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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dyeing with the Pink Lemon

Yesterday, I decided it was as good a day as any to try some dyeing! I went stash diving and came up with some GCNI blended with 15% mohair (the GCNI is from Running Moon Farm and the Mohair is Yearling Mohair from Hill Shepard)that I had planned to make socks with. I had just under a pound so I divided it into 3, 5.25 ounce balls of roving. (Socks usually take 4 ounces of fiber, but any extra can be used for striped socks.) I decided to paint the roving instead of just trying to dye it a solid color because I figured painting it would let me use more colors at once and it might be a bit faster. (I was trying to get as much done as possible while Caleb was at school.) I soon discovered that while Caleb was safely out of the way of my little project, Finn was really wanting to help. He kept standing up on his hind legs and putting his paws on the island so he could see what I was doing. While I can't blame him for being curious, retrievers like to taste stuff and I didn't really want to kill the dog in an attempt to make pretty sock roving, so Finn went into his happy place (crate) and took a nap.
Once I had the fiber divided into the amounts I was going to dye, I set it in the kitchen sink to soak. You have to get your wool thoroughly wetted before dyeing so while it was soaking I mixed up some dye. I used the Landscapes brand of dyes. They are acid dyes, have a beautiful color range and because you don't have to add anything else to them (like a mordant), they are a little easier to use than regular acid dyes. I used Wattle - yellow, Grevillea - red, and Marine - blue for my experiments yesterday. (Let me say here that while Wattle and Marine are two of the three colors recommended for use as primary colors, Grevillea is not. I chose to use Grevillea since it was a blue red and that's my favorite shade of red.) Just as another side note (sometimes I feel like my entire blog entries are one big parenthetical after another), I did not dye anything to 100% Depth of Shade so the colors you see here are not representative of the full intensity of the dyes used. Make sense?

I covered the island in our kitchen with a plastic tablecloth (side note: for safety reasons, all food and dishes were put away or moved across the room to the kitchen table while I was dyeing), covered that with newspapers and then laid out Saran wrap. I squeezed out the first mound? clump? bump? glob? of roving and laid it out on the plastic wrap in as straight a length as I could. I wasn't sure how much to put on the plastic wrap this first time, so I divided it by eye and laid the first batch -yeah, that's the word - on two pieces of plastic wrap. Then I grabbed the Grevillea to paint it on the roving - Oooops! No foam brush or any other type of brush to do the actual painting. Not to worry though, grab a paper towel, wad it up and voila! A cheap disposable dye dabbing tool. Problem averted, I began making stripes of dark pink on the white wool. It kinda looks like a crime scene doesn't it? I decided on this first batch, to just make some pink and white stripes since pink has been my nemesis when it comes to dyeing and I figured that spun up, pink and white stripes would possibly look like a pink and white ragg yarn and really, who wouldn't want pink ragg socks? So, everything got covered with a second piece of plastic wrap (which I have almost as many problems with as tape), rolled up like a jelly roll, and plopped delicately into the steamer. Then I double checked the directions and according to Deb Menz, Color Goddess of Wool Everywhere (and also author of Color in Spinning), I should let the roving sit for a bit (30 minutes or so) before steaming. So, unroll the first batch again, set it back on the newspaper and let it do what ever its going to do (maybe this gives the dye more time to move around and soak into the fibers, maybe the wool likes to meditate on the colors it will become, maybe its so I can stare at its delightful pinkness some more - I don't know.)While the first batch thought about its deliciously pink future, I got started on a second batch. This one was painted with large blue stripes, then pink, yellow, pink, and back to blue. You can see I left white spaces between the colors. I wasn't sure what that would do, but I figured I'd find out. I also got all 5.25 ounces on one strip of plastic wrap and was able to paint the whole batch as one. By the time I finished painting this second batch, I was ready to steam the first batch, so I put that back into the steamer and moved the second batch up on the island to do its presteam wooly meditations - or whatever. On the final batch of roving I decided to go a little crazy. I had leftover dye from the first two batches so I decided to dribble the dye liberally through the roving. I started with blue, which I had the most of and drizzled it on the roving. Then I added the pink/red color, and then I made some random yellow dots. I knew not to use equal amounts of all three colors or I'd have mud (basic color theory in action).

After all three batches of roving had been steamed and cooled enough to handle, I unwrapped them from their plastic wrap and gave them a quick rinse in the kitchen sink. Then, into washing bags they went and were washed once and rinsed twice in the washing machine (soaked then spun - no agitation). I spread out the clean and dyed rovings in the bathtub to dry and...
...TA DA! On the right you see Roving Batch 1 (AKA Barbie's Dream Roving), in the center is Roving Batch 2, and on the left is Roving Batch 3. I am very excited about all three of them and can't wait to spin them up and see what kind of yarn they become.

I did learn several things from doing this. All three batches of rovings were too wet, even after squeezing the water out. Next time I'll prewet them in the washing machine and then I can spin the water out. I think I also used too much dye (not so much the dye color, but the water I mixed it with) - this could have also been related to the too wet rovings in the first place. Remember the white spaces I left when I painted the rovings? Can you see them now? That's why I think there was too much liquid of one kind or the other, or both. The other thing I learned is that we really have to work with Finn on the "Get Down" command - he stinks at that one!



Blogger Denise said...

Lovely job! That goes for both the dyeing and the documentation. I have yet to try "real" dyes, mainly because of the hassle factor of laying out all those drop cloths. I'm looking forward to the spinning and knitting segments of this adventure!

10:23 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Ohhh, I cannot wait to see what it wants to be spunwise. I have missed you for a couple of days. Maybe your blogger switched? I got booted off your subscribers list. (insert head slap here). Now I am wondering what else I am missing out on.......

1:28 PM  
Blogger Connie Peterson said...

I love those colors, especially the pink! My sister is starting up a business where she hopes to dye rovings for people who don't want to go through the challenges that you just did. I sent her your link so she can she what you are doing. And it makes me tempted to move from natural dyes to acid dyes. I have yarn for a sweater that my daughter will knit and am toying with what to use for the dye - I want a sage green.


9:12 AM  
Blogger Sheila said...

Wow. I have never dyed or painted roving. I have painted silk scarves and beaded them. It is so much fun to see how the colors blend. I will be very interested in seeing how your roving spins up into yarn. I added your blog to my links. I thought I would let you now.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Eva said...

gorgeous!!!! Good thing I don't know where you live LOL... I might have flown in and kinda invited myself so that I could 'borrow' those rovings hehehehe.
I'm really curious to see what they'll look like once they're spun!!!

cheers Eva

5:47 AM  
Blogger Connie Peterson said...

A question ... you mention "steaming" ... do you do that instead of boiling the wool to set the color??? Inquiring minds need to know. If you could send an answer to my email ..cpthegreat@federatedwildblue.com ... I would appreciate it!!


9:32 AM  
Anonymous Ms. Knitter said...

Nice! You've awoken the dyeing bug in me, and now I want to get make some yarns and rovings I have all pretty!

I can't wait to see what that all looks like when spun up.

10:01 AM  
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