Author Archives: heavenlyfiber

Dyeing 1, 2, 3: Yarn and dyes – where do I get them?

To dye, you need dyes and something to dye, right? Today I’ll share with you the sources that I have found, whether helpful sources or not. A lot depends on how much dyeing you are planning to do.

Fiber and yarn:

There are many sources for both fiber and yarn for the dyer who only wants to dye a few skeins for personal use or to share with friends. Many indie Dyers on Etsy, for example, sell undyed skeins as well as their own work. For a few skeins at a time,

Wool2Dye4, sells skeins and a little fiber either at retail or wholesale prices

Knit Picks sells yarn at retail prices, Jacquard Acid dyes

Catnip Yarns sells yarn at retail prices

Dharma Trading Co. sells yarn at retail prices, Dharma Acid Dyes, Dharma Lanaset Acid Dyes, and Jacquard Acid Dyes, Textile detergent, and citric acid – pretty much one-stop shopping!

Ashland Bay  sells yarn and fiber at wholesale prices, but if all you want is a few skeins, Steph at WC Mercantile is an Ashland Bay dealer , has good prices and excellent customer service.

The Woolery sells fiber and yarn, some undyed

Paradise Fibers also sells fiber and yarn at retail prices. I don’t use them as they have no wholesale account and there are a number of reviews online, so judge for yourself.

For Heavenly Fiber, I use Ashland Bay for fiber and yarn. I love that they have US sourced products in both categories, their prices are great, and their customer service is outstanding. They do require a wholesale account which means you need to have established a business and buy in bulk. I also use Wool2Dye4 for a wholesale account, but they do have retail prices as well. Both suppliers provide quality products and great customer service.


Acid Dyes:

So, now you need color, right?

There are many ways to get color on fiber and yarn with acid dyes. All require heat and acid to facilitate the bond between the dye molecules and the yarn, but you have options, again depending on how much fiber you are dyeing. There are other sources out there that you can find in a web search, these are just the ones I have used and with good results.

The first dye many people start with is Kool-Aid. You MUST get the unsweetened variety – you don’t want to load your fiber with sugar, an open invitation to bug infestation! I’ve had very good results with Flavor-aid as well, usually for half the price. The problems I have with drink powders are that the colors can sometimes be muddy, and it takes a looooot of those little packages to get deep colors.

Wilton’s and other food colorings also work well, producing good colors without muddy results. Using these for a couple of skeins is ok, but for more than a couple the Wilton’s can get expensive.

Easter egg dyes can be purchased for little or nothing after Easter when products are being cleared out at grocery stores. It can be difficult to predict what the colors will actually turn out to be on yarn, but if you like cheap, serendipitous results, they are fun!

Acid Dyes: There are several sources for acid dyes. If you are concerned about heavy metals or chemical compounds, check out  Greener Shades Dyes .  Their company prides itself on using safe, non-toxic ingredients in all but one of their dyes.

Jacquard Dyes are a good starter dye, fairly inexpensive and fairly true to color.

Dharma acid dyes are a good mid-range dye, easy to obtain online, giving great results, and fairly easy to use.

Washfast dyes are my mainstay – good primary colors that are easy to mix for great results, good colorfastness, a wonderful (almost mind-boggling!) array of colors. Available through the Pro-Chem website (see link)

Lanaset dyes are the most colorfast of the acid dyes. If you decide to dye professionally, this will be your go-to dye. They are more expensive than other dyes, and require a little more care in the dye process for certain effects.

Sources: Knitpicks, Dharma Trading Co., WC Mercantile, and Mohair and More all sell Jacquard Acid Dyes.

The Woolery sells Greener Shades Acid Dyes 

You also need:

acid – citric acid or white vinegar

detergent for pre-soak – Synthrapol, Dharma Textile Detergent, or original blue Dawn

rinsing wash (like a conditioner for the fiber) – I use Eucalan, and have used Soak


Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It really isn’t. There are many ways to dye inexpensively and with very little money up front. Just don’t let me catch you using those dyeing dishes for spaghetti!


Next Time: Let’s get started dyeing!



