Fabric Dyes


Acid dyes, those meant for dyeing proteinaceous fibers like wool, silk, nylon and some acrylics, are also theoretically suitable for dyeing eggs.  The outer coat of the egg, the cuticle, is essentially all protein, and the shell is a calcium carbonate-protein matrix. 

There are hundreds of colors of fabric dye out there.  I’ve included four different sets of them on the following pages; if you google “acid dyes” you can find even more. I haven’t tried out most of these colors, although I did buy a selection of Jacquard dyes which I am slowly trying out (only a selection of browns so far). 

Some of these many dyes will probably be wonderful, and others duds, as not all acid dyes actually work well with eggs.  Why?  Fabric dyeing is a slightly different situation from pysankarstvo–the dyes are normally hot, and dyeing is a one-time deal.

  1. Dyes which work well in hot solution may not work well in cool temperatures, or may come out of solution (precipitate out, forming a cloudy lump at the bottom of the jar) at room temperature. 

  2. Fabric dyes are normally used and then disposed of, not stored in jars for long periods of time. 

  3. Dye manufacturers sometimes add filler to bring their dyes up to weight (inert substances like starches).  These do not cause problems at hot temperatures or on fabrics, but may cause the dyes to to bind to eggshells well.

  4. Color swatches are usually accurate for wool only.  Silks and nylons may take differently, as may eggs. 

So using fabric dyes is a trial and error process. My experience has been that these dyes may produce odd colors, much different than what they are labelled (russet gave me red, and another brown gave me an olive green).  They underlying color also makes a huge difference.  It is best to try these dyes out on a test egg before using it on a good pysanka.

To prepare the acid fabric dyes for pysankarstvo, measure out about half a teaspoon of the powdered dye, and add about 1 to 1.5 cups of boiling water to it.  Mix well, and then add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar.

If a dye does precipitate out of solution, you can reconstitute it by heating it either in a microwave, or in a saucepan on a stove.  Once the dye gets warm enough, the dye crystals will re-dissolve.  You might want to add a bit more water, as the solution may have been too concentrated initially.

The dyes I have some experience and/or knowledge of can be found on the following pages:

Remember, if you are going to try using fabric dyes on your pysanky, to make sure they are ACID dyes, and not cotton (e.g. Procion, direct) or mixed dyes.  The others won’t take well on most eggs.

  Ukrainian Dyes        Jacquard Dyes

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Acid Dyes