Dyeing to Embroider
Dyeing Embroidery Floss with Fiber Reactive Dyes
a Dharma featured tutorial
This is the secret to how fine artists in embroidery do such incredible shading and have such an amazing variety of color, without buying 1000 different skeins of floss, just to have on hand in case you need it. No need to be a floss hoarder, dye your own!
- Embroidery Floss - 100 or 500 gram cones
- OR Pearl Cotton
- Fiber Reactive Dyes - We used #146-Kingfisher, #146-Pomegranate and #3-Golden Yellow
- Soda Ash
- Professional Textile Detergent
- Dharma Dye Fixative
- Niddy Noddy or Skein Winder (optional but handy)
- 1" Foam Brushes
- Plastic Wrap or something similar
- Mixing Cups and measuring spoons
Let's get started!
Wind off a hank of your embroidery floss with your niddy noddy or even just around your forearm. The amount and length of your hank are up to you. Traditionally, embroidery floss comes in a small hank with 8m of floss, so we suggest at least doubling that so you have plenty for your project. If you are dyeing bulk colorways you may wish to skein off the whole cone, it is up to you. Be sure to tie your hank in figure eights in at least four places loosely with some extra floss or yarn to help keep it tidy while dyeing.
Soak your floss in some hot water with PTD this is to remove any fabric softener or oils, even from your fingers, that will resist penetration of the dye.
Then soak your floss in the traditional soda soak while you mix up your dyes, or at least 5 -10 minutes.
1/4 cup soda ash to 1 quart of water
Mix Dyes the same as for tie-dye, depending on how much you think you need, today we are only mixing up a half cup of each, so half of the first line of recipes below.
Gently squeeze out the skein so it isn't dripping with soda soak and lay it out on the plastic wrap. Using the foam brushes, apply your colors from lightest to darkest. This is where you get to have fun, you can control the length of your color sections and blending to get results you can't buy of the rack. After one side is covered, carefully flip the skein over and repeat the same colors on the other side they go all the way through the hank.
Pro-Tip: you don't want to over saturate the hank; avoid making a puddle where all the colors just bleed together. It helps to just dab the dye on and go back if an area needs more, vs. flooding it with dye from the get go.
Once you are happy with how covered the floss looks, wrap it up in the plastic wrap to batch overnight, 12-24 hours.
The next day, open up the plastic wrap and rinse the skein in cool running water until the water runs clear. Next, wash in hot water with some of the PTD, rinsing as much as you can. Because you need to do this by hand, it can be hard to wash and rinse until the water is fully clear, but do the best you can. To help prevent bleeding on your work later, do a final soak with the Dharma Dye Fixative*. Use 1 TBS. of Dharma Dye Fixative per 1/2 lb. of material (weigh your dry floss before dyeing) to new COOL water rinse, soak for 15 minutes, then rinse and dry.
Pro-Tip: It is also great for treating commercially dyed threads to prevent bleeding before you start your projects.
Your custom, one-of-a-kind colorways are ready to start your next embroidery project. You can store the skein as is or wind it on some Floss Storage Bobbins.
Written and Photographed by Elizabeth Holdmann for Dharma Trading Co.