There are certain essentials in natural dye tools and materials, that need to be gathered before you begin to set up a natural dye workshop. Your original impression might be that this will really add up to a lot of money. That is actually not the case! First lets go over the tools you need, then I will give you some tips on shopping for deals.
Before You Buy Anything…
It’s important that you keep your natural dye tools, and equipment separate from the pots, pans and utensils used for cooking food. Even using substances from nature can lead to toxic buildup on cookware and utensils. With a small investment, you can gather equipment specifically for your dye work.
Look for used or new, stainless steel pots. You can use aluminum pots but the metal might affect the resulting color. Once I fell in love with the natural dye process, I invested in a large stainless steel pot that can handle a larger amount of fiber or yarn. These are great for natural dye tools.
A bucket for rinsing out the yarn can be useful. Small measuring cups for dissolving powdered dyes with a little water come in handy. A glass mason style jar is another option. Measuring spoons, long handled tongs, long wooden or metal spoons, strainers, and pot holders are essential. Once you begin experimenting with pH, a pack of pH strips will come in handy.
What to Use for a Heat Source
Unless you stick to solar dyeing, you need a heat source to simmer the dye vats. My favorite method is an outdoor camp style propane stove. I didn’t purchase this right away for my natural dye tools. It is one of the more expensive equipment additions. In the meantime I used various electric burners outside on our covered deck.
It’s not advisable to heat dye pots inside your house unless you have really good ventilation. Even natural substances can release irritating fumes when heated.
Eventually, I upgraded to the propane stove. The electric burners were fine for small batches. As I began dyeing larger batches, I needed more power to heat the water.
Keep Safety Gear with Your Natural Dye Tools
Some materials are irritating to lungs and eyes. Eye protection and dust masks are inexpensive essential items to include in your dye kit.
Other Essential Natural Dye Tools
A long stem candy or brewing thermometer helps you keep the dye at the correct temperature. An infrared thermometer is another option.
Most dye measurements require a scale. Postage or kitchen digital scales are great for dye work. Having a scale that measures in grams is particularly helpful in your natural dye workshop.
A drop cloth and disposable gloves are good additions.
Do You Need Alum in Your Natural Dye Workshop?
Alum is the most common substance used as a mordant for natural dye work. Cream of Tarter is often used along with alum as a softening agent. Both of these substances help the yarn become receptive to the dye, allowing it to stick.
With some natural dye substances, particularly berries, vinegar can be the mordant that prepares the yarn to accept the color.
Washing soda, and iron are easy to find modifiers that can substantially shift the color of the dye.
Other mordants and modifiers are a bit tricky and not recommended for beginning dye work.
One Last Essential Addition to Your Natural Dye Tools
No natural dye workshop is complete without a notebook for recording your details and results. Keep track of your measurements in the notebook, including how much dye material you used and the ratio of mordant to dry wool. ( Usually 10 to 12%). Note the weight of the yarn being dyed as this is important to repeating your results later.
Add a small piece of your fiber or yarn to the notebook. This is my favorite part of my natural dye notebook.
This is a great place to note how each dye substance worked for you. Note the season you gathered the material, and if you used the flowers, leaves or roots.
List of Natural Dye Workshop Supplies
- pots and pans
- strainer, fine mesh and regular
- outdoor heat source
- digital scale
- cooking utensils
- safety gear
- pH strips
- mordants and modifiers
- drop cloth, rubber gloves
- hangers for drying yarn
- buckets for rinsing yarn
Keep track of what you forage and grow in the garden for your natural dye work. The possibilities are endless when you have your own natural dye tools ready to use. You can read more about raising fiber animals, and all the lovely crafts you can do with wool and natural fibers in my book. Enjoy the journey!