Last week I did some dyeing with all in one synthetic dyes. Much that I have a passion for dyeing with natural materials, I’m ok with the artificial ones too.
The key, I think, is to use it all up. That way, all of the dye goes onto the fibre, and not down the drain and into the environment. Something that can be done at home, but I doubt any big time commercial producers are worried about.
To use it up, I use the dye bath again, after the first dyeing, and again and again, until there is no colour left. How many dips you can get depends on how strong a colour the first dye was, and how much dyestuff used.
The results you get after the first round are called exhausts, and you can obtain many different shades as a result – and the best thing is they will all go well together, having come from the same dye pot.
So, I was after a bright red, and that was the first dip, the second a sort of raspberry red, that I quite like, and lastly pale pink as the dye runs out. I carefully record what weight of wool was used for weight of dye, and the same information for the exhausts. I keep samples in my dye book, so that I can repeat the colour when I need to make it again.
The fibre is bagged up and labelled as to what breed the wool came from and date, and is ready to be carded and go on to be part of a future project. I have a scary number of these bags… but actually they are all a package of happy to me. And the colours obtained from exhausts are inspiring – often not colours I would initially choose to make (I’m not a pink sort of person), but then I think about what I could do with it, what it would blend well with.. and it goes from there.