Monday, June 20, 2011

Acid Dyes

 Frost Ribbon dyed with acid dyes
As I mentioned yesterday, you use acid dyes to dye protein fibers.

Protein fibers are animal fibers:   wool, mohair, alpaca, angora, dog, llama, camel, buffalo, silk.

Protein fibers require heat and acid to set the dye.    Alkali will break down and damage protein fibers - think 'bad perm'.

Use Acid Dyes to dye protein fibers, soy silk and nylon.    Acid dyes sound scary, but they are very safe.   They are called acid dyes only because it takes a little acid to get the chemistry right so the fibers will take up the dye.   I use citric acid.  You can use vinegar or ammonium sulfate [fertilizer, sometimes available in garden stores.]

Acid dyes are very efficient.  97% of the dye takes up, so if you do things right, it'll only take one rinse to get the rest of the dye out - very important if you're trying not to felt your wool!   Also, acid dyes last for a very long time in liquid form.  You can mix up your dye solution and let it sit.   And sit.  And sit.   For more than a year.  [I know; I've done it.].

Here are some places to get acid dyes: 

My favorite acid dyes are Washfast Acid Dyes from  They have a couple of other types of acid dyes, too and any of them will work beautifully on your fibers.   Just read through the basic instructions and choose the type you like best and go with those dyes.  One Shot dyes are fun, easy and in smaller quantities that are affordable enough that you can get several colors to play with.

You can also find acid dyes at They carry Jacquard Dyes, which are lovely, easy to mix up and reasonably priced.  

If you're just starting out and want to really play before you make a big commitment or if you have children at home and don't want to risk a dye accident, then I suggest using Kool-Aid [or other drink mixes].   Kool-Aid is made with food grade acid dyes.   Use the unsweetened kind!

You can also use cake decorating gels.    Here's a challenge:  use the black and see what happens.  [Hint:  you don't get black....]

I rarely do immersion dyeing.   My yarns are hand painted.  The basic process for dye painting protein fibers with acid dyes is this:
1.  Wet out your fibers in hot water with acid in it.
2.  Mix up your dyes into dye solutions
3.  Paint your skeins with the dye
4.  Heat the skeins
5.  Cool the skeins
6.  Rinse and dry. 

More details on this tomorrow, with pics of my set up.

Happy dyeing!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you pointed that out about acid dyes because the name did scare me. Not that I have an intentions of dyeing, but it's good to know just to know. ;)


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