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Int-Dyeing-FC-art - 8/24/09


"Introduction to Dyeing: Food Coloring" by Mistress Alienor Fitzhenry, OL.


NOTE: See also the files: dyeing-msg, dye-list-art, mordants-msg, felting-msg, green-art, p-bleach-fab-msg, textiles-msg, Food-Coloring-art, wool-clean-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Introduction to Dyeing: Food Coloring

by Mistress Alienor Fitzhenry, OL

Principality of Oertha


There are a limited number of natural colored wools available for the hand spinner; to achieve more vibrant variations it is necessary to resort to dyes and colorants.  Food coloring and Easter Egg Tablets are a quick and easy source of color that can be used to dye wool.  While neither of these is a period source of color, they are a fun, inexpensive and non-toxic way to introduce the concepts of dyeing.


Equipment Needed


4-5 cups warm water

3-4 Tbs. white vinegar

10-20 drops food coloring or 1 Easter egg dye tablet

1 oz. wool fiber

1 non-reactive dye pot or 2-quart crock pot

1 non-reactive metal spoon


The Process


  1. Wet the Fiber- Make sure the kitchen sink is      clean.  Fill the sink with enough hot water to fully cover the roving.      Place the roving in the hot water and let it sit for ten minutes until the      fiber is fully wet throughout.  Do not agitate the fiber while it is in      the hot water or it may felt.


  1. Water in the Dye pot- While the fiber is soaking, place      two or three cups of warm water in the clean dye pot or crock pot.  The      amount of water in the pot is not critical as long as it covers the fiber      to be added.  The color of the finished fiber will relate to the amount of      food coloring versus the amount of wool added to the pot.  For example, a dye      bath that initially appears dark purple may yield a dark purple fiber if      only an ounce of wool is added to dye pot.  Conversely this same dark      purple dye bath may yield a light lavender fiber if a whole pound of wool      is added to the dye pot.


  1. Acid- Add 2-3 Tbs. of white vinegar to      the water in the dye pot.  The vinegar acts as an acid and helps the wool      absorb and retain the dye color.


  1. Color- Drop in as much food coloring as      desired (typically 10-20 drops for 1-2 oz.).  An Easter egg dye tablet may      be used in place of the food coloring if desired.  Stir the mixture well      to distribute the dye and acid.


  1. Simmer- Bring the dye bath up to a simmer      in a well ventilated area.  On a stovetop this will typically be the      lowest setting; if using a crock pot, set the temperature selector to low.


  1. Adding the Fiber- Remove the fiber from the warm      water in the sink and place it in the dye pot.  Make sure all of the fiber      is submerged below the water and gently stir the fiber once to make sure      it is evenly distributed in the dye pot.


  1. Let it Sit- Put a lit on the dye pot (or crock      pot) and allow to simmer until the dye bath has exhausted and appears      nearly colorless.  An ounce of fiber dyed with food coloring may exhaust      in as little as twenty minutes.


  1. Rinse- When the dye bath has exhausted,      run a sink full of warm water and remove the fiber to the sink to soak and      rinse.  The water in the sink should be nearly the same temperature as the      water in the dye bath to prevent felting.  Do not agitate the fiber.      After the fiber has soaked for five-ten minutes remove the fiber from the      sink, gently squeeze out the excess water, and hang in the bathtub to dry      for twenty-four hours.




  1. The dye will not exhaust.  
    2. Add more fiber- If the color of the       fiber is a very dark shade, the fiber may have absorbed all the color       that it can.
    4. Add more vinegar- If the water is       particularly hard the dye bath may need an extra tablespoon or two of       vinegar to exhaust the dye bath.


  1. Fiber comes out splotchy.  (Some variation in the shade is to      be expected and will even out during the spinning process)
    2. Wet the fiber longer- This may have       occurred because the fiber was not fully wet all the way through.  Next       time allow the fiber to soak longer during the first step.
    4. Dye not fully dissolved-  The dye       may not have been fully dissolved or mixed into the dye bath; make sure       it is fully mixed before adding the fiber


  1. Fiber Felts
    2. Temperature extremes- Wool likes to       be kept at the same temperature.  Be careful when moving the fiber from       one container to the other (dye pot to rinse water) to keep the relative       temperatures of each about the same.
    4. Dye bath too hot-  Lower the heat       on the stovetop or decrease the selector on the crock pot
    6. Fiber agitated- Wool must not ever       be agitated when it is wet and hot.


Final Thoughts


Dyeing spinning fiber is an excellent way to experiment with color and explore the fundamentals of the ageless concept of dyeing.  While food coloring is not a period dye, it does allow the novice spinner the opportunity to try out the process with minimal equipment and non-toxic dye baths.  The resulting fiber is vibrant and largely colorfast, resulting in new and exciting spinning opportunities.  As with any fiber related process, it is critical that the fiber selected for the dye pot be well prepared and of good quality.  If it was poorly prepared or not suitable for spinning initially, adding color to the fiber will in no way improve them.


Happy Spinning!



Copyright 2006 by N.E. Putnam. <Fishfood43 at yahoo.com>.  This document may be distributed so long as it remains fully intact, no profit is made from its distribution or use, and credit is given to the information sources.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org