Single Color Crock-pot Dyeing With Greener Shades Acid Dyes

What Are Greener Shades Dyes?

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From their listing description on Knit Picks:

"Not only are these low-impact dyes non-hazardous, non-chrome as well as heavy metal-free but they are also wash fast and exhaust well. Additionally, Greener Shades dyes follow the standard set forth by the Organic Trade Association's standard for organic fiber processing. Perfect for the beginning dyer or those looking for an environmentally-friendly alternative…"

Oh, what a lovely collection of dye.

Oh, what a lovely collection of dye.

When I bought this set two years ago, I was definitely an environmentally conscious dyeing newbie. I wanted to dye fun fiber colors to spin on my new wheel. I quickly discovered spinning was not an easy hobby to have when my two year old was out to destroy all pre-drafted fiber and break her fingers in the wheel.

Orabelle, my wheel, I'll properly introduce her in a future post, went in her bag and was sad and lonely for two and a half years.

The two year old is now four, and sort-of listens when told not to touch stuff. Orabelle's out of hiding, and I've run through most of the fiber I saved from two years ago. I do have this dyeing kit though, and some un-dyed fiber. Maybe I can make something pretty to spin. I exhausted the Google looking for tutorials on how I can dye fiber with these dyes using something I have (I am not buying a microwave just for fiber….yet). I've discovered, besides of the Tumbler blog the mill that produces these dyes has, there's not much info about them or how to use them without investing a ton of money in big pots, steamers, or a special dyeing oven/microwave. Hey, I think I found something I can share with the internet! Today, I will walk you through how I have made dyeing with inexpensive items, and these dyes work.

The first thing you want to do is gather your equipment. You need at least one color of Greener Shades Dyes (don’t pick Coral Reef Aqua yet, you'll see why), if you haven't bought your dye yet, consider getting this set. It's the exact set I started with (book and all!), and using that link to purchase supports the blog.  You also need citric acid, which comes with the dye set (or you can use white vinegar) , and the following:

Can Only Be Used For Dyeing:

My supplies gathered! I forgot the measuring cup and safety gear for the photo.

My supplies gathered! I forgot the measuring cup and safety gear for the photo.

  • Colander
  • Crock-pot
  • Tongs
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Towel
  • White Spoons
  • Containers For Mixing Dye

Can Be Dual Purpose:

  • Kitchen or Postage Scale For Weighing Fiber
  • Tiny Kitchen Scale, Minimum Weight .1g For Weighing Dye
  • Acrylic Yarn of Any Color
  • Scissors
  • Liquid Measuring Cup

Disposable Items:

  • Tin Foil or Lid for Your Pot
  • Dixie Cups for Dye Weighing
  • Drop Cloths to Protect Surfaces
  • Gloves
  • Mask

If you want to replicate your results, I recommend you download my handy template here, and take notes on everything you did.

Anything the dye touches you can't use for food prep again. This is why I like the crock-pot method, though it is way slower than using a pot on the stove. I grabbed both of my crock-pots from Goodwill for $4.99 & $5.99. They did not come with lids, but tinfoil does just fine. Eventually I will have whole army of old used crock-pots. I refuse to buy anything nice and new for dyeing at this point. I did buy the tiny kitchen scale for $11 on Amazon. My postage scale (which I think is just another, bigger kitchen scale) couldn't weigh small enough amounts to dye the small batches of fiber I'm doing. Everything else I sacrificed to dyeing from extras in my kitchen, or got at the dollar store. I spent about $30 total on supplies.

I find this method to be low mess, but you should wear gloves, a mask, eye protection, and an apron when handling the dye. We are using dye in a powder form, and there is a risk of inhalation so I use the teaspoons to carefully scoop the dye powder onto the scale to minimize the amount that enters the air. Eventually I hope to dye big enough batches I can skip weighing the powder and use teaspoon measurements. For now though, weighing is the way to go. A teaspoon of dye is a surprisingly large amount! Always put the caps back on your containers right away to avoid knocking them over and causing a dye dust cloud. I also don't leave my gloves on during the whole dyeing process since you don't have to stand over your crock-pots the whole time and I have never put my hand in the dye pot. If you go do something else with them on you're likely to transfer dye that's splashed on them. I use the towels to mop up messes immediately when I see them on my work surface. It would be so sad to ruin a dye batch by dropping your fiber in another color's droplets.

Now that I've thoroughly bore you, we can begin the good part.

The Steps:

All the fiber is ready!

1. Start with weighing and tying your fiber. You want your fiber to move freely in the pot without getting tangled. For these small crock-pots I find 2oz of fiber is perfect. I tie my fiber loosely with bows to prevent the fiber from being too compacted for the dye to reach under the ties (unless you are tie dyeing!). I chose Falkland and Merino for my base fibers.

