Dying in the Basement

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I’m no dye aficionado but, as with all things fiber, I've been drawn to learn. Here, at One Lupine/Maine Yarn & Fiber Supply, people who come to inquire of the Owner often hear, “Jodi is in the basement dying.” We hand dye and hand paint all of our house label yarns (all, that is, except those we leave in their natural sheep’s color). We use acid dyes from a company established since the 1800s. They work well with protein fibers: wool, animal hair, alpaca, mohair, synthetic nylon, feathers, and some silks. They produce bright colors, are light and colorfast, and are water soluble.


Natural dyes are different altogether. They come from plants (flowers, roots, nuts, leaves, and bark), minerals, fungi, and even some insects. They produce a nice range of colors. Most natural dyes must be “set” with a mordant (i.e.: vinegar, alum etc.) to keep them from running and fading. Mordants chemically bind the dye and the fibers together. Different mordants result in color variations, depending on what you use.  A walk in nature will get you dreaming about which materials produce which colors. A few examples you might spy are: goldenrod, oak bark, willow leaves, walnuts, dandelion (roots), and iris.


For many years, there was a great magazine called Shuttle, Spindle, and Dye Pot which was chock full of information for weavers, spinners, and dyers. I recently saw that it is once again available to members of HGA (Handweavers Guild of America) in download format. Or, you might consider a fiber getaway to HGA’s 2018 Reno Convergence, July 6-12 where you could find a complimentary copy. Fiber kenthusiasts of all ilks will be gathering. Regardless of whether you choose to get away or not, you’ll find many references on dying wool available in books, at your local library, and on the Internet.


Joy Moody

MYFS Yarn Shop Manager