How to Dye Silk Yarn

During the Covid years I started taking online weaving classes. If there’s anything good that came out of dealing with Covid I guess it could be that so many expert weavers, who typically teach in person, started to teach online. One of those expert weavers who teach online is Jane Stafford. Actually Jane started teaching online several years before Covid and is now on her seventh year. Her online weaving guild is excellent! Be sure to check the Jane Stafford School of Weaving.

So what does this have to do with dyeing silk? Well, season 6 episode 4 topic teaches the overshot weaving structure in which Jane has you weave several scarves using zephyr (pattern weft) and 30/2 silk (base weft). Although you can purchase the exact yarn colors from her site, I happened to have extra zephyr and silk from two previous projects and I wanted to save some money by using the yarn I already have. Always nice to use from your stash, right? My only issue was that my silk was white and I wanted color. So I was going to have to dye.

Each scarf required about 50 grams of silk. I wanted different colors for each scarf so I dyed in batches. I started by winding two 25 gram skeins using my nitty noddy for each scarf.

Before taking your yarn off the skein it’s important to secure it in several spots. This will keep the yarn from tangling while you’re dyeing. To tie your yarn, separate the yarn in two and tie a figure 8 with an approximately 5 inch piece of yarn. Hoping the picture helps. You’ll want to be sure to tie a loose figure 8 as if it’s too tight it will cause a resist on your yarn (area where the dye doesn’t take).

I now have my two skeins of silk ready for dyeing.

To dye the silk I’m going to be using Saberset Dyes from Prochem. I want the color to be a very pale purple color so I’m going to use Plum. I’m going to generally follow the immersion dyeing instructions on the website, but with a few modifications. For my first dye attempt I tried the immersion dyeing technique following the directions exactly. The silk tangled quite a bit so I’m going to try to keep the yarn straight and use a steamer for the heat instead. But before getting started, I gathered the material and did a little math. To dye I will needed the following: dye, Synthrapol, salt, citric acid and sodium acetate crystals. The directions on the website gives you ratios for one pound (450 grams) of fiber. Since I only had 50 grams of fiber I decreased the amounts proportionally. Here are the amounts listed on the ProChem website. Note- I’m not following these directions in terms of making the “dye bath”- I’m just calculating the amounts.

Remember- that’s for one pound and I had to calculate for 50 grams. Doing the math this is what I came up with: 2 grams of citric acid, 2 grams of sodium acetate, and 4 grams of salt. In terms of the dye, I want a very pale purple so I used .1 grams of dye powder.

The first step was to wet the fiber out. To do this filled a small bucket with warm water (enough that the fiber was covered) and added the 2 grams of citric acid and a small squirt of Synthrapol. The Synthrapol removes any oil that may be on the fiber and the citric acid is the mordant. Without the citric acid, the dye would not adhere to the fiber. I wanted the fiber to be fully saturated so that the dye adheres evenly so I let it soak overnight. I wanted to make sure all the fiber was submerged so I put two plates on top.

Before removing the yarn, I prepared the dye. I put the .1 grams of dye in two cups of boiling water, gave it a good stir and let it cool to room temperature.

After the dye cooled, I poured it into my large squeeze bottle and filled it with tap water. I then added the salt and sodium acetate. The salt and sodium acetate slows the dye process down a bit so that the dye doesn’t quickly adhere immediately when applied. This will help give an even dye. I gave it a stir. I then removed the yarn from the bucket, gave it a quick rinse and squeeze. I wanted the yarn damp, but not too damp. I laid a layer of Saran Wrap on the bottom of a tin and put the yarn on. Using the squeeze bottle full of dye, I applied the dye often moving the yarn around a bit to be sure I got an even color.

After the dye was applied and I was happy that all the yarn was covered, I fully wrapped the yarn in Saran Wrap and put it in my steamer.

I set the steamer for 25 minutes and let it go. I let the yarn cool by itself for several hours and then after cooling, I gave it a rinse and hung it to dry. Here’s the result:

For the scarf I chose a dark teal color to coordinate with the light purple. I just can’t wait to get it off the loom and wet finish it.

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