*The method below discusses dyeing soy silk on the stove top. I have a new Preferred Method for Dyeing Soy Silk.
One of my friendly customers just asked me how to dye Soy Silk. It's a big question without a short answer, so I decided to go ahead and write it all out. Since I've already strained my brain, I thought I would pass it on to anyone else out there thinking of dyeing Soy Silk for the first time. I hope this tutorial helps and you can always ask me questions here or contact me through my shop at Wind Rose.
You dye soy silk with acid dyes. The concentration I use is 1.5 cups of water to one .5oz jar of Jacquard Acid Dye. I use canning jars to store my dye solution. I dye my soy in 4oz batches. For most colors, 3 tablespoons of the dye solution is enough to dye 4 oz. For some colors like reds, you will need more. The good thing about soy silk is that it doesn't felt up when stirred like wool will if you're not careful. The difficult thing is that when it gets wet, it piles up or, to put it another way, kind of sticks together. The other thing you need to be careful about is how you stir it. It will want to tangle up on you.
So here's what I do. I allow my soy silk to soak in a bowl of water for at least 30 minutes before dyeing. I fill my dye pot (3 to 5 gal pot) mostly full with hot tap water, around 4 to 6 inches from the top. I set it on medium heat to start warming it up. I add the dye solution to the water and stir until it is thoroughly mixed. I squeeze the excess water from the soy silk and then add it to the water. I do this starting at one end and as the roving goes into the water I wave it back and forth so that the dye water passes through the entire roving. Once the roving is in the pot, I add my distilled white vinegar. 1/4 cup is all you need. You don't want your water to boil, but you want it to be pretty hot. Generally most of the dyeing happens within the first 3 to 5 minutes after you add the acid. It's during this time that you want to stir to make sure that the dye gets to the center of the roving. I use a dedicated dye spoon and sort of lift the soy up from the bottom of the pot and rotate. When the roving rises to the surface, you can kind of see how well the dye is penetrating. I keep the roving at the higher heat for 15 minutes and then I turn is down to a simmer. I allow it to simmer for at least 15 more minutes. The water should become clear as the roving absorbs all of the dye. If you are going for dark colors, you will need to use more dye and simmer longer. The colors you see in my shop typically spend not more than an hour in the dye pot. It's all about getting the right dye to roving ratio.
After the roving is done, I pour it out into a stainer and then rinse it. I squeeze out the excess water in a towel and then I ususally take mine outside to dry. I lay the roving out on a towel in the sun. As it's drying, I loosen the fibers. I tease through the whole length twice usually. Once sort of halfway dry and again after it's dry all the way. Teasing it out might sound like work, but I think it's the fun part. It's when you get to see it come back to life. It's so soft and lofty. I wrote a little piece about it here on my blog. There's no way to say this without sounding self promoting, but you can buy both Natural Soy Silk Roving and Jacquard Acid Dyes in my store at Wind Rose.
Dyeing Soy Silk can take a little patience, but this beautiful roving, with all it's luster, makes it worth it every time!