dyes provide a simple system for use with wool,
animal fibres and nylon, and give a brighter colour on silk
than Procion MX Fibre Reactive Dyes. They can be used to dye
fur, feathers, soya bean fibre, angora, cashmere but are not
effective on synthetics, other than nylon. There are a range
of names, both historic and current for these dyes, but they
are now commonly known simply as the 'Acid Dyes', which is
somewhat inappropriate as they do not contain acid.
George Weil sells both Fibrecrafts Acid Dyes and Jacquard Acid
Dyes (browse the
range of Acid Dyes). The Fibrecrafts dyes offer less colours but in
larger more economical quantities, and the skilled dyer will
know how to measure and mix quantities to create all the
colours of the spectrum. The Jacquard Acid Dyes offer a
larger range of ready-mixed colours, providing a ready-made
palette for the dyer.
Acid Dyes are dyes that can easily be removed from
fabric using a discharge paste. The discharge
paste can be combined with the
Acid Dyes which will replace the discharged colour with the
colour of the illuminating acid dye. This makes for a varied and unusual
printing technique. The image, right, shows discharge printing on dischargeable
black velvet, find
out more about this technique.
can be used effectively from a stock solution for painting
on silk and are then set with steam (see
how). This sample of painting on silk was created
by Linda Chapman using silk
paints which are very effective for this technique.
Iron-fix silk paints are made from tiny particles of pigment
which sit on the surface of the silk. Dyes, however, penetrate
the fibres of the silk and retain the suppleness and reflective
qualities of the silk fabric.
The ready mixed liquid silk dyes from Dupont and Jacquard are
equally effective on silk fabric. The Dupont silk dyes
and Jacquard silk dyes need also to be fixed using steam.
Before dyeing, it is important to check whether the item is
'Prepared for Dyeing' (PFD) or requires scouring to remove any
grease, oil or starch. Run a few droplets of cold water onto
the fabric. If they soak in quickly, no scour is necessary. To
remove starches, size and oils, add 5mls of Synthrapol (a
non-ionic detergent) along with 2-3 litres of water for each
100g of material. Stir gently over a 15 min period,
and then rinse thoroughly in warm water. It is possible to
use household detergent, but the alkaline residue may affect
the final colour or wash fastness.
ACID DYE RECIPE:
Making a Stock Solution
It helps to prepare a stock solution of these dyes to a known
strength per litre. Some dyes are fairly difficult to get
into solution and may form a tar like ball first. The stock
solution of Acid dyes has a shelf life of around six months.
The Acid dye powder does not always dissolve fully in the
cold, or may precipitate on cooling or when left to stand.
Always stir the stock dye solution well before use since some
sedimentation may occur. Over time a mould may form on the
surface, skim it off, and heat the dye stock to boiling to
kill the spores, the dye will not be affected.
Typically, the quantities of Acid dye used, including black,
range from 0.25g to 2.0g for each 100g of dry material.
These quantities will create colours ranging from pale to
The dye is in powder form. It is easier to measure small
quantities of solutions than of powders - particularly if
you use syringes. Make up the powder into a stock solution
- 1% is a convenient level (i.e. 5g in ½ litre of
Mix the Acid dye powder to a paste first in a small amount
of warm water or methylated spirit, then dissolve thoroughly in boiling
water. Top up to the chosen volume when cold.
Before dyeing, it is important to check
whether the fabric is 'Prepared for Dyeing' (PFD) or
requires scouring to remove any grease, oil or starch. Run a
few droplets of cold water onto the fabric. If they soak in
quickly, no scour is necessary. To remove starches, size and
oils, add 5mls of Synthrapol (a non-ionic detergent) along
with 2-3 litres of water for each 100g of material. Stir gently over a 15 min period,
and then rinse thoroughly in warm water. It is possible
to use household detergent, but the alkaline residue may
affect the final colour or wash fastness.
