Well, the answer is: the synthetic spider silk does take dye.

It takes dye very well, pretty much identically to how the bombyx does. It has a slightly more tan shade, but not as dark as tussah silk.

This is the spidrex (right, small skein of twisted singles) next to bombyx (left, large skein of organzine doubles) that went through the same dye vat. The spidrex is slightly darker, but not much.

This shows a few different colors. Left to right, they are: a blend of violet with hot fuchsia, royal blue, a blend of sun yellow and aztec gold, and cherry red. It seems to take the various colors well. There was a little bit of bleeding with the yellow, but I had a very saturated bath. The blue surprised me – I thought it was going to be too dark, but it has a lovely sheen. All the dyes are Jacquard acid dyes.

The technique I followed is the same as what I use on regular bombyx silk: wet out in warm water with citric acid and a couple drops of calsolene, then place into the hot dye solution (also with citric acid and calsolene) over low heat, simmer 20 – 30 minutes without ever boiling (although the yellow vat did boil briefly on accident, and appears to still be fine) and then rinse out in warm water, then a final rinse in Milsoft.

28 replies
  1. geodyne
    geodyne says:

    It really has taken the dies well, hasn’t it?

    To be honest, in the top photo, apart from the slightest colour variation, I can’t really tell the two of them apart.

  2. admin
    admin says:

    I honestly can’t tell if the slight color difference is more from the composition of the yarn. Putting thrown tram against organzine, they’re never going to look quite alike. But it is just a shade darker to start out, so it makes sense that will carry over.

  3. admin
    admin says:

    yes, for the most part.

    I had some spotting on a couple of the skeins, where I had folded them wrong and the dye didn’t take up very well. Ironically, it’s difficult to work with so little thread; it seems like it would be *less* liable to tangle, but I think it might be easier with a bigger skein.

    I think the colors came out good, and fairly level and bright. I want to experiment with doing ranges, but not yet.

  4. shadowduchess
    shadowduchess says:

    Ahhh yeah I get that same problem with fabric where folding occurs and it’s frustrating.
    Hrmm…I can see where too little an amount may be harder to work with, so does it look like it’s time to invest in some more to play with?
    I LOVE the colours they are beautiful I’d love to see those lovelies in a ribbon or trim.
    I look forward to more from you.

  5. admin
    admin says:

    Well, the amount that I can get is limited – it’s not a cost issue, so much as this is just samples that somebody sent me. She sent another quill, so I’ve got some more to play with, but it’s not going to be anything substantial. I’m thinking I may do some embroidery with it – it looks like it would hold up well for that, and give good color and sheen. I’ll keep the journal updated…

    Do you dip the fabric up and down when dyeing, or how do you handle it? I’ve found that the silk takes color most evenly if I dunk it several times and then let it simmer to set.

  6. shadowduchess
    shadowduchess says:

    Samples?
    Is someone you know marketing this?
    With the colours you’ve created embroidery would be exquisite I wonder how it wears in time as well.

    Depending on the fabric and the amount of course as well. Some do well with constant attention and some just need to be left alone.
    There is of course the type of dyes as well and if the fabric has been pretreated..*gah*
    I will say silk is one of my favourites to dye and believe it or not silk velvet actually is quite lovely to work with in a dyebath or at least it has been for me in the past.

  7. annina_writes
    annina_writes says:

    Hi! I am familiar with you from so I thought I’d add you to my friend’s list. Feel free to add me back. The stuff you’re doing with the artificial spider silk is amazing. I looked for it on the net, but only found places that are working on developing the proteins to spin, from transgenic goats to bacteria to potatoes. I’m curious as to the source of your British friend’s silk. It certainly is lovely. I’ve been fascinated by spider silk since reading that Nero Wolfe, the fictional detective extraordinaire, raised spiders for their silk and had his ties made from it.

  8. admin
    admin says:

    Well, the synthetic spider silk is fascinating, but not readily available… so for the moment at least, it’s just a curiosity. But it sure has been fun!

  9. admin
    admin says:

    I believe that this stuff is the goatmilk variety, but that’s just a guess on my part. My friend doesn’t know.

    I’ll be happy to add you back. Just be aware, my journal is a strange mix of fiber arts and dreamwork – about the only thing that gets friends-locked are disturbing or sexual dreams that I wouldn’t want kids reading on accident. I try to always cut-tag them, though.

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Hi, I’m the friend with the Spidrex. I have been given some to weave by a company that is experimenting with medical uses for it, which is all I am allowed to say about it. I do have permission to share samll amounts with other people who I think might help advance the project, and Michael knows more about handling filament silk than anyone else I know :-). It had not occurred to me to try degumming it, so his input on that has been very helpful. I don’t think the company will be dyeing the thread *g*, but it is fascinating to see how well it has taken.

    Jenny

  11. greyfortholly
    greyfortholly says:

    That gold is so gorgeous!
    Your blend ratios are so fine tuned with all the silk work you’ve done.
    Oh my! I just love that color! It’s very close to what I’m looking for (in fabric) for a duvet cover.
    (fave stone is Amber)
    I can hardly wait to see what you make with it.

  12. admin
    admin says:

    Wow… I’ve been hunting a LOT to find 100%silk velvet – it’s tough stuff to locate! Everybody has the silk ground / rayon pile stuff. Thanks!

  13. admin
    admin says:

    Hee. And only moderately purple/red/blue. I always have trouble making myself wear gloves when working with dye.

    I find that *any* roughness, whether a snag in the nail, a cuticle, or just a rough spot on the skin, will snag like crazy on silk – so I lotion liberally, and use a salt scrub if they get scaly.

  14. huaman
    huaman says:

    Have you tried calling Thai Silks/Exotic Silks in Los Altos, CA? I see actual 100% silk velvet tehre (and at a good price too) any time I go in. Which I try to not do very often on account of, you know, always leaving with fabric. If you don’t know about them, I’ll go dig up their phone book entry or something… they didn’t have a web site last I knew. They have absolutely, bar none, the best selection of silk fabric of every imaginable kind, at the best prices, that I’ve ever seen in one place.

  15. admin
    admin says:

    no, I didn’t know about that one. I’d just tried web searching, which is where I kept turning up the rayon/silk blend stuff. I’d appreciate the hookup with the phone number, although I’m sure that ordering over the phone is nothing like the Real Thing!

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