Saturday, September 24, 2011

Greener Shades Dyes

I've been experimenting with Greener Shades dyes. These are acid dyes for protein fibers such as wool and silk, but they are nontoxic. Most acid dyes are not extremely toxic, but some have heavy metals in them, and it's difficult to know which do and which don't. With these dyes, you know you're safe.

I dyed several 100 yd skeins of a sport weight yarn that I bought on a cone years ago from Webs. The plan is to make very colorful mittens, from a book called Magnificent Mittens and Socks, by Anna Zilboorg. The gauge for her fancy mittens is about 6 stitches to the inch, which is perfect for this sport weight yarn.

I did all the dyeing in a crock pot out on the porch. This is a dedicated dye crock pot, and it works very well for dyeing wool, because it just sort of simmers rather than coming to a hard boil, which is easier on the wool. The workflow is: I skein the yarn, put it in soapy water to soak, heat up the crock pot, add the dye, add the yarn, and then wait a while for the yarn to soak up some of the dye. Then I add the vinegar which activates the dye and makes it stick to the yarn. I leave the mixture to simmer for a while, and then I come back and check it. If the water is clear, the dye has set and you can remove the yarn from the pot. I cool it for a minute and then rinse it in warm water, spin out the extra water and hang to dry.

I use the dye as a 1% solution. That is, I dissolve 1 gram of the dye in 100 mls of water, in a little half pint jam jar. For a deep shade, I use a 2% dye concentration: that is, I weigh the fiber dry, and multiply by 2 to get the number of ml to use to dye with. For example, for 50 grams of yarn you would use 100 ml of dye solution.

One thing I found out is that when you try to dye wool a deep shade like that, it doesn't take up every bit of the dye even if you cook it for a while. But that's ok, because if you put a new skein in after you take the previous, deeply dyed one out, the new skein will soak up the rest of the dye and will be a nice pale shade, a tint of the previous skein. These skeins harmonize well with each other in knitting.



  1. Great colors! I have been wondering about this dye.
    I am wanting to dye a large quantity the color of an american chestnut (more orangey-red-y than walnut) so would have to do some mixing, I would imagine.

  2. Do you boil the soapy water in the crock pot, or do you rinse out the soap before putting it in the pot? I find that if there is soap in my dye pot it takes longer to take up the dye.

  3. I'm not convinced of their safety in comparison to other acid dyes as based on this discussion I found in a dyer's forum:

    I am posting here just in case other newbies like me do a search and find this post. Just because something is labeled "green" doesn't necessarily mean it is any safer than others.

    I gather that some acid dyes are safer than others and some of the Greener Dyes are less safe than others.

    It really chaps my hide when companies take advantage of our interest in protecting the environment! I'm not saying that Greener Dyes has, just that it sounds like more study into their actual ingredients has to be done.