Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Dyeing To Spin

Okay, so I'm cheating here using some old pictures, some you may have seen already.

Today on Canspin Erynn asked a question about the list members dyeing techniques. She wanted to know if the spinners dye their roving and then spin it or dye the fibre and then card or comb it before spinning, or wait until the yarn is already spun and then dye it.

As a relatively new spinner (about one year) I have only done ONE of these techniques. I dye, comb, and then spin. If I wanted a more uniform color I would have to approach it differently but I rather like the "controlled randomness" of the colors when using this technique.

I start with the fleece of course,

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First I wash it, then I set to work dyeing it. I like the "by guess and by golly" nature of sprinkle dyeing as taught to me by Sandi. Like Forrest Gumps "box of chocolates" you never know (quite) what you are going to get.

In this particular experiment I was aiming for a varied grass green effect for the background of the shy sheep vest. The little containers on the counter contain several concoctions of green that I mixed up (dry) ahead of time using Ashford dyes.

My technique (if you can call it that, it really is an inexact blundering) is to fill my "designated for dyeing only" crockpot about 7/8 full with hot water. How hot? Um.....about "tap hot" (yes, that exact). I add about 3 tablespoons of vinegar and dump in enough fleece (dry or wet) that the top bits start sticking out of the water a little. Then I sprinkle on the dry dye powder, (go lightly here.....three quarters of a teaspoon is PLENTY) poke it a wee bit with a plastic "wooden" spoon (also used only for dyeing), pop on the lid and set it on low for an hour or more. The time varies a LOT. I did a black batch yesterday and it took many hours to "exhaust" fully. You are done when the water is clear and free from color. If you've put in too much dye you may need to add more wool to get the water to clear.
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I then let it cool until I can handle it, pop it in a mesh bag and spin it at high speed in the washer (with the water turned off) to extract the excess water. I take it out of the bag, spread it on a sweater drying rack and leave it until dry, ending up with a large fluffy pile of fleece of varied color and intensity.

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Over the course of many days/weeks/months I gradually comb it all using my mini combs. (Photo is of UNdyed fleece being combed and wrapped in their little coiled "nests", but you get the idea).

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I don't spin ANY of it until I have it all combed because.......

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.....the bundles vary a lot in color, especially between one dye batch and the next, and I want to pick and choose what order the colors will appear in my finished yarn.

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When it's all combed I dump the whole lot out on the floor and begin arranging.

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I line the bundles up on the floor in the order I want them to appear in the finished yarn and then I string them together with crochet cotton. You want your stringing yarn to be smooth so the combed wool doesn't stick to it as you pull the nests off. I use a long darner/doll sculpture needle for the task.

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Then it's a matter of spinning the little nests one after another.

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I like to Navaho Ply the resulting singles into a 3 ply yarn where the yarn variations are kept as separate and "pure" as possible. (ahem....excuse the rather shoddy Navaho plying. It was my first attempt and I had no one around to show me how it should be done).

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And there you have it, my dyeing method for the wool I'm using in the Shy Sheep Vest.


Melanie said...

Thanks for the photo jounal of your dyeing to spinning to knitting journey. The colours are perfect and I love the way they stripe when the sheep are being shy.

lmoore said...

Thank you for posting the details. I especially appreciate the stringing on crochet thread hint. A new spinner and dying wannabe, that hint will go in my tips box for future use.

CarolineF said...

I love the picture of the huge pile of combed nests. And it's uncanny how the spun yarn matches that book!

Marlene said...

lmoore, that little stringing technique was my own invention and even some of the well seasoned guild members were intrigued. I'm glad you found it useful.

dragon knitter said...

very nice. i like to dye, but i'm not into raw fleeces like that. i've got a pound of raw fleece that has been living in the basement for about4 years (bought just after i got my wheel, lol), and i still haven't been brave enough to do something with it.

Dianna said...

That is wicked awesome! You're making me want to start dyeing! I may just have to go to the thrift shop today and see if I can find some crock pots or canning pots for dyeing....I LOVE the shy sheep, and I think your handdyed/handspun makes it!

SpinalCat said...

Stringing the nests is so brilliant!