I set up the new dye studio yesterday, and I thought I’d take a photo during the ten seconds that it will actually look presentable:
Needless to say, if you ever see a setup this neat from someone who claims to be a working dyer, run away quickly, because either the person just spent the last 40 hours scrubbing their studio to take the shot (who has time for that?!?) or they never actually use the studio for dyeing.
Or, of course, they just set up a brand-new studio and can’t resist showing everything off!
Actually I thought this would be a good opportunity to show you the equipment I use. So here it is.
Safety equipment first. The acid dyes and fiber-reactive dyes sold for artisan and home dyers are pretty darn safe (please don’t listen to folks who tell you otherwise), BUT any kind of dust is bad news for your lungs, some of the associated chemicals are lung irritants, inhaling fiber-reactive dyes can lead to allergies to the dyes, and it’s stupid to breathe in any kind of chemical if you don’t have to. If you’re working with dyes, wear a GOOD dust mask or a respirator when mixing up dye powders and/or auxiliary chemicals such as soda ash, citric acid, etc. It’s not because dyes are horribly toxic and can kill you, it’s just plain common sense, folks.
Because I work with dyes frequently, I wear a respirator with P100 cartridges. These happen to be good for organic vapors, too, but the dust protection is what’s important.
I also wear gloves. Again, common sense, but also because I mostly work with fiber-reactive dyes and repeated exposure to fiber-reactive dyes can result in developing an allergy to the dyes. Also because the detergent that is used to wash out the dyes can really dry out your hands, and the soda ash solution that you soak the yarns in for fiber-reactive yarn dyeing is highly alkaline and very bad for your skin.
I find that the usual type of glove, which reaches only to the wrist, doesn’t offer enough protection, especially when hauling things in and out of buckets of water, so I use 12″ long gloves. I don’t have a latex allergy, but I still prefer heavy-duty (10 mil) nitrile gloves as they are less likely to tear while hauling buckets around and also insulate my hands better when handling yarn that’s been in hot water.
Measuring and mixing equipment next:
You might be surprised to see both a set of highly accurate scales and the notoriously inaccurate teaspoons and tablespoons. That’s because I do two kinds of dyeing. The first is precision dyeing, where I mix up my own dye samples based on the 2,500 sample studies I’ve done, and expect highly accurate and reproducible results. That’s what the scale is for. The second is off-the-cuff dyeing, where I either use premixed dyes or just eyeball things and take whatever comes. For the first, I use the scales and “pure” dye colors for accurate results. For the second, I use Dharma Trading Company’s premixed dyes and their recommended numbers of teaspoons and tablespoons of dye to get an approximation of the color in their swatch charts.
Both approaches have their place and I use both methods. For immersion dyeing, I almost always use precision dyeing; for warp painting, tie-dye T-shirts, and so on, I generally use the off-the-cuff method. That’s because the precision dyeing swatches don’t always apply to surface design application methods, and Dharma’s formulas are designed for those methods. Also, accuracy isn’t usually critical for warp painting. But it really depends on what I’m after and whether I need precise color results.
I use plastic tablespoons and teaspoons because I can get a 20-pack for $10. When I’m painting warps I can easily wind up mixing 10 or more colors of powdered dye. If I only have one or two tablespoon measures, that adds up to a LOT of washing and drying, and interrupts the work. With 20 tablespoons, I can just grab another one, and toss the used ones into a bucket of water. By the time I’m done, all the dye has soaked off and it’s just a quick rinse, then put everything away.
The syringes are also a measuring tool. A VERY useful measuring tool, for liquid dyes. Once I’ve mixed up a stock solution of dye, I use syringes to measure out and mix smaller amounts. I get these from veterinary supply shops (you can also get them from Amazon, of course) – the 60 ml kind are the ones I use most, but I occasionally use 30 or even 10 ml syringes for really small dilutions.
The cups are for measuring auxiliary chemicals (soda ash and urea mostly, since I work mainly with fiber-reactive dyes), but occasionally for larger amounts of dye.
Multiple sizes of dye mixing cups in back. They’re clear and marked with different numbers of fluid ounces on the side. If I’m precision dyeing, I tare out the cups and add water by weight; if I’m off-the-cuff dyeing, I just pour in water until I reach the right number of fluid ounces, marked off on the side of the cup. Not terribly accurate, but if I wanted accuracy I’d go with the scale.
Next up, dye application tools:
For painting dyes onto warps or skeins of yarn, my tool of choice is the foam brush. They’re cheap, easy to clean, hold a lot of dye, and can be used to smoosh dye into the warp quickly. My one complaint is that they can hold too much dye, but if you squeeze it out against the side of the container a bit you can avoid the worst of the splooshes.
Behind the foam brushes is masking film. This is lightweight rolls of plastic that is used for painting houses (I think on wall trim) but which can be used under painted warps in place of plastic wrap, which I find difficult to control. There’s 9″ masking film, which I tried last time and found a little too narrow, and 12″ masking film, which I just found at Home Depot and am eager to test. Prior to that I used 10’x 12′ 4-6 mil drop cloth cut about 10-12″ wide, but I’d prefer something that comes in a continuous length. I’ll keep you posted on how this works out.
This is about half my collection of Procion fiber-reactive dyes. Mostly they’re from Dharma Trading Company. I buy from Dharma because they sell great dyes and they’re practically in my back yard – I can order from them and get it the next day. I order from Pro Chemical and Dye when I want dyes for precision dyeing, though, because that’s where I got my dyes for the dye samples so I want to be consistent about sources. Both are excellent companies and I wouldn’t hesitate to order from either.
I have a large collection of both premixed colors and “pure” colors from which I can mix my own colors on the fly. Some people say it’s better to mix your own, some people prefer premixed. I say it depends on what your priorities are at any given moment, and I use both approaches freely depending on what I’m trying to accomplish. Peace, folks.
So that’s the dye studio. I spent four or five hours setting everything up yesterday and mixing up 20 batches of dye with which to dye my warp, after which (of course) it was too dark to actually dye anything. So I’ve got everything prepped, and as soon as that darn sun comes up, I’ll be out to paint that warp!