March 14, 2011

Wool: immersion- and gradation dyed

The magical change from white to dyed wool happens in an acid dye solution at a high temperature. The yarn consists of a blend of 80% wool and 20% ramie:

Except for the pink, the yarns were dyed twice.

Results after dye bath 1:

For the first dye bath I dissolved commonly used acid dye powder for wool and silk and mixed them to make other colors. I recently bought some with this rainbow dye kit at a fair in the Netherlands:
  • some white roving (100% wool) for future use in felting projects was also dyed
  • the moss green and orange roving were dyed by immersion
  • for the chartreuse roving and the yarns I used methods that yields gradations in colour and intensity of colour
The pink yarn was created by immersion dyeing with an acidified Procion (!) dye solution of fuchsia (MX-8B):

The recipes and methods used are from Marjie McWilliams who gives on-line classes in "Wool Dyeing" at Quilt University.

Isn't it amazing that wool, a fiber of animal origin, can also be dyed with acidified Procion dye solutions, instead of the commercial acid dyes who are mostly used?

After making the dye solutions, I was curious to know their acidity. Because I once worked in chemical labs I know I could use a pH indicator paper strip:

A solution is called acid when it has a low pH (like 4).
Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at 25 °C (77 °F).

I wondered what acidified Procion would do with the colours of the yarns from dye bath 1.

Results after dye bath 2:

I re-dyed the yarns by immersion in different acidified and diluted Procion dye stock-solutions from the refrigerator:
  • golden yellow (MX-3RA) for the purple-blue-green yarn
  • fire engine red (MX-BRA) for the orange gradation yarn
  • violet (MX-G) for the purple gradation yarn
The double dyeing gives a vibrant and rich appearance to the yarn with the blend of 80% animal fibers (wool) and 20% plant-basid fibers (ramie), don't you think?

What will double dyeing with acid and Procion dyes do on silk or mixtures with a silk component?
Silk is also a fiber of animal origin but can both be dyed at low pH at a high temperature with commercial acid dyes, and, like the plant-based fiber cotton, with Procion dyes at low (room) temperature (see my blogs on hand dyed silk and cotton). In Procion dye solutions the soda creates a pH higher than 7 and vinegar or citric acid creates a pH lower than 7.

I still have some silk fabric and threads left and I already ordered 100% wool yarn.
Just need more time for doing future experiments!

For a better view you can click on the pictures or go to the album Dyed Fabrics & Threads
Thank you for your visit!


  1. That looks like good, but messy, fun! Messy in my case anyway. The colours are wonderful. Have you projects in mind for these, or are you experimenting?

  2. Hi Hazle,

    Thank you for your much appreciated words!
    It is a bit messy, but I limit the size of the working surface to a flat garbage bag covered with newspapers.
    I do have some quilt projects in mind, but I'm also experimenting.
    My notebook is growing with information!

  3. Such great results and a really good description of the process. I always use citric acid with acid dyes now so that I don't have to deal with the smell of vinegar, but I do have to explain to the pharmacist what I am using it for as apparently is is common ingredient for drug users!! I have no idea what they do with it.


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