A Simple Method of One-Pot, Multi-Color
Dyeing with Acid Wool Dyes on Protein (Wool, Silk, Nylon) Fibers
Caution: Do not use utensils and containers used for food preparation.
Measuring Spoons, Cup Measure, Eyedropper (optional)
Quart or Pint Jars with lids (one for each color) .
Dye pot with tight fitting lid (enamel or stainless).
Rack for the bottom of the pot (canning rack, steamer, inverted pie pan with holes).
Wooden dowels for stirring and lifting yarn.
Stove or other adjustable heat source.
Optional: bucket or spray bottle for dampening fibers.
Cheap, clear plastic cups from grocery store.
Yarn, fleece or wool top or sliver.
Acid: either vinegar (5% acid) or Acetic Acid (56 % acid)
Dye Powder: Acid Wool Dyes in a range of mixable colors such as yellow, scarlet or
magenta, blue or turquoise, black.
To Prepare Stock Solutions:
Measure dye powder into jar. Use 1/2 oz. for a quart jar or 1/4
oz. for a pint. Caution: do not inhale dye powders.
Add warm tap water to powder a little at a time, stir carefully to make a smooth paste.
Generally add enough warm water to make up a quart of solution (or pint).
Additional Information: Most stock solutions keep for months, be sure to label bottle
and lids with color name and date, show type of dye.
To Prepare Yarn, Fleece, Top, or Sliver
Large canning pots hold up to 1 lb of yarn or 8 oz of loose fleece or tops.
Clean fiber produces consistent results and absorbs the most dye. Greasy or partially
clean fleece produces interesting streaks, but your pot will eventually get scummy and
more dye is needed.
Wind yarn into skeins and tie loosely in several places with a figure-8 type tie. (Twist
and fold skeins double if "ikat effects" are desired.)
Fiber does not have to be wetted before dyeing. For "blurry" color effects,
spray fiber with water or dip it into water for 5 seconds and squeeze out excess until
damp, not wet. (dry areas do not take up dye and increase uneven effects.)
Build up a "head of steam" in the pot.
Fill bottom of pot with 2 inches of water.
Add 1 cup of vinegar or 5 tsp. of Acetic Acid (56%) or 3 tsp's. of Glacial 98% Acetic
Put rack in pot, cover pot with tightly fitting lid. Add weight on top of lid if
necessary to hold lid down tightly (such as a brick).
Heat pot. Caution: Avoid burns by removing lid with care and wearing oven glove.
Mix "pouring colors" in plastic cups. Use 1-3 cups of "pouring
colors" per batch.
Fill cup half full of water.
Add 1 to 8 Tblsp's of dye stock solutions (1 Tblsp for pastels, 8 Tblsp's for dark
Add either 3 Tblsp's vinegar or 1 tsp acetic acid to each cup
Single color method: Add different amounts of the same color dye stock to each
cup. For example: 1 Tblsp to 1st cup, 4 Tblsp's to 2nd cup, 8 Tblsp's to 3rd cup
Multi-color method: Add different color to each cup. Try using colors equidistant
from each other on the color wheel (triads). For example: add scarlet or magenta to 1st
cup, yellow to second cup, turquoise or blue to 3rd cup.
Additional information: Stock colors may be mixed to make other pouring colors.
Use an eye dropper to add small amounts of black or other colors, to shade, for example:
shades of one color by putting the same color in each plastic cup, but add no black to the
1st, 6 drops black to 2nd, 20 drops black to 3rd, and 50 drops black to fourth. This helps
keep your finished colors more subtle and less garish/tie-dye looking.
Lay fiber on rack in steaming pot. Drizzle 1 or 2 cups of various pouring colors
on top of fiber. Put on lid and let steam. More colors may be added in 5-10 mins. Use
different drizzle "patterns": figure-8, Z's, S's, H's.
Cover pot and steam for 10-15 mins. Weigh down yarn with dinner plate if pot is
not full of yarn or fiber. If pot is tightly filled let steam extra 5-10 mins. Carefully
(wear oven mitt) remove lid and check color. Turn fiber over and drizzle on more colors.
Steam another 5-10 mins. or more. If you had yarn twisted for "ikat effect" use
dowels to untwist for last few minutes of steaming.
Let fiber cool to hand temperature, then rinse well to remove unfixed colors.
Wash in warm soapy water with liquid, dishwashing detergent then rinse if you used deep
tone colors. Yarns will look their most fluffy if excess water is removed quickly by
spinning in washing machine or squeezing in several bath towels.
These directions were originally written for use with Kiton Wool Dyes, but any Wool
Acid levelling type dye will work similarly.
Druding and Susie Hodges
originally published Textile Artists' Newsletter (TAN) V.III no.2 1982