How to Dye Hemp Twine

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You can dye hemp twine with fiber-reactive dye.
You can dye hemp twine with fiber-reactive dye. (Image: ball of hemp string image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com)

Hemp has been cultivated for textiles for centuries. The plant makes a strong, durable fiber that is used in all kinds of industrial applications, including rope, canvas and paper. Crafters also use hemp twine for projects like macrame or weaving. If you have some hemp twine that is not the right color for the project you have in mind, dye it with fiber-reactive dye.

Things You'll Need

  • 6 to 8 oz. of hemp twine
  • Box or large book
  • Rubber gloves
  • Basin or sink
  • Synthrapol
  • Measuring spoons
  • 40-quart stainless steel, or other non-reactive metal pot
  • 1 1/2 cups salt
  • Mask
  • Fiber-reactive dye
  • Measuring cup
  • Chopstick or spoon
  • Long wooden spoon or dowel
  • Soda ash
  • Clean towel

Preparing the Twine

Make a hank with the twine by winding it around a box or large book. This loose ring of twine separates the strands to allow the dye to flow around the twine easily.

Tie both ends of the twine around the strands in a loose knot, and remove it from the book or box.

Put on the rubber gloves.

Fill a basin or sink with very hot water and add the synthrapol, a textile cleaning solution that cleans the twine before adding the dye.

Submerge the twine in the basin and let it soak for about an hour.

Preparing the Dye Bath

Fill the stainless steel pot with warm water and add the salt; stir to dissolve it.

Put on the mask and rubber gloves.

Mix 1 tbsp. of the fiber-reactive dye with 2 cups of warm water in measuring cup. Stir with a chopstick or spoon until the dye is dissolved.

Add the dye solution to the pot with the warm water and salt. Stir to combine with the wooden spoon or dowel.

Dyeing the Twine

Keep your gloves on and remove the twine from the synthrapol solution and add it to the dye bath.

Push the twine into the dye bath; it should be completely submerged. Use the wooden spoon or dowel to move the twine around gently in the dye bath.

Let the twine soak in the dye bath for about 15 minutes, stirring the pot gently. The more you move the twine around, the more evenly it will absorb the dye.

Put on a mask. Dissolve 5 tbsp. of soda ash in 2 cups of warm water.

Remove the twine from the dye bath and add the soda ash solution to the bath. Stir to combine completely.

Return the twine to the dye bath, and stir the pot for about five minutes. Let the twine soak in the dye for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Finishing the Twine

Fill a basin with lukewarm water.

Put on the rubber gloves.

Remove the twine from the dye bath and squeeze gently to remove some of the solution.

Transfer the twine to the basin, and let it soak for about 10 minutes. It is normal to see some dye in the water during this rinse.

Repeat the rinse with clean water one more time.

Fill the basin with clear, hot water, and add some synthrapol. Add the twine and let it soak for about 5 minutes.

Remove the twine from the basin, and roll it in a clean towel. Press out some of the excess water, and hang the twine up to dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Dyeing is messy. Cover any surface that you do not want to dye with plastic. Or dye outside, but take care on windy days when mixing the dye and soda ash.
  • You can use this technique to dye any hemp product, including fabric or yarn.
  • Soda ash is caustic, so use caution when removing the twine from the soaking solution. Wear gloves when handling soda ash.
  • Do not use any of the kitchen utensils again for cooking.

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