The Four Day Dye Experiment

The Four Day Dye Experiment

I recently read some new instructions for dyeing using citric acid and salt. Well not new,  I took a class a couple of years ago where the instructor used similar instructions. Normally, I use vinegar for dyeing.  But I like to experiment.  I have also been wanting to try some new fibers and have never dyed something I’ve already felted.  So, I decided to combine the experiments.

I made samples using Cheviot, Romney, Icelandic, Texas Mohair locks and Domestic 56’s.  On each sample I put a piece of silk Habatoi, silk gauze, thick and thin yarn, mulberry silk and prefelt. I was going to make a placemat out of them, but they all shrank differently, so I have to rethink what to do with them.

felted samplesAccording to the instructions, I had to weigh the fabric to dye (before soaking in synthrapol).  I had a large pot so I put together some Merino, silk habatoi, wool yarn, and wool thick and thin yarn along with my samples.  All total 128 grams.  Next, into the soak, then on to mixing the citric acid and salt solutions.

After a thorough search, I couldn’t find the citric acid I thought I had. Whoops.  Well, it should still work with vinegar, right?

1 gram of fiber= 1 milliliter of dye.  Then depending on the Depth of Shade desired the amount can be multiplied by 1 through 5 (light to dark.)  When I filled the syringe with 120 ml of dye, it looked like a lot so I decided just one DOS would be enough to start. Normally, I would use a tablespoon of dye.  If I wanted a darker shade, I could add more dye later or overdye it.  I used my own dye stock that I had on hand.  After getting the fiber and dye bath up to temperature (185 degrees), I let it simmer for 30 minutes and checked it.  The water was still very dark.  I added more vinegar and let it simmer for another 15 minutes. No change. Another 15 minutes, then I added more vinegar and turned the heat off and left it until morning expecting it to be exhausted.

day 1 BSurprise!  Beautiful colors, but plenty of dye left.  I removed the fibers, rinsed and rinsed then let them dry.

Back to the dye pot.  I decided I probably didn’t need more teal fiber, so I added a couple of teaspoons of yellow.  Then put in some Domestic 56s, alpaca/silk, kid mohair yarn, Cheviot and silk gauze after soaking in vinegar. I repeated the dye procedure.

day 2Staring at the dye pot the next morning, there was still plenty of color left.  So, on to day 3 with Domestic 56s and Cheviot.

Day 3bOkay, enough, right? Dont laugh. I had to see this through.  Day 4 included thick and thin yarn, wool yarn, a piece of felted Wensleydale, silk habatoi, Romney and Merino. I expected some pastel colors the next morning. No.

Day 4Finally, the dye bath was exhausted and I had the biggest surprise of all. The Romney was darker than the fibers on the first day.  It’s a good thing I like teal.

4 days

I finally realized my mistake — my prepared dye mix  is 1 teaspoon dye powder to 8 ounces of water which is double the concentration than what the instructions were for making the dye solution.  (1 part dye powder to 100 parts water — i.e. 5 gm dye powder to 500 ml of water.)  I didn’t pay attention to the dye solution instructions because I had already had some made.  My bad.

I haven’t given up.  I have citric acid now but will try a much smaller amount of fiber and the right amount of dye solution.  But now on to make some batts and start a new project.










28 thoughts on “The Four Day Dye Experiment

    1. Thanks Lyn! I’ve started using them already. I do love that color way.

  1. Well that is the lot of dyers. It is fun though. one of my favourites colours is mallard green. It is closest to the last day you dyed. It very green blue/green. you can get some nice colours from the exhaust paths too when you over do it with the dye. at least you measured I never do anymore. you shouldn’t get any difference between citric acid and vinegar. I believe salt is supposed to slow down the dye uptake so you get a more even dye job.

    1. Yes, that was a lot of dye and it was fun. I just kept looking around for more things to dye. Normally I just use a tablespoon of dye then add as needed and it works fine. Because I intended to use the citric acid I was trying to follow instructions. So much for that. 🙂

  2. That’s really funny, Marilyn, I had a similar experience last week, trying procion dyes. I started with a green and dyed some fibres, wool yarn cotton thread and cotton scrim, but it didn’t seem exhausted so then I overdyed a shirt, and it still didn’t seem exhausted, so over the next few days I kept adding bits of cotton thread and wool yarn. The odd thing was, the cotton only turned shades of blue after the initial batch.
    What was the salt for?
    You’ve got a great selection of fibres and nice small felt pieces.

