A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

February--A Month to Dye For!

This month we are going to talk about all things Ann Johnston and what she can teach us about dyeing.  Ann has even agreed to do an interview with us!  Yeah! The above picture is grabbed from Ann's website's gallery. Please do go to her gallery and see more of her work.

I thought I was a decent dyer.  Not an expert but certainly not a novice.  I mean I had dyed for years---low water immersion, snow, ice, parfait, tray, thickened, silk screened, painted, scraped, sprayed, shiboried, batiked, printed, and probably more. But I was wrong. Watching the Color by Accident DVD pointed out to me that I had tried lots of techniques but that I had not taken the time to learn the dyes themselves.

It is time to change that and I am taking you along with me!  Beth Schellenberger, Laura McGrath, and Inke are helping me on the journey this month along with a few readers who have volunteered to show you their experiments.

Lesson one:  DYE COLORS

Let me start with the dye colors. Do you ever get confused about which blue, yellow, or red to buy?  I know that I did.  And then the zillions of colors that you can spend your money on.  Which ones are fabulous and which ones will sit on your shelf?  And how many of them do I need? Ann gave me some valuable clues.

Did you know there are only 14 pure MX Procion Dyes?  At first I thought that meant "pure" like you use the term for colors on a color wheel.  I was expecting a color wheel full range of colors.

Not quite.  The MX pure dyes are those made from one chemical.  ALL of the other colors are mixtures of the pure dyes.  You will  notice when you see the list that there are 4 yellows, 1 orange, 2 reds, 2 purples (neither of which is called purple), 5 blues and NO green.

So the answer to which colors are necessary is 14.  All other colors are mixtures of these 14.  Now that doesn't mean not to ever buy any other colors.  I love Chartreuse and find it more practical to buy it mixed than to mix it each time.  You might have favorite mixed colors that you want to keep buying. But do start your buying with the 14 pure colors.

Here is the list of the pure colors from Prochem.  You can order similar ones from Dharma but Prochem was nice enough to post a list.  I was going to copy and  paste the list here but it copies poorly.  You will have to use the link to read the colors. The list from the Prochem site does print very nicely.

My first step when I learned that fact was to go through my dyes and find out which ones of the pure dyes I had and then order the rest.  I won't bore  you with how many OTHER reds, greens, oranges, pinks, etc I had.

My  next step was to go to the store and buy containers to mix and store my dye concentrates in.  I dye often enough that I can store some dyes already mixed with water (NOT soda ash water) in the fridge without worrying about the dye's losing their strength.  Now when ever I want to dye, I don't have to hunt down my mask to mix the dye powders!  One messy step already accomplished! The dye concentrate recipe is: 1 Tablespoon of dye powder/ 2 Tablespoons Urea/ enough water to make 1 cup of concentrate. Shake.

Just a note:  I wish that I had a separate fridge for all my dyes but I don't.  I store my dyes in the same fridge with my food.  The mixed dyes are clearly labeled, in similar containers, that container shape is not used for anything else but dyes, and they are in a designated location in the fridge.  With those rules I don't worry about my  husband and me mistaking the grape dye for grape juice.  But I don't have kids at home anymore either.  If you have kids, you might think about how to handle that problem before storing your dyes.

My  next project is to develop a color wheel of the pure dyes.  That will help me decide which of the 4 yellows and 5 blues I want to mix together to get green.


  1. I dye the same as you, with concentrates. I do mix the blues 1.5 times stronger than the reds and yellows and the black twice as strong. If you are interested I did a test a few years ago showing how long the concentrates stayed at full strength in the fridge. The times ranges from 5 to 9 weeks. Here's the link:

  2. Very exciting. Can't wait to "get into this"!!!

  3. I shall put the book by my bed and try to keep up. I have some dyes that I haven't really used but I tried to get basics. Ha! I sure don't have 14! ;)

  4. In the UK we don't get some of the ProChem unmixed dyes but we do get some other pure dyes - a pinkish brown (5BR); blue-violet (7RX) which unfortunately these days is much paler than it used to be; and 4RD which is a sort of pure midnight blue and wonderful for really deep cool purples! The nearest thing to ProChem in the UK is Kemtex and Stuart, who runs it is a mine of useful information. And honest! I do know what I'm talking about - I used to be the equivalent of Vicki in the UK (though not as good at running a business!)

  5. Hi
    I'm really sorry to disagree with some of the information published about dyeing.
    It is not necessary to have 14 colours.
    You need seven.
    Lemon Yellow
    Golden Yellow
    Royal blue
    Turquoise and black.
    From these you can make any colour that you want by experimenting with different quantities.
    Good luck

  6. For Yvonne (previous comment)--the topic this month is dyeing using Ann Johnston's methods, and she is the one who recommends using the 14 pure Procion colors.

  7. I know this is an older post, but I stumbled across it. I have Ann J.'s new DVD and 2 books - great info. One comment, if you don't want to worry about " oh yellow: I need 1.75 times more" or " hmmm red, I need to use .75 the amt of the other colors" - to avoid this, you might try dyeing by weight.

    Once I took a basic "Dyeing 100" class from Candy Glendening - have taken all her classes, and like you, I thought I was a pretty good dyer too. Going metric and dyeing by the weight of the dye molecules and the fabric completely changed how I dye.

    For example, if I normally dye at an 8% DOS (depth of shade) for a dark hue and I want a pastel, I can weigh my fabric , and know that to dye 2 yards of that fabric at 1% DOS, I need 2.5g of dye powder per 500 ml (2 cups approx). And - no urea needed. I am only using 2 cups of water, no need for it - unless I thicken it later and I need a humectant for hand painting with the dye.

    I know you are talking about Ann J here. I LOVE her work - especially her dye parfaits. Just thought I would mention it.


Although this blog is no longer active, we will get your comments so please feel free to share them.