Dyeing in my kitchen

Deb Menz dyeing in Linda's kitchen.

Deb demonstrating with stock solutions.

Examples of finished dye projects.

Live and let dye

When Deb Menz agreed to do a how-to video on chemical dyeing, we scratched our heads over where to shoot it. The video studio here at Interweave isn't really equipped for making wet messes. The dye studio at Colorado State University is terrifically efficient, but is very narrow and we couldn't figure out where would we put the cameras. Then the light came on. Most home dyers don't have a dye studio or dye lab or special sinks or any of that. They have a kitchen. That's where I've always done my dyeing. And thus my kitchen became a video studio for a day.

We put newspapers down on the cooking island and the butcher block counter tops, unplugged the phone and sent the dog off for a nap, and that was it. Ready to roll.

Deb arrived as well prepared as she always is—pots, measuring cups, yarn samples, undyed skeins, and dye powders of the non-metallized acid type. You hear a lot of scary stories about chemical dyes. They're chemicals! Well, so is table salt! They do deserve respect and some common-sense precautions, but they offer a wonderful approach to getting your own personal color palette with no waste and little fuss. The environmentally friendly dyes Deb chose to use are pretty similar to the dyes that you find in Kool-Aid, minus the sugar.

After going through the basics of equipment and safety, the fun began—mixing stock solutions. It was so easy! Measure, add hot water, and stir. If you have a set of three or five or six basic colors mixed up in Mason jars, you can use them to create whole universes of color. And after Deb demonstrated simple one-color immersion dyeing and one-color low-water dyeing, then the real fun began.

Dribbling, dipping, tie-dyeing, painting, every way you can imagine putting liquid color on fiber or yarn, Deb did it. It was like being in a grade school art class run amok. True, joyful, grown-up play. Because color and dyeing and teaching about them comprise Deb's vocation, she has a deep understanding of color theory and chemistry and best practices for getting consistent results. But at the same time, she simply exudes the excitement of pure experimentation. It's all there and it's infectious. She even makes the math easy, if you choose to go that route. (Her "cheat sheets" are on the disk as a downloadable PDF.)

At the end of the day, she packed up, cleaned up, and then I made dinner. The kitchen was none the worse for wear. Dyeing—you should try this at home.

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