Fiber - Textile History from Straw Into Gold

See TAN article reprint about history and chemistry of fiber reactive dyes here.

Simplified Procion Instructions

For painting and spraying recipe see this page.

From 1971 until the early 1980s Straw Into Gold sold both natural dyes and synthetic dyes. We no longer do so. But, since the owner, Susan Druding, taught many classes in dyeing and wrote a lot of instruction sheets we thought it would be useful to share these with Web visitors.

You are welcome to print out these instructions for your personal use, but they are not to be incorporated into other published instructions either on paper or electronically without permission.  copyright 1998 Susan Druding. 

These instructions are written for the person not planning on doing much dyeing, but who just wants to get some cotton or other cellulose fiber (rayon, linen, etc) dyed with little fuss and a minimum of instruction reading and equipment. You will be wasting a little dye this way and not be getting reproducible colors, but you will have a simple procedure that will yield fast, non-fading colors. These instruction are geared to applying the color evenly without streaks or mottling. If you wish to have uneven color (for instance for quilting fabric) then you can break certain of the rules below. See the end of the instructions for tips on getting uneven color deliberately.

Safety Note: Be careful not to inhale the dye powder. If you plan to do more than 1-2 batches of dyeing, we strongly recommend you wear a respirator filter mask. Dye powder can be very irritating to the lungs. If you are dyeing with children - do not let them handle the dye powder. You should dissolve it in liquid first for them so they are working with liquid dye stock.

1. Fabrics, yarns or whatever you plan to dye must be thoroughly clean and wet before putting into dyebath. Procion works best on cotton, rayon, linen, jute. It will not dye synthetics nor will it dye wool very well. Procion will work on silk, but shades will be lighter and not the same color as on cotton.

2. This recipe is for one pound of goods (about 3 yards of medium weight cotton fabric or 5-6 yds of lightweight cotton fabric).  If you are unsure of the weight of what you are dyeing you could take it to a produce department at a grocery store and weigh it. Adjust all additions proportionately to the weight of goods being dyed. If you are dyeing only 1/2 pound, cut in half the dye amount, the water amount, the salt and soda amount.

3. Put 1/2 ounce of dye (often dye is sold in 1/2 oz. packages which makes it handy to dilute) into a plastic disposable cup (do not use your drinking glasses). If you purchase dye in a 1 oz. package you can estimate half. Add lukewarm water a little at a time and stir into a paste. (inexpensive chopsticks make good stirrers and can be thrown away afterwards)

4. In an enamel pot, stainless steel pot, plastic bucket or pail, but not aluminum (do not use your cooking pots!) put two gallons of hot tap water (as hot as you can get from your tap which is usually about 105-110 deg F.). Plastic cat litter pans make good dye containers as you can spread out the fabric or yarn in them. Put the dissolved dye into this 2 gallons of hot water and mix well.

Note: This proportion of 1/2 oz. of dye powder to 1 pound of fiber or fabric will give you a medium-deep shade. If you wish light or pale shades, add only 1/2 or 1/4 of the dissolved dye to the dye bath. Or if you wish to mix colors you can add 1/2 the dissolved dye of two different colors to the bath. To make lighter colors you only reduce the amount of the dye, not the amount of salt and soda - these stay the same, based on weight of fiber or fabric being dyed. You only reduce the amount of salt and soda if you are reducing the amount of fiber-fabric being dyed.


5. Add 1 pound of plain table salt (if you simply cannot find any you can use iodized salt - it might slightly affect the colors, but not enough to cause a problem). Stir to dissolve the salt. (Yes, you add one pound of salt for one pound of fabric-fiber being dyed.) If you are trying to dye a deep color (such as black or navy) you can even add 1.5 lbs of salt. The salt helps to "push" the dye into the fiber and salt is much less money than dye!

6. Stir gently for a minute. Let the fiber-fabric sit in the bath of dye+salt for 10 minutes or so. Stir gently every 5 minutes to help distribute the dye evenly. Meanwhile in a cup of warm water dissolve 2 heaping Tablespoons (about 2 oz) of Washing Soda (or Soda Ash if you can get it). Soda is what "sets" the dye into the fiber. Slowly add the dissolved soda to the fabric in the dyebath, stirring gently and continually. This is when stirring will really help to prevent streaking while the dye is being set into the fiber.

7. Allow the fabric or fiber to sit in the dye bath until the desired color level is reached. Stir gently and often. Light shades will take 20-30 minutes while deep shades will take up to an hour.

8. After dyeing is complete it is essential to wash the fabric or yarn in hot soapy water and rinse well. For deep shades you may want to wash 3-4 times with rinsing in plenty of water. If you have dyed fabric you may want to run it through a double cycle in a washing machine.


A. You may overdye an existing color, but remember the color underneath affects the color you put on top.

B. If you want streaky or mottled effect: don't stir during dyeing, add the soda all at once and don't stir much and use less water than called for to "crowd" the fabric.

C. If you are comparing this procedure to one using "percent color" formulas, the proportion given of 1/2 ounce of dye on one pound of fiber or fabric is equivalent to approximately a 3% level of dye.

Simplified Procion Instructions
written by Susan Druding
Originally for use with Spectrum Dyestuffs (the brand name of the dyes sold by Straw Into Gold)
1977 in class handout format, 1998 on Straw Into Gold's Web site.

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