How do you use Cushing's Dyes?

© September 2007, Amelia of AskTheBellwether.com

Cushings Dyes, titled "W. Cushing's Perfection Wool Dyes" come in an amazing selection of ninety-four (94!) colors. They dye wool, mohair, silk, alpaca, llama, cashmere, nylon, and other protein based fibers, with the addition of vinegar or citric acid as a mordant.

Acid dyes are the easiest of dyes to use on fiber: make a solution in white vinegar and water, simmer, and presto! dyed fiber. Acid dyes are also used for sun dyeing, roving or yarn painting, and microwave dyeing.

If you are looking to mix your own colors, the recommended "true red" to use is Turkey Red or Terra Cotta; the recommended "true yellow" is Buttercup Yellow or Old Gold; and the recommended "true blue" is Copenhagen Blue.

Directions to dye a solid color on your fiber...


  • Fiber should already be clean. It can be roving, yarn, washed fleece, but it should be lanolin and residue free. Soak fiber in warm water and ph-neutral dishwashing liquid or Synthrapol for 20 minutes. The dishwashing liquid or Synthrapol helps with dye-takeup in your fiber.
  • Make a dye solution by dissolving powder in a small amount of boiling water (enough to make a liquid, not a paste). Do this carefully! Do it out of the wind and be careful not to spill the powder.
  • Fill enamel or stainless steel dyepot with sufficient water to cover fiber allowing for stirring. Add 1-2 cups white vinegar for each pound of fiber. If your water is hard, add some water softener or mild detergent to aid the penetration of the fibers by the dye solution. Add the dye solution and stir in thoroughly.
  • Heat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit; be careful not to boil.
  • Add pre-wetted fiber, stir, and simmer at 165-175 F for 30-40 minutes. The dyebath will become clearer as it is exhausted, that is, as the dye solution is taken up into the fibers. Different components of a color will be taken in at different points in time, so it is important to simmer for the duration for the best results. Allow to return to room temperature in dye bath.
  • Rinse fiber in cool water until water runs clear.
  • Dispose of dye-bath and rinse water responsibly. A gravel driveway away from fields, septic tanks, and gardens is a reasonable spot to pour out the water.

Directions to space-dye your roving or yarn...

To space-dye, use a dye solution that is a 100:1 ratio of liquid to powder by weight (about 32 ounces of water per packet of dye). Lay out the fiber and use foam paintbrushes to apply the dye. Steam the fiber on a rack in a saucepan for 30 minutes, or wrap in plastic wrap, place in a glass dish, and microwave on a turntable for 6 minutes. I use 2 minutes on/2 minutes resting 3 times for microwave dyeing.

I save up 32 ounce Gatorade bottles so I can have colors ready to use when the dye bug hits. I'm not up to 94 bottles yet, but I'm working on it (grin!) I've kept dye bottles on the shelf for a year or more; reds may settle a bit, but warming the bottle in the sun and shaking it up seems to do the trick.

Please be careful when you dye -- use disposable gloves, don't use any food containers or equipment, and dispose of materials responsibly.

See earlier posts for more information on dyeing self-patterning sock yarns.

Ready to explore further? Check out these dyeing methods:
If you know of a good online dyeing writeup, please post it in the comments to share with others or email me - Thanks!

3 comments:

vicki said...

ok, I'm impressed. I think of something you write about. Started dyeing a few weeks ago, love it, but I had a few questions. I think you just answered all of them. Thank you. Keep up the good work. Seeing as your ESP is so good, if I think of anything I will send the thought your way. Thanks again.

Crow Calling Woman said...

I've made a couple videos on youtube on dying, including dyeing roving.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=HMYvj-XUzhQ

Amelia, belle of The Bellwether said...

Thanks, CCW! Those look great :-)