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Acid Dyes: Step By Step with Mary Berry

Whether you are new to acid dyes or just curious to see another experienced dyer at work, Mary’s step-by-step instructions are a great way to peek into her Texas dyeing studio.

Mary Berry Feb 28, 2024 - 7 min read

Acid Dyes: Step By Step with Mary Berry Primary Image

Dyed samples from Mary Berry’s Spring article showing color saturation. Photo by Matt Graves

Fiber artist Mary Berry wrote a fantastic article for Spin Off Spring 2024 that explores saturation. “Pastel to Pure Hue: Dyeing with Value and Saturation in Mind” takes a close look at one dye—Jacquard’s Turquoise—to show how to go about determining the perennial question of “how much dye do I need?” Because the combination of dye color, fiber type, and dye process can impact results, Mary’s simple test can help you do your own color sleuthing.

Mary also shared her personal approach to working with acid dyes in her studio. Because every dyer works a bit differently, we wanted to share her method. We learned a few things that we’ll try in our own dye adventures and hope you will, too! —Editors

Mary’s Acid-Dye Process

By Mary Berry

Safety Notes: Breathing dye or citric-acid powder may be harmful. Wear an N95 (or better) mask when working with powders. Wear latex or rubber gloves and safety glasses. Keep dye and dye solutions out of the reach of children. Pots and utensils that have been used for dyeing should never be used in food preparation.

1) Decide how much yarn or fiber you would like to dye. If you are dyeing solid colors, make sure the fibers have room to move around in the dyepot. If using skeins, be sure they are tied loosely in at least two places (more is better) as to not impede the absorption of the dye.

2) Decide which hue or hues you want to dye. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions to determine how much dye powder they recommend for the weight of goods.

3) Do the math. A gram scale is inexpensive and accurate, and programs such as Microsoft Excel can make the math fast and easy. For example: 1 ounce (28 grams) of fiber and 4% depth of shade will have the formula 28 x 0.04 and results in 1.12 grams of dye powder.

4) Soak the the fiber in tepid water and a few drops of Synthrapol to wet. (Synthrapol acts as a wetting agent. If you do not have this product, just allow fiber to soak longer.)

5) Mix the dye. In a heat-safe container, measure out dye powder. To mix, add 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) of not-quite-boiling water to dissolve the dye. Stir. Now, add 1/2 cup of lukewarm water and a mixer magnet and place on a magnetic mixer for 5 minutes. Tip: Use a set of metal tongs to extract your magnet. The magnet will find you.

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