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Earthues natural dye extracts

An introduction to hand dyeing with Earthues natural dye extracts

Earthues natural dye extracts are suitable for use on any natural fibre. They produce an excellent range of fully intermixeable shades and can be used for a wide variety of dyeing techniques including rainbow dyeing, yarn painting, ikat and tie-dye. Remember that although the following guide refers to dyeing yarn, our dyes can be used to colour all natural fibres including fleece, tops, felt, fabrics, mawata caps, silk cocoons, even paper and willow.

Earthues dye extracts are very concentrated and a little goes a long way! For example, it takes 500g of logwood chips to dye a kilo of wool whereas only 25g of Earthues dye extract is needed to give an equivalent shade. Just 10g of cochineal extract will dye 1kg of wool to a good shade with enough dye left over in the dyebath for a paler second batch. Please bear this in mind when judging how much extract you need and don't hesitate to contact us for advice on specific extracts for your projects.

Earthues dye extracts don't necessarily need any fixing chemicals (mordants or fixers) to make the colour permanent. However as with most other dyes we recommend the use of mordants as this will significantly improve the light and wash fastness of the dyes. Mordants also enhance the colours, giving deeper richer shades by ensuring that more of the dye is taken up by the yarn.

When using natural dyes the mordants can also be used as "colour modifiers" to creatively change the colours given by a particular dye extract. For example, adding sodium carbonate will make your dyebath more alkaline so that cochineal dye extract will produce glorious fuschia pinks. In contrast the addition of citric acid will make the dyebath more acidic and the same cochineal dye extract will produce gorgeous orange shades rather than pinks.

Before dyeing the yarn must be soaked in water and with natural dyes the mordant is normally added to this soaking bath. For a basic recipe, add 25g alum per 100g yarn/fibre for animal fibres. For plant fibres, wash and rinse the yarn to remove any manufacturing residues, then, use 5g of aluminium acetate per 100g yarn/fibre to give a good strength colour. This can then be varied for different colours and effects. The yarn is cooked for about an hour in the soak, then left to cool.

Colour modifiers can also be added to the soak for additional shades. It is quite possible to produce over 20 shades from a single dyestuff simply by using different mordant combinations, cooking methods and modifiers!

For dyeing skeins a single colour, the Earthues dye extracts are dissolved in water in a large pan or microwave dish (big enough to let the yarn swish about easily). Cover and cook the yarn for around 1 hour on the stove top or microwave in 5 min blasts until it is good and steamy. This may be anything up to 30 mins. Stir regularly for even colours. Use more extract for stronger colours, less for pastels. You can also create new colours by mixing the extracts. We would recommend that they are dissolved first into separate jars then mixed as solutions as the powders are very fine.

For multi-coloured skeins, dissolve the extracts in jars/bottles or pots then either dip sections of the yarn in the pots or lay the yarn on clingfilm or in a pan/micro dish and squirt dye onto the yarn. I use squeezy water bottles for this, but basters or just pouring is fine.

For all fibres, cover the yarn and cook as above, or wrap in clingfilm and heat by steaming in a pan or cooking in a microwave. Once it is cooked, let the yarn cool before rinsing thoroughly then allow to dry.

Now you can stand back and admire your beautiful hand dyed yarns!



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[All images and text © Debbie Tomkies and Peter Tomkies 2007]