Thursday, June 30, 2016


Mary Egbert
Camaj Fiber Arts
The Spinning Box

Annatto is beautiful on silk, wool and cotton fabrics and is used as a food/cheese dye.  Colors will vary on different types of fabrics.

How I did it, this is for a small 2 ounces skein of yarn.  Increase the proportions if you are going to dye more fiber or yarn.

  1. I put 8 cups of water in a stainless steel pot with ⅛ cup annatto seeds.  I covered the pot and simmered this for one hour.

  1. After the hour I wadded up a handful of aluminum foil because I had no alum on hand. I simmered again with the lid on for 10 minutes.  Thank you for the idea of using aluminum foil Julie Nutt!

  1. In the meantime I pre-soaked my fiber with a dash of Unicorn Soap.  Using a bit of a neutral pH soap breaks the water tension and helps the dye absorb better into the wool. NOTE:  Do not  use Dawn or Borax...the pH is too high and the alkaline will make your wool feel scratchy and dry.  In fact you should not use Dawn, Ivory, Borax or any other soaps made for dishes or laundry  to scour your fibers.  These soaps have a pH over 7 and the alkaline can cause permanent damage to your wool by opening up the scales making your wool feel scratchy and dry. This is an irreversible chemical reaction to the wool fiber and cannot be rectified no matter how much fabric softener you use.

  1. I put the yarn with the pre-soak water in a separate stainless steel pan and slowly brought it up to the same temperature as my dye pot. You can skip this step if you are dyeing silk.

  1. I strained the dye to get the seeds out of the pot and placed in my pre-soaked yarn. I kept the foil in the pot.

  1. I kept the fiber in the hot solution for about 40 minutes over a very low setting. The longer the time the deeper the color. I then let it cool.  If you are dyeing silk fabric you can skip the cooling step. You should let wool cool because if you handle hot fiber and rinse it in water cooler than the dye water you run of the risk of felting.

  1. I then gave it a gentle wash in Unicorn Scour soap and a final rinse with a shot of vinegar.

  1. Hang your yarn, un-weighted, to dry.

CAUTION: Annatto dye will stain objects like white plastic spoons or counter tops.  Take care to protect your work surface and have some Soft Scrub with bleach on hand for quick clean ups to hide the evidence from your significant other who hates when you dye in the kitchen :)

Happy dyeing!

2 x 4 SB card front.jpg


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