Dyed in the wool

Meet New Baby and Grapevine:

new-baby-and-grapevine These braids are the product of an afternoon spent with my spinning friend, Naomi. I had no idea what I was doing when we started – I picked some of my favorite colors and just painted away. I wish I could have stayed longer – I really like what came out of our experimenting!

I painted Grapevine in neat little stripes, all in the same order: dark purple, burgundy, emerald green. Again and again I did this, leaving a small white space between the colors to allow the colors to bleed a bit. Naomi showed me how to wrap it up, and then she placed it in a pot she purchased specifically for steam-setting hand painted yarn. After about 30 minutes had passed, my beautiful yarn came out!

After the controlled excursion with the first 4 ounces of fiber, I wanted to be a little more… unusual. Naomi and I took 3 colors – sky blue, pink, and gunmetal grey – and dabbed them randomly over the white merino wool. There was no rhyme or reason. It kind of looked like a hideous mess. After we heated it up, however, I got a sight to behold! I’m rather proud of New Baby.

The process was way easier than I thought it would be. I forgot to bring my camera, but Naomi was nice enough to lend me hers and post the photos before the end of the night. What a gal! So, how easy is dying?

  1. soaking1Soak the fiber in cool water for at least 5 minutes, but the longer the better. Some even recommend soaking the fiber overnight. As I understand it, this process opens up the cuticles of the fiber, making it more receptive to the dye.
  2. Mix the dyes. We put 2 cups of water, a tiny bit of a Jacquard dye, and “some” (maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup?) of vinegar into a mason jar. I should point out that these are acid dyes, so the vinegar is crucial in getting the dye to set.
  3. Start a pot of water to boil. Make sure that the pot has some sort of steaming rack.
  4. Line your counter top with newspaper and plastic wrap. This serves 2 purposes. First, it protects the counters from getting all dyed-up. Second, it gives you something to wrap the painted fiber in when you get to the appropriate step.
  5. Squeeze as much water out of the undyed fiber as you can. Wrap it in a towel and stand on it for best results.
  6. Lay the fiber on the plastic wrap.
  7. dying-processPaint the fiber in whatever manner you choose. Naomi and I did some of the work with foam brushes, and some with these applicators that look like condiment bottles.
  8. Wrap the fiber with the plastic wrap.
  9. pastel-fiber-steamingPut the package on the steam rack of the pot. Be sure the water is boiling before putting the fiber in.
  10. Wait about 30 minutes (give or take).
  11. Remove the fiber from the pot and let it cool.
  12. cooling-in-sinkWhen the fiber is cool, rinse it with water until the water runs clear. If you skip this step, your hands may be covered with dye when you try to spin the fiber, or anything you launder with the finished product will get stained from the loose dye.
  13. Squeeze as much of the water out of the fiber as you can. Put the fiber in a pillow case or a pastel-braidgarment bag.
  14. Place the bags of fiber in your washing machine (top loading only!). Turn it to the spin cycle to get the remaining water out.
  15. Let it dry.
  16. Admire your work. Photograph it. Give it a name.

This, my friends, is fun with fiber!


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