How can I dye wool without spots and unevenness?

Name: Galina


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Jacquard acid dyes

Jacquard Acid Dyes

Jacquard Acid Dyes are concentrated, powdered, hot water dyes that produce the most vibrant possible results on protein fibers including silk, wool, cashmere, alpaca, feathers, and most nylons.



Linda Knutson's
Synthetic Dyes for Natural Fibersir?t=dyeblog-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0934026238

An ideal introduction to how to use synthetic dyes.


Country or region: Russia

Message: Hi, Paula!
Paula, I read the methods of dyeing of cotton on Your web-site. Did you dye wool? I tried to dye different paints, salt, soda and gelatin. But all spreads ит is spread by spots. Here example as necessary, but for me does not turn out. There are lines even on a photo, and for me paints are mixed. What will you advise?
here my works -

Hi Galina,

There are some pages about dyeing wool on my site, starting with "How to Dye Wool." 

To get a very smooth solid color when dyeing wool, you need to use a good dye, not a paint. I don't know whether the two concepts, dye versus paint, use the same word in Russian, but I do know that in some languages the same word is used for both. In English, the word "dye" does not mean the same thing as "paint", though both can be used to color fabric. The difference is that a fabric dye clings to the fiber by its own chemical attraction to it, while fabric paint is made by mixing insoluble pigments with a sort of fabric glue. Paint is usually better for making designs, rather than solid colors; dyes can be used both for painting designs and for coloring the fabric or yarn a single color.

Which dye you choose is the main factor in whether your dye acts the way you want it to. Some dyes are better for one property, while other dyes are better for a different one. There are two properties in wool dyeing that are opposites to each other: one is good washfastness, while the other is good leveling. Highly washfast dyes will cling tightly where they first make contact with the wool, so they don't wash out quickly, but they also don't smooth themselves out on the wool. Dyes that are good at leveling make a smooth solid color, but they tend to come out when washed, so clothing dyed with them is best cleaned only by dry cleaning (cleaning with toxic organic solvents instead of water).

A good dye choice for you would be Jacquard Acid Dye, which is available in at least one shop in Russia, Chernaya Rechka Art Material. There are many other brands of acid dye, too, most of which will be suitable for your question. Synthetic food coloring will work, too, but not with soda; see my page "Using Food Coloring as a Textile Dye for Protein Fibers" for more information. You can use artificially-colored unsweetened gelatin mixes, or artificially color unsweetened drink mix powder, as sources of synthetic food color.

Besides the choice of dye, it is important to choose the right auxiliary ingredients. Certain chemicals improve leveling dramatically; which you should use depends on what dye you have chosen. Chemicals such as Glauber's salt (sodium sulfate) are useful for improving leveling in some dyes, but not others. It is important to find a reliable recipe to follow for the exact dye you are using. Using a larger quantity of water is also important in getting a smooth solid color.

Wool should not be dyed with soda. Soda refers to several chemicals that increase the pH of the dyebath: soda ash is sodium carbonate, Na2CO3, which raises the pH to around 11; caustic soda is sodium hydroxide, NaOH, which raises it as high as 14, depending on how much you use; and baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3, which raises the pH to around 8. You do not want to raise the pH of wool above 8 or 9, at the most, because a high pH will permanently change the texture of wool. It will often cause wool to turn to felt when you don't want it to. Baking soda can be used safely with wool, but it is not useful for most wool dyes.

Instead of using any kind of soda, it is usually best to dye wool using an acid. Acid is, chemically, the opposite of a base such as soda ash; it lowers the pH of the dyebath. The most popular wool-dyeing acid for use in hand dyeing is vinegar, because it is very easy to find for use in food. Whenever you see vinegar mentioned in a dye recipe, you want a product that contains 5% acetic acid, by weight. This is a common strength for food-use vinegar, used in making salad dressing and pickles. If your vinegar is 4% acetic acid, you will need to use more of it; if it's 10% acetic acid, you will use less of it. We prefer to use vinegar that has been distilled from grain, because the distillation process leaves it very clean and white; however, in most cases, any inexpensive food-use vinegar will work, such as vinegar made from apple cider.

You will get a smoother color if you allow the dye to thoroughly penetrate the wool before you add the acid, and only then add the vinegar. The recipe for dyeing wool with Jacquard Acid Dye is as follows:
  1. Fill a stainless steel or enamel pot with just enough hot or warm water for the fabric to swim freely, turn on the heat.
  2. Add the dye powder to the pot and stir. Normally, in this procedure you would add 2 to 4% of the dry weight of the fabric in dye powder. For example, if you are dyeing 1 pound of fabric, use 1/3 to 2/3 of an ounce of dye.
  3. Add the fabric that has been thoroughly wetted to the dyepot.
  4. Raise the temperature to 185° to 200°F [85°D to 93°C], just below boiling. Stir frequently.
  5. Add 1⁄4 cup of vinegar per pound of fabric. Try not to pour directly onto the fabric.
  6. Maintain temperature and stir frequently for 1⁄2 hour. Wash in Synthrapol or mild detergent and warm water.
"Note: If you are dyeing wool, a gradual heating and gradual cooling of the dyebath is important so as not to shock and felt the wool." [One pound is 454 grams; one ounce of dye is about 30 grams.] For this recipe and additional information, see Jacquard's Acid Dye Instructions. [PDF]

Please let me know if any if this is unclear.

You have beautiful work in your photo album. Let me encourage you to join the Dye Forum. Please send me an email about it if you do, to let me know to approve your registration.

(Please help support this web site. Thank you.)

Posted: Friday - December 14, 2012 at 12:42 PM          

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