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Learning how to dye fiber opens the door to an exciting new realm of color for your knitted, crocheted, or hand-woven creations. It’s easier and safer to work with dyes in liquid form, whether you are using acid or fiber-reactive dyes. Because inhaling dye powder poses a risk, mixing it with water to form dye stocks (also called dye solutions) makes color mixing safer. Liquid dye stock is also easier to measure using plastic syringes, beakers, and graduated cylinders.

Acid dye solutions are prepared with boiling water. Fiber-reactive dye solutions are generally mixed at room temperature. Acid dye stocks can be stored and used later. Reactive dyes have a shorter shelf life once mixed.

You need the following tools and materials for mixing dye stock:

  • 4-cup (1,000ml) Pyrex measuring cup

  • Measuring spoons

  • Digital scale

  • Small spoons or stirring sticks

  • Boiling water (for acid dyes)

  • Room-temperature water (for fiber-reactive dyes)

  • Powdered dye

  • Sponges

  • Paper towels

  • Dye mixing box

To make a mixing box for preparing dye solutions, turn a medium-sized box on its side and remove the lid. Line the box with newspaper or paper towels; spray them with water to dampen lightly. Do all your measuring and mixing inside the box, which serves as a hood, minimizing the chance of dye particles becoming airborne. The dampened paper absorbs any spilled powder.

Take every precaution to avoid inhaling dye powder. Always wear a new dust particle mask for each mixing session. Minimize air movement (close windows, turn off fans) while measuring and mixing. Replace lids firmly on dye powder jars immediately after measuring. Wear rubber gloves and safety glasses, and keep children and pets out of your workspace. Never eat or drink while preparing dyes. Label all stock solutions clearly.

The necessary auxiliary supplies depend on which dye process you use:

  • Synthrapol, a pH-neutral surfactant used for soaking fibers and removing residual dye

  • Glauber salt, a salt used instead of common table salt to level dyes

  • Citric acid crystals or white vinegar (for acid dyes)

  • Soda ash (for fiber-reactive dyes)

  • Urea, used as a humectant with fiber-reactive dyes

  • Dye thickeners, such as guar gum or Superclear

  • Metaphos, a water softener (if you have hard water)

You may also need the following:

  • Paper towels

  • Newspapers (for covering surfaces)

  • Plastic wrap

  • Zipper-sealed plastic bags

  • Vinyl or plastic table covers

  • Plastic milk jugs with caps (for storing dye solutions)

  • Undyed cotton string

  • White coffee filter papers

  • Pen and notepad

After a tool, vessel, or other piece of equipment has been used for dyeing, it should never be used for food preparation again. Label all dyeing tools clearly “FOR DYEING ONLY” so they are never accidentally used for food. Furthermore, you must never use dye materials while food is being prepared, and never eat or drink while dyeing.

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