This summer I took a dye class. I had a ton of fun painting skeins of yarn and even working with some roving which I even managed to spin up. But if you read that post about the day, at the end I had decided that it wasn’t possible to incorporate dyeing into my current living situation.
See how long that lasted?!
After my success at the skien competition, I decided to buy myself a little present. Enter Pro Chem and the fact that they had kits to go along with the book Color in Spinning by Deb Menz which I had purchased during the Interweave hurt book sale. It also didn’t hurt that I had acquired some pots and other supplies on a past visit home (is there *anything* a Mom doesn’t have when her kid wants it?!). The stage was set and I was ready to get some color into my life.
I have to say, I was pretty nervous when first mixing up my “stock solutions”. After all the warnings about how dangerous this stuff could be, I knew it wasn’t the time to be timid, but it was definitely intimidating. I ended up doing it outside on our balcony. That day turned out to be raining but fairly still and I think it actually made for good “mixing weather”. I measured out my dye powder into each of the bottles you see pictured above, added a bit of very hot water to get it all to dissolve and added cooler water to finish off each bottle. I did all this while wearing a dust mask and gloves and while it wasn’t easy, I was able to stay pretty mess free. The rain helped me mop up a couple of little spills and I was set to start dyeing! I’m most interested in dyeing roving for spinning these days, so that’s what I used.
I did a little bit of two different methods, Cold and Hot pour. Cold pour is when you pour and/or paint your colors onto fiber that is then steamed to set the dye. Hot pour is when the fiber is already hot and the dye is poured in and allowed to exhaust (or completely soak into the fiber) before the next color is poured on. I couldn’t take many pictures while I was doing the actual work (hands in gloves and liquid near the camera being a not good idea and all), but for the cold pour I did the usual covering of the workspace with paper (bags in my case), putting down a layer of plastic wrap, and then pouring on the colors. When I finished I wrapped it all up in the plastic wrap and threw it in the steamer (pictured above) for about 30 min. When each package was cool, I rinsed it well and hung the rovings to dry. The two packages I did came out like this:
The top I’m calling “Cotton Candy” and the bottom is just “Purpley” to me. I left a lot of white areas because I wanted to see what effect it had when the fibers were drafted for spinning. I already spun up the “Cotton Candy” into this 150 yard skein:
I really like the way it came out! I have yet to spin any of the other stuff I’m going to show you through this post, but I’m anxious to do so (after I finish up the spinning for another project anyway).
The other stuff I did all using the Hot pour method. All of the rovings were soaked in a solution of vinegar (to get the proper acidic environment for the dye to take or “strike”) and water. They were slowly heated on the stove until steaming but not boiling. Each color was added one at a time. When the dye exhausted or the water around the area where the dye was poured was clear again, I poured the next color. You can see the application of the first color in each of the first two pots in this picture:
It took a lot of time for each color to exhaust and I did a bit of poking around with a bamboo skewer in each pot, so each roving felted just a little. It wasn’t so bad that it wasn’t spinnable though. During the day I did the dyeing, I did three more batches and put them in the fridge in between to get them to cool faster (patient, I’m not!). All of the dyeing I did on this first day involved using the colors pretty much as they were, straight from the stock solutions, without mixing two more more colors together. Here are the results:
I call this a “Study in Red” because I used the three different reds I had available and diluted one to get pink.
Similarly, this is a “Study in Blue and Purple” because I used all of the different shades of the blues I had available to me and threw in a little purple for good measure. It wouldn’t be me without blue, right?!
These next two were kind of interesting. It was late in the day and I wanted to overdye some “Black” BFL (incidentally, all the fibers shown to this point are BFL). From what I’ve been able to gather on the ‘net, this brown color for this breed is called black. Don’t ask me why. I choose bright colors since I knew the natural color of the roving would tone them down. I was also a bit tired and impatient at this point and didn’t really let the colors exhaust completely. You can see that there is some interesting variation in the colors in this one. I also put the original fiber color in the bottom of the picture for reference.
This one was done the same way. It’s a mixture of red and purple. I may take these last two rovings and draft them together with the undyed roving when I spin them up. Might make for an interesting effect that way.
Finally, I did some merino that I had bought at Morehouse Farm last year.
This was the only time I mixed colors in advance, to get the green. Once again, I was a bit impatient and my green, yellow and blue got mixed together a bit more than originally planned, but it worked out pretty well.
Here’s a shot of it all drying. I just love how this all looks together!
What you see here basically took me an entire day to do. I’m inexperienced for sure, and you can bet I was tired, but it was so much fun! And I feel like I have a whole new level of artistic control in what I can do with fiber. I definitely have a lot more to learn, but I feel like this is the most truely creative thing I’ve done in a long time. The session where I did all this was actually a couple of weeks ago. Since I had the day off Tuesday and HWJF had to work most of the day, I did another session and I think I got much more interesting results and did a little bit more experimenting. I will share that with you just as soon as things are dry and I can get some pictures.
In the meantime, if you want to try dyeing but don’t want to go the full blown chemical route, definitely look around online for articles on dyeing fiber with Kool-aid and Wilton Cake dyes. It’s a ton of fun!