Dye Bath Technique for Acid Dyes:
The dye bath must be heat proof, of glass, enamel or stainless
steel (do not use cooking pots). The quantity of water is
not critical except that for even results there must be
plenty of room for circulation. A typical volume (liquor
ratio) is 30 times as much water as fibre i.e. 750ml water
for 25g fibre (1.5 pints for 1oz).
Weigh the dry fibre or yarn. Degrease it thoroughly by
scouring with hot detergent solution and rinse well. Commercial
yarn or fabric often picks up oil during processing or is
'starched' - either will prevent the dye reaching the fibre.
Measure warm water into the dye bath to give about 30:1
on fibre weight. Add Glaubers salt at a ratio of 10g per
100g fibre (this is convenient made up as a stock solution
at 10% concentration - 50g in ½ litre or 2oz in
1 pint). Use 25ml for 25g fibre.
Add 25ml white vinegar for each 25g fibre and stir well
(alternatively, use 5g Citric Acid (instead of vinegar) per
litre of water).
Submerge dampened yarn/fibre in the bath and soak for
10 minutes. Remove it and then add the dye solution and
stir well. Return the yarn/fibre and gently move around
the bath for 10 minutes.
Heat the bath to hand hot. Remove from heat and allow
to stand for 10 minutes. Stir and return to heat. Maintain
at a simmer just on boiling for 20 minutes but DO NOT STIR
or allow to boil fast enough to cause movement (and hence
Allow to cool without stirring and rinse well.
Stir well in the early stages while cool but only a little
and very gently while hot - or felting will occur. It is
essential to boil to achieve good fixing of dye to fibre
and hence wash fastness.
Use only half the quantity of vinegar when dyeing synthetics.
When dyeing larger quantities of materials the vinegar cost
can become significant, in this case concentrated acetic acid
from a photographic suppliers is a more economic solution.
Quick Microwave Method for Acid Dyes:
This is a quick and satisfying technique for creating 'space
dyed' yarns, fibres and fabrics using Acid dyes. The silk
fibre for this hand spun yarn by Susan Litton was dyed with Jacquard
Acid dyes, using the recipe below:
Mix 5g of Citric Acid (or 2 teaspoons of distilled vinegar)
into 1 litre
of tap water and soak the material thoroughly.
Line a microwave dish with sufficient cling film to be
able to close over the top.
Squeeze out and spread the material randomly across the
Lightly sprinkle the dye powder onto the surface of the
material. A number of colours can be used to create a varied
result. The more you add, the denser the result of the colour.
Dampen with a small amount of hot water and work the
Acid dye powder into the fibres.
Fold the cling film over the dish and ensure it is air
tight. Place in the microwave
Heat on high until the parcel 'inflates' and then reduce
the heat to 'defrost'
Cook until the parcel begins to billow up again, turn
off and leave to cool
Rinse several times and put out to dry!
There is no substantiated evidence of a causal link between
exposure to acid dyes and any chronic or fatal illnesses.
Both the acid and fibre reactive dye families have a considerable
track record, of use in industry in large quantities
and in the less well controlled environment in the crafts.
Sensible precautions must be taken
when handling dyes and chemicals, particularly as powders:
Avoid inhaling dusts, they can produce an asthma type
reaction. People with known respiratory problems should
not handle synthetic dyes, and particularly the fibre reactive
dyes, in powder form. A dust mask should be worn when working
with the powders or exposed to an aerosol from spraying
dye solutions made up in water
Avoid splashing solutions into the eyes, swallowing the
materials or prolonged skin contact. A simple 'non-contact'
approach (most people use gloves to avoid dyeing themselves)
plus normal, good, hygiene is sufficient precautions for
the occasional user
Store in clearly labelled containers well away from children,
pets and foodstuffs. Treat dye powders and solutions with
the same caution as domestic poisons (e.g. strong cleaners,
bleaches or medicines)
Dispose of spent solutions containing residues of the
dyes responsibly. Dilute and pour onto waste land or into
the sewage system. They have no known effect on the environment
when used in the quantities recommended in the literature