Saturday, November 17, 2012

Time To Dye, My Sweet

Last night Kerry, my guild/fiber/weaving/spinning partner and crime (and also wonderful friend) and I had an up close and personal encounter with Pro MX Fiber Reactive Dye. This is the view from my side of the Dye Lab island.

Do you remember Bob Costas' "Up Close & Personal" segments from the '96 Olympics? And how we all use the phrase now when we never did before, in that way? And were you totally over it by the 2000 Olympics? Me too. Used it anyway. 

Kerry skeined up hundreds and hundreds of yards of 8/2 cotton that we purchased from WCMercantile on Etsy, and picked up soda ash at a local pool supply store. 

I'm all about learning from experience, regardless of success. 

Lesson #1: As spinners we are accustomed to working in animal fibers - things that FELT when agitated or subjected to weird temps. So when you dye animal fibers, you have to be a little careful. Those finicky rules go right out the window with plant fibers!!!  Weeeeee! I think we had as much fun mushing and twisting the heck out of those hanks as we did playing with colors.

Lesson #2: Some rules are for safety. Don't reuse containers for food unless you are using Wilton or other food dyes. Soda ash stinks and you definitely need to use gloves because it will irritate your skin. 

Lesson #3: Some rules are best practice, but do let your intuition guide you. Have fun! If your gut says "I want purple" then do it. If your gut says it needs more dye powder because the color seems weak, then it probably does. Even for a novice, your gut is smarter than we give it credit. If the color is all goofed up, dye it black and move on.  

Lesson #4: Have more dyeing containers than you need. We were scrounging around the house for containers. I was ready to dump out one of the full containers of spackle just to get another dye bucket. Chopsticks make great pokers/stirrers/lifters.

Lesson #5: Don't be stingy with the dye powder. In the grand scheme of life, it's pretty affordable. 

Lesson #6: Have a rinsing strategy. We used my roomy kitchen, threw a nice think sheet of plastic over the island, and had a blast. But there was NO WAY that dye was gonna hit MY WHITE PORCELAIN SINK. 
Kerry: Where should we dump this batch of dye?  
Erin: Uhm. (looks around dumbly) I dunno. Outside? (I had read that it was safe to dump outside so I felt pretty solid on this)
Kerry: Where should we rinse our hanks?
Erin: Oh crap. Uhm. Bathroom, we're replacing that sink anyway.
As it turns out, the old bathroom sink wasn't stained at all. But have a rinsing strategy, especially if the weather doesn't really permit outdoor dyeing.  This also goes to Lesson #3, because we had to reuse containers until we swiped some from my DH's tool shelf.

Lesson #7: Allow enough time. This stuff wants to sit in soda ash for a a minimum of 30 min (prepares the fiber to accept the dye), and cure in it's dye bath for no less than 3 hours. We wove and warped in between bouts of soaking, dyeing, and rinsing.

Lesson #8: Don't give up. Keep playing with dye. I'm really happy I gave it another shot, and that I did it with someone less constrained by being over-careful than I.


p.s. - as I write, the hanks are still drying.


  1. Hi Kerry,
    I don't know if you will find it, but I left a message for you on my blog..Overshot-A Work In Progress.
    I am not too sure how this "blog" stuff works sometimes. Maybe you can find my reply.
    Thanks for checking me out.
    Ann at

    1. Thanks, Ann! I'm trying to find the message now :)