Dyeing 1, 2, 3: What do I need to get started?

Equipment for dyeing with acid dyes is really very easy to come by. There are three types of equipment you will need: something in which to pre-soak and rinse your yarn or fiber, something in which to dye, and some kind of a heat source.

Pre-soak and rinse: I use the heck out of the 5 gallon buckets you can get at big home improvement stores and hardware stores, and even stores like Wally world. They will hold up to 20 skeins of yarn or a couple of pounds of fiber and can easily be rinsed out. If you are only dyeing a couple of skeins, you can use large plastic food storage containers. One of the best deals out there is the dollar store where you can get dishpans for a dollar. I use them for every step of the dyeing process that doesn’t involve heat.

Concerning pre-soaking your fiber/yarn: I know that it is quicker to skip this step, but your yarn and fiber have been through a process that involves machinery that requires oil to run properly. This oil and residual dirt from the animal the fiber was removed from end up on and in the fiber. To get a good result from dyeing, it’s always wise to pre-soak the products in order to get rid of the residue.  Below you can see the clean water before soaking, water from an over night yarn pre-soak, and water with the residue from pre-soaked fiber. Pretty gross, isn’t it?


Something in which to dye: Depending on your dyeing method, you can use any number of containers. You can apply dye in any kind of container you like, but to heat it to bonding temperature, you need heat resistant plastic, glass, or stainless steel. Remember that the bond between the dye and the fiber is a chemical bond and you need a container that will not react to the dye, acid or heat. For this reason, never use aluminum containers! Thrift shops can be a great source for glass containers (corningware or pyrex ware) as well as the occasional stainless steel stock pot.

Heat source: I use the stovetop with a stock pot, the oven with stainless steel steam table pans, crock pots, wrap and steam in saran wrap in a tamale steamer or in the microwave. You can also microwave in glass or plastic containers, but be careful with the plastic…it can melt…don’t ask me how I know…


Accessories: Plastic spoons for measuring dye, glass or plastic measuring cups, syringes for measuring dye stock (get these from a feed store – much cheaper and available in larger sizes), saran wrap, jewelers scale for accurate measurement of dye powder, cupcake liners to measure dye powder in, disposable or kitchen gloves to protect your hands, and disposable masks to protect from inhaling dye powder. Believe me, that stuff is very light and darn near invisible , and you don’t want it in your lungs: there’s a reason many of the tie-dyers of the 60s died of lung cancer! Many of these things are nice to have, but not strictly necessary for dyeing a few skeins, but are invaluable for dyeing more than that.

NOTE: Keep the utensils and containers you use to dye strictly for dyeing. DO NOT use them for food again after dyeing. I can hear you saying “but I only use Kool-aid or food safe dyes!” That may be true, and 99% of the dyes I use are made with the exact same chemicals as Kool-aid and food dyes. That’s not the issue (although there are dyes you will want to use to get colors like aqua that are made from some pretty toxic chemicals). Remember the pictures of the pre-soak water? Your fiber and yarns have been through a process that leaves them with residue that you don’t want your family ingesting. And… you don’t know where that sheep has been! So make me happy – use dedicated dye materials and containers!

The bottom line is that it doesn’t have to cost a ton to get started dyeing. You probably have many of the required items on hand. Don’t go out and spend a lot of money on dyeing equipment until you know that you want to do it for more than a few skeins at a time for you and friends.

Next time: Yarn and dyes – where do I get them?

Dyeing 1,2,3 for acid dyes: 1 – What can I dye?

As a teacher in a former life (years ago) I always love to share information with anyone who asks…and even those who don’t! Today, I’m starting a series of posts about the dyeing process. Having taught several dyeing classes, I have a fairly good idea what questions are asked about beginning to dye.

What can you dye with acid dyes?  Acid dyes are used for protein fibers. Think something grown on, or in, an animal. They include wool of all types, alpaca, llama, yak, mohair, rabbit, dog, silk and even milk fiber and spider silk (google spider silk fabric, you’ll be amazed). Milk, you say? Well, if you think about it, milk contains protein, and it is the protein that is processed into a fiber form that readily bonds with acid dyes. For a much more in-depth and very clear explanation of the chemical aspect of acid dyes, check out gnomespun yarn.

