16 June 2008

I am going to share my floss-dyeing secrets

I normally would not do this, but y'all asked how I dyed my floss. I'll share, because there really isn't a big secret to it. I took a class at CATS 2 years ago, taught by Catherine Jordan. She's an excellent teacher, and I really learned.

To dye floss, you need:

1 pair of rubber gloves--trust me, you will never come up with an adequate explanation of why your fingers are purple, so it's not even worth getting em purple in the first place.

clothes you don't mind getting color on.

dye--any dye will work, but, for the sake of my sanity, use a dye meant for fabric. This excludes Easter egg dye, and Kool-aid. Easter egg dye just doesn't set right, and Kool-aid just betrays my sense of artistry. I know, people use these to dye, but come on, Kool-aid? Rit is cheap. I've been using it for 6 years. It's worth your time and it's worth the money.

detergent--dish soap is a good thing.

white vinegar--don't use apple cider, don't use fancy stuff. Cheap-o white vinegar works just fine.

hot water--helps dissolve the dye and hot water removes the chemical they add to white floss to keep it shiny.

plastic cups

plastic wrap

last but not least, your floss. This is a good way to use up floss you don't want, bought too much of, or just don't want to wind on a bobbin yet. Try to keep it with the pale colors. White can be iffy, so just know that those first few skeins are practice skeins if you do white.


1. Cover your work area with plastic, or else dye outside and hope it doesn't stain your walkway, driveway or patio furniture.

2. Put out one plastic cup for every color you intend to do. Fill the plastic cup halfway with hot water. Add a small amount of vinegar, and a drop of dish detergent. The detergent opens the fibers of the floss, allowing it to accept the dye. When I dyed without using it, the floss didn't take the dye as well. Stir it up, and then add a small amount of your chosen dye powder. We are talking a tiny amount, but more than a few grains. There is a fine line between thrifty and cheap.

3. By now, you'll have laid out your floss. You will want to take the paper or plastic labels off. RESIST THAT urge. You'll need a handle! And this helps guide the dyeing process. Think before you start how your base color affects the final color. Usually, it's great, sometimes not so great. I've been dying fabric for a long time, and you can get some AMAZING colors just by using a creamier fabric--the most beautiful fabric I ever dyed was a yellow-ey white, but when I dyed it blue, it turned this buttery-blue color that is just amazing and that pictures just don't do justice. I fully plan on dyeing that color again, but it was a happy accident. I didn't intend to get that color, but it was on sale, it took and a beautiful thing came out of it. But I have plenty of ugly pieces too.

4. Take your skein of floss by a label, dip it in the color you want. Stick it down about a quarter inch, pick it up so the dyed part is in the air, and twist it so the color runs down the skein. Move the label around and repeat the process around the skein. If you want to do more than one color on the skein, you can do that as well. Same process. One color will give you a mottled effect like GAST, more than that like a Weeks.

5. As you finish, place the completed skein on a piece of plastic wrap, and roll it one turn. As you add skeins, add it to the roll and keep rolling. When done, you will have something like a jelly roll or Ho-Ho snack cake.

6. If you have a rice steamer or vegetable steamer, heat it up (if it's metal like mine, put a paper towel down or your plastic wrap will melt onto the metal) place your jelly roll o' floss in there. If you don't, and you have a dishwasher, wait til the drying cycle, then stick your jelly roll in there. You want it in for 10 minutes.

7. Take it out of whatever you are steaming it in and let it sit for 1 hour. Then rinse in cold water. You want to rinse it until the water runs clear and the floss doesn't smell like vinegar. You want to make sure all the vinegar is out of the floss. Vinegar is an acid and will eventually eat your floss.

8. Let dry overnight.

9. Wind it on bobbins, go to town.

Just a note here at the end. If you've never done this before, be patient with yourself. It's supposed to be fun and you won't learn if you don't try.


Daffycat said...

Great instructions, Rachael!

Wear those gloves...!

becca said...

Wow, thanks rachael. I've wondered how people did this.

~Julie~ said...

Hey Rachel!! Thanks for the information and the tips! I just might have to give it a go next week! =) Yours sure turned out nice!


Pumpkin said...

Thanks for the tutorial Rachel! I always wondered how it was done and why Crescent Colors always had a vinegar taste to it :o) I think I'll leave the dyeing to the professionals.

Itching To Stitch said...

Thanks for sharing ;)

Annie said...

That's a great tutorial. Thanks for all the detailed tips.

Raggedy Ann said...

thanks for the info! I have a question though...can you just rinse it and not steam it? Can rinsing it get the vinegar out?

I am thinking of trying to dye floss...when , I don't know..seems I am working too many hours at my jobs lately. I want to craft!
Love your blog!
Just wanted to say hello,
Louise in NC

I do my thing and you do yours. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, then it is beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped--Frederick Perls