Hand dyeing threads

I promised  I would show people how I hand dyed thread using procion dyes and the hot water method.

I use procion MX dyes and there is lots of information online on how to mix and use these dyes. I have a list of resources online that teach people to dye and offer recipes

Please make sure you pay attention to and act upon the health and safety advice. Don’t use kitchen equipment that is used for food to dye item in. I have a separate set of pots that I use for dyes. I don’t use any kitchen equipment that is used for food. I never mix the two and don’t think it is advisable to a microwave. If you really want to dye using a microwave oven pick up a cheap second hand one for the sole purpose.

That said, this is what I do.

I have seen all sorts of suggestions to paint thread with dye but I have not had huge success doing this as often you end up with patchy areas of colour. What I do is to use a pot. I mix the dye solution as you would if you were dyeing fabric and treat the thread as you would if you were dyeing fabric.

I dye in two or three lots. After skeining threads into hanks that are suitable to quantities a hand embroiderer would use I then loop them on coat hangers.

I then place the threads in a dye pot draping the section of the hank I want to dye. I dye the thread in boiling dye solution and then wash and let it dry.

I then repeat the process for the next colour on the hank. Each hank has two or three section of colour.

I have found that this produces strong colour and I don’t have too much trouble with patchy areas.

(Sorry about the last photo being a bit of blur – I did not realise that steam was on the lens of the camera!)

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10 Responses to Hand dyeing threads

  1. Sharon B says:

    Anna – I learnt to dye years ago (pre internet) from books – and I did my Masters in the textiles dept which took dyeing far more seriously.
    Just go to your local library and have a dig around – or follow what the websites do. I This is just my method – and I use it because it is tried and true.
    That said the water does not have to boil they will work just as hot water too.
    It is not that hard – just try it. The items you are dyeing are not expensive so you stand to lose a little bit but gain a lot in learning something.
    Do take all safety precautions – don’t use containers that will be used for food. If you use a pan to dye in that is is don’t cook in it again.

  2. ansu chennai says:

    Hi Sharon
    lots of information and tips on dyeing. that would make it easy for us – beginners.thanks a lot
    ansu chennai

  3. Anna Brown says:

    Hi Sharon,
    Thank you for your last response and explanations. I am so new to this. My crazy quilt group would like to do a dyeing workshop in a very small kitchen. We would only be doing threads and trims and laces. I have read through Paula Burch’s website, and also Melissa’s, and Dharma’s. I don’t find anyplace instructions for using procion dyes in boiling water as you do, although they have good instructions for using cold and warm water. But I’m sure you must have a good reason for using the boiling water method. Could you please tell me where I can find instructions for your method and advice on which method we should use?
    As usual, thank you, thank you, thank you for all you do.
    Anna

  4. Sharon B says:

    Hi Anna
    You ask
    Do you dye the bottom 1/3 and then wash it and let it dry before doing the middle third?
    Yes
    Also, exactly how long is one thread on a hank?
    There is possibly 200 meters or so – the length does not matter. As with all dyeing it is the weight that matters.
    I see bright colored yarns tying together sections of the hank.
    These are just scrap threads I had to hand – they keep the hanks tied together (I explain in the post about skeining threads. The link is in the post.

    If you put wool in boiling water, doesn’t it shrink a lot?
    No but then I buy Australian wool which is probably patonised (it is not marked but I know the thread I buy wont felt – so its a guess) I do rinse in warm water however.

    How long do you leave a section in the boiling dye solution?
    I follow standard dyeing instructions and treat the thread as if it was fabric (links are in the post)

  5. Anna Brown says:

    Loved your post about dyeing threads, but still have questions. Say you are using 3 colors. Do you dye the bottom 1/3 and then wash it and let it dry before doing the middle third? And then wash and dry that part before doing the last third? Or do you do them all while they are wet? Also, exactly how long is one thread on a hank? I see bright colored yarns tying together sections of the hank. What are they for? If you put wool in boiling water, doesn’t it shrink a lot? How long do you leave a section in the boiling dye solution?
    Thank you sooooo much for your wonderful instruction and patience on your website. You are an international treasure!
    Anna, also from your fun SRE class.

  6. Sharon B says:

    Marg
    The dyes are procion dyes and the threads are different skeins of cotton, wool, silk and rayon – all in the same pot – at the same time.

  7. Justine says:

    Thanks! Of course I will be back, your blog is inspiring. Justine

  8. margb says:

    The yarns look good. Are these woollen or silk yarns? Otherwise why steam? Perhaps the question should be – what type of dyes are you using, Sharon? Just curious as you mention Procion dyes in many of your sampler articles – so I am wondering.

  9. Sharon B says:

    Hi Justine
    Yes I just buy ribbon by the spool, skein it and dye it. It is not hard at all (You did not leave an email address so my reply is here and I will hope you remember to swing back)

  10. Justine says:

    Hi Sharon, it’s Justine from your ribbon embroidery class (which was great fun!). Do you use the same technique for silk ribbon? How easy is it to do in smaller scale? I only want to do lots of different colors for personal use only. Justine

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