Protein Fibers for Dyeing:

All protein fibers take acid dyes. Protein fibers are those that come from an animal: wool and alpaca and dog and bunny and goat are all animal fibers, and all protein fibers. Because of their molecular composition (from amino acids), protein fibers form ionic bonds with acid dyes on a molecular level. However, different protein fibers absorb or take up dye in different ways. To make matters more confusing, even the same fiber – wool for example – will take up dye differently depending on the way the wool is prepared!

Superwash wool will absorb dye very quickly compared to non – superwash wool, and the colors will be more intense.

Alpaca: takes up dye slowly and the resulting color is less intense

Silk: takes up dye slowly but results in vibrant, clear colors; it can be challenging to get the dye to reach all surfaces of silk top. Can be dyed with fiber reactive dyes as well!

Nylon and Firestar: take up dye readily and produce clear, vivid colors when handled like wool


OK, now for the weird ones!

Chitin: comes from the shells of crabs and has both glucose and amino components in the molecules, so can be dyed with both acid and fiber reactive dyes. The fiber reactive dyes will give a stronger color.

Milk fiber: the best way to remember that milk fiber takes acid dyes is to remember that it comes from an animal! The protein in milk, casein, is what actually becomes the fiber. Again, the resulting color can be a little muted compared to silk or wool.

Soysilk: yeah, soy is a plant, and plants are (with very few exceptions!) not animals…but here is where it gets complicated: the part of the soy plant that is used to make fiber is the bean; the part of the bean that is leftover after they make other products has a high quantity of the amino acid lysine in it (the same amino acid they gave the dinosaurs in Jurassic  Park) and makes a great fiber when chemically treated. Since it is made from an amino acid, it can be dyed with acid dyes! And, you may have guessed, the resulting colors may also be a little subdued compared to wool.

What won’t take acid dyes?

Bamboo and other cellulose based rayons, Seacell, Viscose, Tencel, Rayon, and Lyocell: all examples of  “regenerated cellulose.” Any type of plant material that is chemically altered to form a fiber from its building blocks of strings of glucose sugar needs to be dyed using fiber reactive dyes. The molecular makeup of these fibers has no amino acid in it to bond with acid dyes.

Bast fibers: linen, bamboo bast, hemp, ramie, nettle, wisteria – if it comes from the stem of a plant without being chemically altered, it is a bast fiber or yarn and needs fiber-reactive dyes…no amino acids for acid dyes to bond to.

So, step one in acid dying – make sure the fiber you are dyeing is a protein fiber.

Next post – what you need to get started.

Dyeing and Life

Starting over is hard! Not dyeing, dyeing is fun, but all the other elements that make up a successful dyeing business! You have to know color theory and the mechanics of adding color to fiber or yarn, of course. But you also have to know aspects from the simplest – where to get undyed yarn and fiber – to the most challenging – which method of getting your products out into the world so someone can buy them. I never realized how many hats an indie dyer has to wear! This website is an example. Which company to use, buy a domain name or just go with a free product with advertising on it? Set up a shop or not? And then come the doubts…what if no-one reads my words of wisdom? What do I write about? And how the heck do I get that weird picture off my contact page??? Yeah, I’m not the best at webpages!

Well at least what to write about is pretty easy. I hope to share with you what I have learned that makes this adventure a little easier and what makes it harder. I will also be writing about dyeing, knitting and crocheting, and anything that makes life here in the Hill Country of Texas interesting.

Why do I dye?

Do you remember being in elementary school and bringing crayons to class? There you were, with your little 8-color box of beauty, and then the kid next to you opened a box of 64 colors…yeah the one with the sharpener on the back…and laaaaaa the sound of  music filled the air, and your heart burst with envy…remember??? Well, that’s what I do every day – I play with color…all day! Any color, any combination, on any fiber I want – it’s heavenly!

So I hope to share with you my crazy life as I color my world of fiber and yarn.

Next time: Exactly how do you dye yarn?