Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dyeing by Weight Vs. Volume 2: Weighing Different Color Dyes Using the Same Measuring Spoon

This time, I (Diane) wanted to see if one teaspoon of 5 different colors of dye weighed the same. For this experiment, I used the same measuring spoon, a one teaspoon measure, for each color of dye. In between measuring the different colors of dye powder, I washed and dried the spoon.

My guess was that the dyes would not weigh the same since I know that dye powders are mixed with inert fillers by dye supply houses. Each batch of dye powder is mixed differently depending on the source and nature of the original dye. Dye suppliers always sell the exact weight of dye that they say is in the jar but that weight of dye can also be mixed with other things. This is why you may buy a 2 ounce jar of a fuchsia dye, for example, and have it come in a small container one time and a larger one another time.

The colors I chose to weigh were mostly from PROChemical and Dye, one of the three major dye suppliers in the U.S. I chose Green 700 (a mixed color), Lemon Yellow 114, Fuchsia 308 and Basic Blue 400. The yellow, fuchsia and blue dyes are pure, unmixed colors. I also used one dye from Dharma Trading Company, Brown 35. This is a mixed color.

Here I have measured a spoonful of the yellow dye powder and am about to level it with a knife before weighing it.

I will weigh that dye powder in a dye boat. Below is a picture of the dye boat on the scale. I have tared the scale to zero so that I will get only the weight of the dye.

Next is a picture of the weighed dye.

I will do the same thing with the other 4 colors of dye.

The following table shows the weight of 1 teaspoon of each color of dye powder.

Dye Color
Weight of Dye
Green 700
3.8 grams
Brown 35
4.4 grams
Lemon Yellow 114
4.2 grams
Fuchsia 308
4.8 grams
Basic Blue 400
4.9 grams

You can see that the weight of the different dyes varies considerably. The heaviest dye, Basic Blue, weighs 1.1 grams more than the lightest dye, Green 700.

So what does this experiment show? First, it indicates that dyeing by volume is not nearly as accurate as dyeing by weight. A teaspoon of one color of dye is not the same as a teaspoon of another color even if you use the same teaspoon and fill it exactly the same. This means that in some cases you will be using more dye than you need and in other cases you may be using less.

If you use more dye than you actually need for the weight of the cloth that you’re dyeing, you will be wasting dye and spending more time and money on the wash out than if you used the proper amount of dye. You may also get a darker color than you wanted. If you use less dye, the color you get may be lighter than you wanted.

In my next, and last post on this subject, I will show you the difference in the dyed cloth when you dye by volume versus weight. I’ll also explain how to calculate the amount of dye you actually need to use for a given weight of fabric and desired depth of shade.

Remember to add a comment if you want to be entered into the drawing for a free copy of Dyeing Alchemy.


  1. That's very interesting! Thank you (but I'll probably carry on using spoons and not necessarily the same one!)

  2. Ok. I am convinced. Using my 20% off coupon for the scale at Bed Bath & Beyond. Have you ever looked at the weight difference between lot #s of the same dye color #? How repeatable are the formulas over time with the same mfg?
    Diana in AZ.

  3. Not sure if this measuring method is for me, it seems to take some (a lot) of the fun out of dyeing.

  4. Wow that just explained a whole lot!! Now I understand why some of my fabrics are more colorful than others!! This sure opened up a new avenue of thinking for me. Thanks, Pam Gonzalez

  5. I think this will save me some $$$ and some angst about getting what I want out of the process. I often do small amounts of fabric and never know how much dye to use and feel that I waste way too much. Thanks!

  6. I have never tried using the weight method, since measuring by spoons has been more convenient. But the amounts I use vary depending on the dye colors I am using. For example, I always use a much smaller amount of fuchsia than I would for turquoise, because fuchsia is such a strong color. I primarily dye clothing items, not fabric for quilts, so that may be a factor in deciding which method to use. Thanks for your posts on the weighing technique!

  7. I have always been frustrated by how long it takes to rinse out my hand dyed fabrics - now I know I have been using way too much dye powder - great series of posts!

  8. Such interesting information. So many variables I had not considered.

  9. Good information, Diane. So glad to know you are doing all this research that benefits the rest of us!

  10. Thanks for all you hard work! This is very informative and helpful information!

  11. Thank you for a really interesting post.

  12. Very useful information, thanks for explaining

  13. My friends and I have dye day a few times a year. we will try measuring by weight next time. always a fun day.

  14. Turquoise is another really heavy dye.

    It's a pain to weigh dye powder, but it really pays off in so many ways. I have a dedicated bar fridge for dyestock, which lasts a long time. I do one miserable evening of weighing all the dyes and then I can play for months and know that my colors are repeatable and economical. Thanks for the informative articles!

  15. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
    Carol S

  16. Very interesting! I can't wait to read the next post!

  17. Diane - I was told that the heavier dyes have fillers added to them so that measuring by spoon equalizes the process. I know that blue is much harder to mix up because of the filler which makes it very globby.

  18. Although I always wondered about the different weights of dyes, I never went to the trouble to find out the difference. I so appreciate seeing this, and from now on, I will dye using my scale, which usually sits in a box on a high shelf. Thanks!

  19. Thank you! When I started with what has become a passion for dyeing, most of the tutorials/books baffled me because they talked about teaspoons and tablespoons which seemed so wasteful. Over time I have felt weighing was best for me, mostly because I hate waste, this makes me feel I am on the right path. Thank you for all your hard work on researching and sharing with us.

  20. There is much more of a difference between dyes/spoons/weight than I ever realized. You are doing a great job of educating this casual dyer!

  21. I always measure. Now I know why! But it can vary how many fluid dye I will put in a jar with fabric. You can still do a lot of experiments by adding the exact amount or just pour in some fluid dye. It is Always a lot of fun.

  22. I've always just used a spoon - probably not very accurate for small amounts!


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