Dyeing Silk and Other Fibers

I had a marathon of dyeing silk and other fibers over the Easter weekend. On Friday, I prepared my fabrics and fibers for dyeing.  I used Eurolana acid dyes from World of Wool.  I buy the big tubs as it works out cheaper that way and I probably have a lifetime supply now.  I used Red, Magenta, Turquoise, Yellow, and Black.  I forgot to buy blue, but you can pretty much make any color off of the color wheel with just these colors.  I have a fair amount of white and natural colored fibers, but to be fair, I don’t use white that often in my work.


On Saturday and Sunday I dyed my fibers.  On Monday, I finished drying everything and took photos.  This is what we have.

IMG_0565We have 3 two meter pieces of Margilan silk gauze, 5 pieces of ready made Ponge silk scarves and handkerchiefs (from Rainbow Silks), and my last piece of Margilan silk sparse (gold).  

IMG_0564We have silk carrier rods.  I have written about this in a previous post.  They surprisingly took the dye really well, but they need a good overnight soak as they are quite hard.

IMG_0571Silk laps are a type of silk batt that can be used for spinning.  As with most silk, it starts out white and you can then dye it.  I purchased some from a supplier of Margilan silk on Etsy.  There is a tutorial on the DHG blog on how to use it in felting.  As with a lot of silk fibers, it can be a bit sticky to work with.  I cut it into smaller pieces before soaking making sure to overlap them to make them easier to pick up, but I think next time I will soak them whole and cut them when wet.  They can get a bit slippery to handle.  They definitely need a good soak overnight.  They also take up the dye really well.  I have one piece of white left over as I like them for making ocean scarves like this cobweb one.  You can really stretch out the laps, but there is only so much one can do with just white.  Now that I have more colors, I will be more inclined to add them to my work.


IMG_0569Here we have silk hankies.  I had a 100g bag I purchased from Wingham Wool Work some time ago.  WOW had been selling also, but it is 50p cheaper at Wingham.  Everyone seemed to be out of stock until now (WOW still is).  While writing this post, I had a look at the Wingham website and they seem to have it right now, so I purchased 4 bags, plus the large bars of Olive Oil soap.  If you have to pay for shipping anyway, you might as well get some heavy things.  I don’t need anything else from Wingham as the lowest micron merino they sell is 21mic.  I don’t buy hankies from DHG as it is really expensive in comparison.  I also managed to score almost 100g from someone on one of the needle felting groups, so I had about nearly 200g of hankies to dye.  I weighed them out into 10g (more or less) batches.  In any event, you must soak these overnight.  They do take dye extremely well and it is ok to have variations of color in them.  To be fair, as with a lot of these bling fibers, I really didn’t know what to do with them when I bought them.  Until last summer, I wasn’t really comfortable with dyeing anything, so I purchased about 80g of dyed hankies from George Weil for what I think is quite a dear sum, but dyed fiber is always more expensive.  By the way, they also have 100g bags of silk hankies for the same price as WOW, but shipping is quite dear if that is all you are buying.  In any event, silk hankies are my new favorite thing since I made the leaf scarves below.  You can do so many things with them.


IMG_0573I had a very small piece of viscose left over in a bag from DHG.  Vegetable fibers are meant to be dyed differently, but the Russians do it all of the time.  I have no bleeding, just pale colors.  I still have a bag of white from WOW, but they are currently out of stock and don’t hold any other colors, so I would be more inclined to purchase from DHG when I run low.  I don’t actually need any more colors of viscose, but I wanted to see what would happen to a piece if I dyed it and here it is.


I purchased some Ramie top from WOW.  They only sell it in white.  Ramie is made from nettles and is similar to flax, but finer.  It is quite shiny and takes the dye up really well.  I got some fairly strong colors here.  The black and red are not as strong, but then I soaked up some more at the last minute which is why the dye didn’t take as well as the others.  Bleeding was minimal.  I don’t know how it will hold up in felting.  I have not used this fiber before, but I will give it a go now that I have more colors.  DHG sell Ramie in white and in colors, but the cost is twice what you can get it for at WOW and is also twice the price of viscose.  I doubt I will be buying it again, but it was one of those things I had to try.

IMG_0577The same goes for hemp.  I had to try it.  In it’s natural state it looks like rope.  It is also quite stiff and very strong, almost like throwsters waste.  I haven’t felted with it before as I don’t make many things in natural colors so don’t know how well it would work as surface decoration.  I will need to make some samples.  It took the dye fairly well and there are variations in the product due to the unevenness of the hemp color.

IMG_0576 So, what do you do with white tussah silk?  You dye it.  I purchased a 100g bag from WOW.  DHG also sell it and in many colors, but it is more expensive.  WOW sell it in white and a few other colors but not ones I would really use.  This silk needs a really good overnight soak.  It takes up dye really well and is very shiny.  I have some more white left over, so may dye some more as and when I might need it.  I have not used it in my felting before, but will try it now.

IMG_0579And last, but not least, I dyed some Mulberry silk.  This is also from WOW.   I took out the Mulberry silk on Sunday, but it really didn’t have long enough to soak and so I do have white bits in my silk.  What did take is very vibrant though and very shiny.  You can purchase this also in colors from WOW, but I think the colors are nicer from DHG and with the rate of exchange the price is comparable, even with shipping.  I may end up over dyeing these in the future if I don’t like my samples.

So that was the extent of my dyeing weekend.  I quite enjoyed it, although it was a bit exhausting as you not only have to dye the product, but you also have wait for it cool before you can rinse it all out.  I needed to take advantage of the long weekend now that I am back at work, so I just went for it.  So on Monday, I had a rest day.  I made up a lot of dye and stored them in old jars, so if I need to dye anything in the future, I can just whip out a jar of dye and do it without making too much of a mess. 🙂