Instructions & Safety Tips

By Joan Ruane, Southwest Corner

Solar Dye Jug

As described in the article on dyeing with Cushing Perfection Dye, these are now my dyes of choice because of their ease of use and quick application.

However, because I live in the Southwestern United States I had the perfect opportunity to take advantage of our plentiful sunlight and summer heat to experiment with using solar dyeing techniques with my favorite cellulose dyes.

I'm happy to relate that my results have been very positive and I continue to explore the potential of this method for creating unique colors for my spinning and weaving palettes. Here are the instructions for you to begin your own explorations in solar dyeing.

When doing any dyeing, it is best if you have an area that is set aside for your dyeing. If this is not possible and you have to use your kitchen, then be sure to clear away any food or dishes that are not designated for dye. Use enamel or stainless steel pots for your dyeing and NEVER use them again for food preparation! If you can, mark them permanently so they will never accidentally be used by anyone else for food preparation.

Purchase a good pair of rubber gloves that fit you comfortably and have long cuffs. If you can find the plastic spoons (like your old wooden spoon) then they will not absorb the dye and are easy to rinse off. A large spaghetti strainer is very useful and will save time.


Gather Your Supplies:

  • 2 oz of cotton fiber (lint or sliver)
  • Enamel or stainless-steel pot and stove
  • Dawn or a similar detergent
  • 1 Gallon glass or plastic jar
  • Cushing’s Perfection Direct Dyes for cellulose fibers
  • Salt
  • Water bucket or pail
  • Steamer
  • Instructions:

    1. Scour the lint or sliver: simmer for 20 minutes.

    2. Drain out the water.

    3. Mix 1 tsp of salt in the gallon jar with 1/4 tsp. of Cushing Perfection Direct Dye.

    4. Pour over about 3/4 cup of boiling water to dissolve the salt and dye.

    5. Fill the jar about one-half full with tap water.

    6. Put the scoured lint or sliver in the jar with the dye.

    7. Set it in the sun for a day or even two if you are too busy to get back to it!

    8. Drain off the dye water and squeeze out the excess water and place it in a steamer for 20 minutes to set the dye.

    9. Rinse the dyed fiber in a pail of water with a 1/4th cup of salt dissolved in it.

    10. .Hang it up to dry or lay lint on a screen until almost dry and then toss it in a dryer on high without a bag for 15 to 20 minutes.

    SHORT CUTS IF YOU ARE ADVENTUROUS: (the fiber might have light spots in it when finished)

    1. In the morning, don't scour the lint or sliver, just put it into the prepared jar and squirt a little Dawn on top and poke it down into the liquid.
    2. Since I live in HOT Arizona where the jar sitting in the sun gets VERY HOT, that takes care of the heat to set the dye.
    3. At the end of the day or the next morning, I just remove it from the jar and rinse it in salt water and let it dry and spin it up!
    4. Not pots, no stove, no timing, just let the sun do the work!

    Solar Dyed Sliver

    This is a solar dyeing project I did recently. I used a jar of left over Cushing Dye from a workshop...stuffed the jar with scoured sliver and took it home. Put it in the sun for two days and removed it and rinse it in water with 1/4 cup of salt and hung it on the line to dry.

    Purple Dye Jar


    I hung the dyed sliver outside to dry on a day with no wind...

    Solar Dyed Purple Sliver


    Spun it up and was happy with the results.

    Spinning Purple Sliver


    Since it was crammed into the little jar, some of the sliver did not dye giving it the variation - unique!

    Purple Yarn










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