These instructions were originally written by Susan Druding for use with Spectrum Dyes and for her dye classes. Spectrum Dyes was the brand name used by Straw Into Gold for its dyes which are no longer sold. This class of dyes, Acid Levelling, are still in use under a variety of names. If the dye is for wool, nylon or protein fibers and calls for heat, acid, and is able to level (ie. spread itself evenly over fibers to reduce streaking) - then chances are it is an acid levelling type.
Note: Straw into Gold no longer sells dyes. Check current issues of various fiber magazines for suppliers of dyes.
These instructions are not to be reprinted in any form, including electronically, except for personal use without permission from the author. Susan Druding copyright 1982 [email cpyinfo at straw.com - replace the 'at' with @ for emailing]
The Short Method is for those who want to dye yarn or fabric without particularly controlling the exact color or intensity for repeatabIe resuIts. They keep everything very simple and are not meant to allow matching colors or keeping detailed records. But, please read the complete instructions under the section Long Method since some dyeing techniques are not repeated here.
Acid Levelling dyes are recommended for all protein fibers such as wool and mohair, plus nylon and acid-dyeable acrylics (often used in wool blends). Acid dyes work on silk, but are not as washfast as they are on wool. For best washfastness on silk, use fiber reactive dyes.
Acid Levelling dyes (Kiton type) are set with either acetic acid or vinegar (five per cent acetic acid). In addition, Glauber Salts (sodium sulfate, a retarder), and commercial levelling agents such as Dispersol are useful in helping to prevent streaks. Acetic acid, available at photo or chemical supply outlets, is the least expensive choice when doing large quantities of dyeing. Vinegar may be any type, but plain white vinegar is cheapest in gallons. Glacial (98 per cent) acetic, should be diluted to half or quarter strength to use. When diluting acid, remember to pour the acid into water NOT water into acid. Glacial acetic is quite safe when handled carefully. Glaubers Salts and other levelling agents are usually available where dyes are sold, ask your dye supplier.
Make sure all yarns are completely wet and clean to allow dye to penetrate evenly with no streaks. All yarns and fabrics need to be washed before dyeing. Liquid dish detergent or Synthrapol cleans and acts as a wetting agent. It's not crucial to completely rinse after using Synthrapol as it is neutral.
Leave yarns soaking in warm water until ready to dye. A little tag of folded over on itself masking tape makes a good label. Write firmly on it with regular ball point pen or washfast pen, making a dark impression. It will last through the dyeing. Remember to weigh the yarns before wetting them. The amount of dye used is determined by the weight of the yarn so it is important to know the dry weight of the yarn. If necessary, the weight of soaking wet yarn divided by four is close to the dry weight.
Into the dyepot, put enough water to comfortably cover the yarn - or use a 20:1 "dye liquor ratio." This means put in 20 times the weight of the material to be dyed in water. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds. A pint weighs 16 ounces (one pound). Thus, one pound of yarn or fiber needs 20 pounds of water to dye it evenly, or two and one-half gallons. The more crowded the material is in the dyepot, the more likely it is to streak. Thus using too little water causes uneven dyeing. If streaking is desired, crowd the pot, using as little water as possible. For tiny samples in saucepans, use a ratio of 30:1 or more to get enough water depth to cover the sample being dyed with water.
To make a stock solution, dissolve one-half ounce of dye powder in one quart of tap water. First make the dye into a smooth paste and then add warm water to make one quart. Using a disposable plastic glass allows you to get the powder into paste first with water and then transfer the diluted paste to a quart jar. Label both bottle and lid. Lacking an accurate scale, one ounce of dye can be visually divided by spreading it evenly on creased waxed paper or tin foil and dividing it in half by length. Dye stock solutions keep for weeks or months. No refrigeration is necessary for acid dyes. If dye settles out a little in the jar, just set it in a pan of water and heat slowly. If mold or scum forms (a rare occurrence), simply skim or strain it with a paper towel, but be aware that it may change the strength of the solution. Dry dye powder keeps indefinitely.
The intensity of the color of yarn is described as a percent
of the weight of the yarn.
A two per cent color means that the amount of dye on the yarn is two percent of its weight. Thus, a 100 gram skein of yarn dyed to a two percent color depth would have two grams of dye on it (i.e. put in the dye pot).
All dyes, not just Acid Wool Dyes, are adjusted so that 0 to 5 % (some up to 6 %) covers the range of possible intensity of color from the palest of shades to the deep shades. By using stock solutions, very tiny amounts of dye, impossible to weigh on even the most expensive of scales or balances, are measureable.
