Dying to Dye without Dyeing to Die

Fifteen weeks pregnant, and I’ve been told time and again, I’m not allowed to dye!  This seemed easy enough for twelve seconds.  Who would have guessed I actually dye fiber and yarn… rather frequently.  But exposure to harmful chemicals is something that I have to be careful about, especially since many of those chemicals can easily pass from parent to child.  While I am not a doctor and will not be giving an in-depth review of the individual chemicals to avoid, this is what I am adhering to for myself.

Avoid using:

Professional Acid Dyes (Dharma, Jacquard, Greener Shades, Country Classics, etc.)

These dyes should be avoided during pregnancy.  Some colors have heavy metals mixed into them.  They also contain a number of chemicals (even Greener Shades) which may be absorbed through the skin or inhaled.  I encourage all dyers to use latex gloves, a respirator and tools that won’t be repurposed for cooking while working with professional dyes.

Most Natural Dyes

Just because it has the word “natural” doesn’t mean it is safe.  Quite the contrary.  A majority of natural dyes require heavy metal mordants to adhere to the fiber.  Heavy metals are particularly known to easily pass through the placenta and accumulate in fetal tissues causing a range of problems, including problems with neural development. No thanks!

Try these alternatives:

Koolaid or Food Coloring

Don’t knock it if it works.  Koolaid can be a useful alternative to commercial dyes.  It contains food-safe color and citric acid all in one pack.  Colors are somewhat limited, but you can still get a nice range.  Food coloring does not contain an acid and requires either citric acid or vinegar to set the dye.  However, there is an opportunity for a much wider range of colors with food dyes, especially if you start looking into gel food colors.  Some colors will even “break” into multiple colors, creating unique effects.

Substantive Natural Dyes

While most natural dyes require a mordant to adhere to fabric, there are some which can be used on their own.  These dyes often contain their own mordant (usually an acid, not a heavy metal) and are usually safe for use.  Here are a few of them:

  • Onion Skins (yellows and oranges)
  • Black Walnut (warm browns)
  • Some Lichens (pinks, purples, greens)
  • Rhubarb (pinks)

Now, most of you reading this probably aren’t pregnant.  If you are, congratulations!  But even if you’re not, there are other conditions which may require you to consider avoiding certain dyes.  There are options!  I’ll be using some koolaid during Tour de Fleece!


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