyeing using your method..I’ve only done it on silk to date, in a saucepan andit was easy and successful. By the way Felting and Fibre Studio is GREAT and full of such useful information, I love it.

  4. That’s a really clear and helpful tutorial – and just what I was looking for! Thankyou so much for sharing it. And I’ve learned a lot from the above comments. I’ve just ordered some undyed wools and will now have a go at dying some myself. I have an electric steamer that I never use, which I may dig out. Any tips about where to get the dyes?

    1. Thanks, Deb 🙂
      I’ve used Ashford dyes, I think someone bought me a pack of Red, Yellow and Blue…I don’t know where that came from, but they are a very popular brand, so they should be widely available.
      And World of Wool do their own dyes which seem very similar:
      they are really cheap, £2.50 for 10g which will dye 1kg of fibre.
      100g is only £7.50!

  5. Kool aid dyes last for a very long time. I wove a blanket for my daughter at least 12 years ago using yarn I had dyed with Koolaid. It is now in shreds, but the dyes are still bright.
    I do not use Koolaid as the regular acid dyes are much, much cheaper.

  6. I love the whole web page and particularly your tutorials. I am rather new to felting and here it is difficult to get the shades of colour that I would want. So dyeing is the answer! However, I do not have a steamer. If I use the microwave instead, how long should I treat the fibers in it and should I use low, medium or high level? Thanks for your answer.

    1. Hi Nada, thanks for the compliments 🙂
      I don’t have a microwave, so I’ll ask the others to reply when they get the chance 🙂

    2. Hi Nada, thanks for the compliments 🙂
      I don’t have a microwave, so I’ll ask the others to reply when they get the chance 🙂

    3. Hi Nada – when I use the microwave, I do my dyeing in small amounts in plastic bags. I pre-soak the fibers in water with vinegar or acetic acid (about a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water) for 30 minutes, then I add the fiber to the plastic bag, squirt the prepared dye solution into the bag, squeeze the fibers gently to distribute the dye and then microwave for 1 minute on medium to high. If the liquid is not clear, then I microwave for 1 more minute. You should use an old microwave for this that isn’t used for food and you should never put dry fibers in the microwave. They will catch on fire. Best of luck and do let us know if you have any more questions. Or you could join the forum and get lots of answers there. Just click on the forum button on the sidebar. 🙂

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