I'm a knitter and crocheter and I worked for many years as a software engineer and website developer. I suppose I've always been fascinated by color and fiber, so several years ago I decided that it was time for me to learn how to dye my own yarn. I started out using Kool-Aid and other food colorings, but I soon became interested in using professional acid dyes. I used premixed colors at first, and then decided to try to make my own colors by mixing pure primaries.
I quickly realized that developing formulas for beautiful new colors requires a lot of time and materials — and that can be expensive — so I tried searching for color formulas in print and online. Unfortunately, many of the resources were no longer available and most of the formulas I found weren't accurate or used dyes that I don't use. I decided that I would have to develop my own color formulas and I wanted to do it in a systematic and logical way. Taking Carol Soderlund's Color Mixing for Dyers workshop at PRO Chemical & Dye was a life changing experience for me, setting me on a path that led me to create this website.
Dyebook makes dyeing wool, silk and other animal protein fiber with professional acid dyes — in a safe, accurate and reproducible way — almost as easy as dyeing with Kool-Aid and other food colorings. If you like the idea of mixing colors using pure primaries, you can purchase Color Formulas on Dyebook. When you purchase a color formula, Dyebook stores it in your color library. When you're ready to use that color in a project, Dyebook will generate detailed dyeing instructions for you that you can keep as documentation for your project. Dyebook also provides some useful Tools for dyers and some fun Design Tools for knitters and crocheters that anyone can use — for free! If you choose to subscribe to Dyebook's Premium Member Services, you will also have access to Dyebook's premium tools for dyers, knitters and crocheters.
Most professional acid dyes are highly superior to food dyes with respect to washfastness and lightfastness. For obvious reasons, washfastness and lightfastness are not important qualities for food colorings.
Professional acid dyes come in powder form, making it easy to weigh precise amounts using an inexpensive digital scale that weighs accurately to 0.01 gram. I bought my little 100 gram capacity compact pocket scale plus a 100 gram calibration weight for under $20 on Amazon.
There are only seven artificial food dyes allowed for use in the United States and only five of them are readily available. It's also difficult to find pure food dyes as most food colorings are mixtures of two or more dyes. There are many more pure professional acid dyes available, so the range of colors you can attain by mixing is much greater with professional acid dyes compared to food dyes. If you need accurate reproducibility of your colors, you have to use professional acid dyes.
Professional acid dyes are as easy to use as food colorings if you use standard dye stock solutions. A dye stock strength of 1% is the easiest strength to work with because it simplifies the calculations you need to do to determine how much of the dye stock you need to use on your fiber to get the desired depth of shade. But don't worry about those calculations! Dyebook provides the tools to do the calculations for you.
Acid dyes are inexpensive because they are so effective. Generally, two ounces of dye powder will dye 12 pounds of fiber to a medium shade, so at a cost of about $3.00 per ounce of dye powder, it only costs about 50 cents to dye a pound of fiber.
Acid dyes are non-caustic and very safe to work with. The word "acid" sounds scary like it could burn you if you get it on your skin, but it's not like that at all. They're called acid dyes because, like food dyes which are also acid dyes, they need a weakly acidic environment to work. Vinegar is commonly used as the acid. Any possible bad effects, such as developing a sensitivity to the dyes, come from inhaling or ingesting the dye powders. To be safe, always wear a mask and gloves when handling dye powders and use separate pots, containers and utensils only for dyeing. You can minimize the amount of exposure you have to the dye powders by mixing up and using dye stock solutions. You can store your dye stock solutions in sealed containers for up to six months.
Acid dye molecules don't bond to water, so if you use the right amount of dye for the desired depth of shade, all of the dye in your dye bath will bond to your fiber and your dye bath will completely exhaust, meaning it will become clear. This is great news for the environment because you aren't dumping excess dye down the drain and good news for your pocketbook because your're not wasting dye.