Make sure your sink is clean and plugged before you start!

2. Pre-soak your fiber in warm tap water for 30 minutes. I experimented yesterday with pre-soaking in a vinegar solution, but my colors were streaky, so today I am just soaking in water to see what the difference is. Plug and fill the sink before you put your fiber in. Gently squish your fiber around to make sure it is all submerged. 

3. While your fiber is soaking, prep your crock-pots and set up your work station. I fill each with 4 cups of hot tap water and turn them on high. That is half of my total water volume for 2oz of fiber. The dye manufacturer recommends 2 gallons for every lb. That is 1/8 of 32c = 8c total.

Set up your work station so everything is out and within reach.

Set up your work station so everything is out and within reach.

4. Next, figure out how much dye is needed for the Depth of Shade (DoS) desired, and start recording dye batch data. I'm doing two colors, Coral Reef Aqua at 1% DoS, and Flame Red at .25% DoS (I'm shooting for pink!). To calculate how much dye you need you multiply how many ounces of fiber you have, by the DoS percent. For Coral Reef Aqua, that is 2oz x .01 = 0.02oz of dye, for Flame Red it is 2oz x .0025 = 0.005oz of dye.

Protect your work surface and keep the dye close to where you are using it.

5. Then you will measure and dissolve your dye powder. I use these handy mason jars I pre-marked 1/2c on. I find that to be the perfect amount of water to dissolve the dye powder. I use a plastic spoon or knife to make sure it is all mixed in, and then dump it in the crock-pot and give it a good thorough stir. You may need to add another 1/2c of water in the jar to rinse out the remaining dye powder. You want to make sure it all gets in your pot.

6. While your crock-pot continues to warm, drain the fiber and squeeze out the extra water. I use the colander for this step to prevent the fiber from being sucked into the drain. Never put fiber in a sink and pull the stopper. You will lose some fiber if you aren't careful. Lesson learned the hard way!

7. Add your fiber to the pot, give it a good stir, and add your remaining water. This may be 3c, or 3 1/2c depending on if your jar needed another rinse to get the dye powder out of your mixing container. Your pot should be around 100 - 115 degrees. Cover with tinfoil, and allow temperature to rise to 160 - 170 degrees.

8. While your temperature is rising, mix your citric acid or white vinegar into your mason jars with 1/2 C water.  I used 3/4 tsp of citric acid for each of my successful batches. Once you've reached 160 - 170 degrees pour it into dye bath and stir. Re-cover with foil. I only used citric acid for this batch, but I wanted you to have an alternative if you don't have citric acid. Vinegar should do the trick, you just may need to test the amount. 

9. Make sure your temperature does not exceed 210 degrees, and periodically check on it until the dye bath clears. Mine stayed around 200, and cleared wonderfully for most of the colors (I'll post more about Coral reef Aqua later, this batch was a total bust). If your dye bath isn't clearing, stir in more citric acid or vinegar. Record the changes you needed to make. Your water PH could require you need more. I decided not to test my water PH since I wanted my process to be simple, and the water clearing easily meant what I am doing is working. The only color I had trouble with was Coral Reef Aqua.

10. Pour contents of crock-pot into a sink with a colander. Plug sink and fill with cool water. Don't allow the stream of water to pour on the fiber, at these high temperatures it might felt. Gently squeeze the fiber and make sure the water is clear. Drain, gently squeeze out excess water, and hang to dry.

100% Useless. 

100% Useless. 

Unfortunately the Coral Reef Aqua totally felted. I added additional citric acid to it multiple times and it never cleared, so I dumped it and tried to finish processing it in new water. When that didn't work I soaked it in vinegar water and it eventually cleared. It might be all the handling I did during rinsing, or maybe the heating up cooling multiple times did it. There will be a future post about how to make this color successful. For now, I'll leave you with the saddest fiber picture ever.

Then the happy pictures of all of today's successes!

Everything is at .25% DoS. The streak factor is similar to what I got after soaking in vinegar, so I think for now we will stay vinegar free. One less thing to buy and remember to use.

I'll end this post by saying that while Greener Shades contains no heavy metals (except that darn Coral Reef Aqua, which has copper), it is a synthetic dye. I feel better about dumping it down the sink without all the extra potential groundwater contaminants. The green marketing totally sold me, but I am enjoying the colors, so for now I will continue to experiment with them. I want to dye fiber, I want to do it using a simple method, and I want to be able to repeat the things I like.

Happy dyeing!

Do you need to purchase some of the tools to dye your fiber? Here are links to some of the items I used.