Monday, February 9, 2015

Dyeing Notebook: Using Easter Egg Dyes

It's been a while since I've broken out the easter egg dyes, but when a lovely box of alpaca/merino blend spinning fiber arrive on my doorstep a few Fridays ago, I knew how I was going to spend the upcoming weekend.

I should probably say this now: if you are into precision and repeatable results, this may not be the instructional post that you are looking for! When I dyed yarn for Lorna's Laces, precision and repeatability was the name of the game (and rightfully so!); now that I am dyeing for fun in the comfort of my house, I really enjoy experimenting to see what results I get, even if I can never replicate them again. I strongly encourage you to try the "fun" and "unscientific" approach to dyeing as a stepping stone to the more technical aspects.

There can be a lot of costly supplies to get started dyeing, whether you choose to try natural dyeing or use commercially-made chemical dyes; however, an easter egg dye kit is cheap and easy to, and I consider it a low-risk way to see if you like dyeing. Besides being affordable, the dyes are all food-safe and non-toxic, so you don't have to sacrifice some of your kitchen supplies to the cause (yet!) or worry about safety measures when handling powder dyes or mordants.

If you're ready to jump in to have fun experimenting with Easter Egg Dyes, here are the cliff's notes to my process:

1 Easter Egg Dye Kit (I used Paas)
Plastic cups
Distilled White Vinegar
Glass baking dish(es), preferably clear**
Yarn* or Fiber!

1. Prep the dye: I followed the instructions on the package to get the dye ready; since I wanted bold colors, I threw a color tab into a cup with 3T of vinegar. When the tabs were done fizzing, I added water to each cup (and here's where I get loosey-goosey: no measuring! I just eyeballed everything and moved on with my life).

2. Prep the fiber: I filled a small tub with lukewarm water and a couple of glugs of vinegar and soaked the fiber for about 10-15 minutes. Though it's not absolutely necessary to dampen your fiber (or yarn, if that's what you're dyeing) before applying the dye, I does help the dye soak through more thoroughly - which is especially helpful when you are dyeing some very fluffing spinning fiber.

3. Apply the dye: I use two glass baking dishes with my Easter egg dyeing experiments - they are easy to clean and can even be put through the dishwasher. There are a number of ways you can apply the dye, but in this case, I just poured each color over the fiber and gently squished it through, then carefully turned over the fiber and repeated the process.
4. Set the dye: about 2 minutes before I was ready to set the dye, I turned on my oven to 275 degrees F (I don't have a microwave, but if you do, some folks use a quick zap in the microwave to set the dye). I put the dishes containing my fiber in the oven to preheat along with it, so as to not shock the fiber. To be honest, I couldn't remember how long I baked it the last time I dyed, so I thought I would play it safe and set the timer for 20 minutes. When it went off, I checked my fiber and decided that it needed more time - it was warm but not hot, and it didn't appear as though the dye had exhausted yet**. I set the timer for another 20 minutes and that seemed to do the trick. Since it's pretty cold here and my kitchen is a bit drafty, I decided to turn off the over but leave the dishes of fiber in it so that they could cool down a bit (again, I didn't want to shock the fiber by pulling it out of a 250-degree oven into a 68-degree house).

5. Time to dry: once it's cool enough to handle, gently remove the yarn or fiber and squeeze out excess liquid over the sink. Find a good place to hang it up to dry where it will be away from sunlight and curious pets or children.

Finished fiber is ready to spin!

I hope this helps you get started on your own dyeing journey, and I'd love to see your results!

*If you're dyeing yarn, be sure to add some ties around the skeins to keep them neat and tidy throughout the process.
**You can tell that your dye has exhausted when the liquid in the container is clear - that's why I like to use a clear glass baking dish!


  1. What lovely results, from a process that seems a bit simpler than the simmering on the stove that I've done with acid dyes. I love that blue/green bundle!