    1. Zed – the blue procion dyes take the longest to strike. That is why your last batch of cotton was only blue. The green/yellow side had already struck just leaving the blue dye which takes longer.

  3. What a fun experiment! You now have enough teal and green shades of fiber to last the rest of the year. What kind of dyes did you use, Marilyn? I have only used acid dyes and food colors, but what you did sounds different.

    1. Thanks for bringing that up Cathy. They were acid dyes. I’m sorry I didn’t mention that. The only thing that would have been different would have been using the citric acid and salt instead of vinegar. I just thought I’d give the citric acid a try. The vinegar works fine, but it does smell especially after four days. :-).

      Unfortunately, the fibers aren’t going to last very long. I’ve already put a good dent in the stash with my latest project.

  4. It is interesting how the different fibers take the same dye Zed. What’s funny is that our felting and dyeing experiences lately seem to be on some parallel creative plane.

    I love the colors I got. Now I have to figure out what to do with the samples like your wool breeds samples. I may try fulling the larger ones some more to see if I can get them to about the same size.

    I believe the salt is to help the fiber to take the dye evenly. I guess I’ll find out if that works next time.

  5. Always fun to experiment – I don’t measure either and never seem to keep any notes about what I did. I do love to use the exhaust baths and add different colors and then you come up with colors you hadn’t quite expected. It’s nice to have a range of colors in in the same colorway. And I love seeing how different fiber take the dye differently. Fun!

    1. Thanks Ruth! It is fun. It’s tempting to keep going especially when I mixed several new colors at once, but didn’t try them out yet. I usually forget to take notes, but at least I remembered to mark which fiber was which. 😉

  6. I love experimenting with dyes. Good for you for seeing this through over several days! I only use citric acid (with acid dyes, that is– salt is more for fiber-reactive dyes, I believe); CA is so much easier to use, and costs less than vinegar too– 1 Tablespoon CA is the equivalent of 11 T vinegar. And has no odor. Your colors are beautiful!

    1. Thanks Colormusing! It’s good to know its cheaper. Vinegar was just handy. But now that I have the citric acid I’m anxious to try it. Does it last a long time once it’s mixed or do you have to use it right away?

    2. What do you mean by once it’s mixed? I keep mine in its crystal form until I need to add it to the dye bath (if I’m immersion dyeing), or to the presoak mixture if I’m hand-painting.

  7. The instructions said to mix 1 part CA to 2 parts water. I just wondered if you didn’t use it all that day if it would keep. Do you just put the crystals in the dye bath then and stir them in? Doing it that way you wouldn’t waste any. That makes sense.

    1. I usually just put the crystals right into the dye bath. I have even thrown them after the dye and fiber when I suddenly realised I forgot it. It worked fine.

    2. Thanks Ann! That’s good to know. I’m liking the idea of just winging it!

  8. You got some lovely shades of teal there and had lots of fun I’m sure. 🙂 Why not make an art out of a science? Serendipidy always wins with me! 🙂

    1. Thanks Judith! I love your philosophy! Works for me. You’re right about recipes.

  9. Haha, this made me laugh because it’s something I perfectly see myself doing – and ending up with a tonne of the same colour 🙂 The teals are absolutely gorgeous, Marilyn! Did you use your own mixture or a ready-made shade? And is it Dharma?

    Also, very interesting to see how different fibres react to the same colour…

    1. Thanks Leonor! I used a Jacquard teal. It’s a tough color to get by mixing. Maybe someday I’ll figure that out too as long as I keep experimenting.

    1. Thanks Nada! I love this color way. You’ll be seeing a lot of it in my future work.

  10. You really got a lot of mileage from your dyes. I like to experiment with color and always like to end up with greyish browns. They work well as a neutral with anything.

    1. thanks Judy! I sure did. I haven’t try browns yet, but I’m sure I will.

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