For example, if one-half ounce of dye powder is put in 32 ounces of water (one quart), then every ounce of stock solution taken out (two Tablespoons) contains one-sixty fourth of an ounce of dye (1/32nd X 1/2 oz. = 1/64th oz.). Or, one teaspoon (which is one-sixth of an ounce of liquid) contains one-three hundred eighty-fourth of an ounce of dye (1/6th X 1/64th oz. = 1/384th oz.)
A recommended Stock Solution for developing sample colors is 1/2 ounce of dye in one quart of water. For this strength stock solution the following table may be used for calculating the percent of dye per one ounce of yarn or fiber being dyed. You may want to copy this table onto a 3 x 5" card and put it on the wall near your dye stove.
For One Ounce Yarn Percent Color Appearance Amt of Stock Solution (1/2-oz dye per quart water) .25 prcent very pale 1 tsp .50 prcent pastel 2 tsp 1.0 prcent lt. med. shade 4 tsp 2.0 prcent medium 8 tsp 3.0 prcent medium dark 12 tsp (4 Tblspoon) 4.0 prcent deep shade 16 tsp (5 Tblspoon) Black is an exception. Use 6 % for a full black, i.e. 24 tsp (8 TBLspoons) per ounce of yarn.
Notice that there are variations in strength from color to
For example, in the original Spectrum Kiton Wool Dye series the turquoise and magenta were especially strong, the blue and red slightly less so. This means mixing each color with yellow to form greens and oranges will require differing amounts of yellow in proportion. I recommend you always start with yellow and add very small amounts of other colors until the desired shade is reached. Keep good records. Each color has its own "personality" and it will soon become "known."
A good way to begin is to make a set of samples of each color in your set of unmixed Acid Dye colors at .25 through 4.0 percent to allow you to see what each color does by itself. Then do a set of 2ndary colors: green, orange, purple by combining pairs of your primary colors. You need to know the difference between a green mixed with blue and yellow as compared to one mixed with turquoise and yellow.
Start a notebook or set of 5x6" index cards right away, tape a yard of your sample color and note the Percent of Dye used for each color. These are invaluable when you collect them and will help you "aim" at new colors much more accurately.
If you plan to dye nylon or silk, the formulas will not look the same. You need a different set of samples for these fibers. Even mohair (which takes dye more deeply than wool) will have a different color appearance.
Spectrum KITON WOOL DYES were available
in the following colors. From these 7 colors you can mix
just about any color you could want:
Yellow, Blue, Red, Magenta, Turquoise, Scarlet, Black
The name "Kiton" was a brand name used by CIBA-Geigy to name their series of acid levelling dyes for a number of years. They no longer sell this range of dyestuffs, but the name lingers on in the textile art dyeing world. The first person to popularize Kiton Dyes was Frances Siminoff, a well known weaver from the 50's and earlier. She was married to Anthony Cardarelle who made spinning wheels in Richmond, California. I bought my first wheel from Tony and took my first dye classes from Frances back in 1965. I met Sambra Neet in this dye class and Sambra and I started Straw Into Gold together in Berkeley in 1971 not long after Tony Cardarelle died.
Frances Siminoff was very encouraging to our new business and turned over the Kiton dye business to us which she had run with Tony. She never used the percentage or stock solution method. Her technique was to mix the dye powders in the palm of her hand! or in a little cup and from long experience (and a love of bright intense colors) she did all her dyeing. (She also used Kiton to color her cake frostings - NOT recommended!) I had been a chemistry student too long to feel comfortable with her "by guess and by golly" method and decided to figure out how to control the colors. The Stock Solution Method was the result. I later applied this method to using a wide range of other types of dyes: fiber reactives, basics, directs, etc.
I have much more complete instructions written for The Stock Solution Method of Dyeing which were used in my classes and published in TAN-The Textile Artists' Newsletter. If readers here would like me to post them, please send me an email and tell me. I don't mind editing them into HTML and posting them if dyers find them useful, but I need to know someone wants them.
If there is anything that is unclear or you would like to ask about or question, please send email and I'll start a page of questions and answers here if it seems warranted.
You may occasionally still see old packets of Spectrum Dyestuffs. They will be marked with the old (pre-Crystal Palace Yarns) wholesale name, Textile Artists' Supply (aka Straw Into Gold), 3006 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702. These dyes are no longer available. We no longer sell any dyestuffs.
copyright 1982 Susan C. Druding Not to be reproduced without permission in any medium, including electronic. Permission granted to print out these instructions for your own personal use.