Dyeing Silk Cocoons

Check out my latest article in Embellish magazine – chatting about dyeing auxillaries this time. Thinking about this and the images I used took me back to when I was dyeing silk cocoons. Not the easiest thing to do using the traditional steamed fixing with a steamer pot – they all go soft and flatten. So what’s the answer – using a microwave to steam the little things!!

Now that microwaves are a lot cheaper its possible to get either a second hand one or cheap one for dyeing. I had bought one for $60 but then it ended up in the kitchen when my daughter tried to defrost toast for 20mins in my old microwave. I didn’t notice the smoke until the 12th minute… But the cheapie microwave only lasted about 12 months and a day and then died..right when Brisbane flooded and it wasn’t possible to get out to get a newbie. So the old faithful came back into the kitchen, smelt a bit of smoke but has still kept on going strong.

Next cheapie purchase – the microwave was now $45. Also microwave containers with that plastic grill thing at the bottom to hold the coccons above the excess dye liquid. You need to used separate containers for dyeing and cooking otherwise you could end up very sick. Next stage – experiment.. pour small amounts of acid dye over the cocoons and then steam for 10 seconds in microwave, allow to cool and then rinse to check its set. Tips – only pour small amounts of dye onto the cocoons as the dye streads and you really don’t need a lot of dye. You also want to steam the cocoons not boil them!

Why acid dyes? They give the best colour on silk. My favourite acid dye? Jacquard Acid dyes – excellent colour and easy to use. The acid involved is vinegar. Take 1 cup of hot water, 1 drop of detergent, 2 teaspoons of dye powder and a dollop of vinegar (12.5mls for the pedantic!) and mix to dissolve dye. This solution is now active. Pour carefully over cocoons in microwave bowl. Steam for the length of time you have determined for your machine (I did 10 seconds for mine). If you are concerned about burning then if the microwave is powerful, drop the power level to at least 70% to start with. Allow to cool, then rinse in water. Best of all you end up with brillant colour and the cocoons keeping their shape.

Lastly – SAFETY FIRST with all this. (Okay – the first thing is last, I know…) Use separate containers for all the dye stuff, wear protective colthes including gloves, dust mask when mixing up the powder and never use any kitchen utensils for dyeing – buy a separate set of microwave dishes as well as the microwave!! Also easy does it – don’t saturate the cocoons with heaps of excess dye. Above all, look after yourself and enjoy the dyeing process.

Like dyeing? Why not check out this month’s Embellish magazine – lots of interesting textile stuff!

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One Response to “Dyeing Silk Cocoons”

  1. Judy Glanville Says:

    I will be checking out the magazine when I get back!

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