Dharmaset Dyes Vat Dyeing Instructions

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Download a printable PDF version of these instructions here.

Dharmaset dyes for wool, silk and nylon are intense mixes, for the most part, of 1:2 metal complex and reactive dyes. This makes them extremely wash fast with good to excellent light fastness. Even more color fast than our Dharma Acid Dyes, especially on wool. These dyes are an excellent choice for the dyer who requires the most permanent colors for their work. Items dyed with Dharmaset dyes can also be washed in much warmer temperatures than items dyed with regular Acid Dyes, without loss of color.

These directions are for dyeing 1lb (also known as 454 gm or 16oz.) of material; increase or decrease the amounts proportionately for different amounts of material. Always do test samples before working on a larger project, or anything that it is important you get an exact shade on, as results can vary even between different weaves of the same fiber type. You need more "auxiliary chemicals" when using Dharmaset dyes to get a nice even dye job because these dyes "strike" very quickly when the temperature reaches the ideal level, and if you do not follow the directions below, you will be more likely to get mottled results.*

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1. Pre-wash and wet out the fiber with #PTD or #SYN. If you are not doing a full wash then soak for at least 30 minutes. Finer fibers like silk, merino and alpaca may benefit from longer soaking.

2. Dissolve the dye. Measure the desired amount of dye powder; see chart below for shade %. Paste up the dye with a little cold water, then finish dissolving the dye with 1-2 cups of boiling water depending on how concentrated your color is going to be. Stir thoroughly and set aside to cool while making the dye bath.

IntensityDye Quantity
Pale 0.5 tsp (1 gm/.08 oz)
Medium 1.75 tsp (4.5 gm/.3 oz)
Dark 3.5 tsp (9 gm/.6 oz)
Black 10 tsp (25 gm/1.7 oz)

NOTE: Pre-mixed or leftover dissolved dye can be stored for up to 6 months.

3. Fill a pot with enough cool tap water to come up the side of the jars or fill the pot for larger items so that your fabric can move freely. Add the dissolved dye, 1 TBS of citric acid or 2-10 TBSs of white vinegar*, 4 tsp Ammonium Sulfate, and 1 tsp LevelSet and 1 TBS Glauber's Salt (if you are using it). 

*Note: You want to get your pH down between 3-5, you may need more citric acid or vinegar depending on your local water

4. Add your wet material. Stir it gently for 5 min to distribute the dye. Turn on the heat and continue gently stirring as it comes to a simmer (198-212°F) over 45-60 min. Heat must be increased very slowly to prevent streaking. The water will clear/exhaust as the dye is absorbed and fixes to the fiber. This happens fast once the bath reaches the optimum temperature (198-212°F), and free movement of the fabric and stirring are important for the most even results!

5. Let the dye bath cool and then remove your fiber. Rinse in cool water and wash with Synthrapol or Textile Detergent to make sure there is no unfixed dye left. Dry as you normally would for the fiber you used.

* If you are doing a low water immersion process and want deliberately mottled results, just use the dye and the citric acid. None of the other chemicals. Same heat is needed, but no stirring, and the fibers or fabric have to be crammed in the pot with little water. Because silk wicks so much, the more tightly it is crammed, the better. One method might be to heat water, dye and citric to boiling and pour it over the tightly crammed or better, tied, silk or wool. It should strike immediately at that temperature. It will temperature shock your fabric though and cause more shrink. After it cools enough to be safe to handle, rinse, then wash with Synthrapol or Textile Detergent as usual, and dry according to the fabric or fiber.

Happy Dyeing!

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