Although I love to dye yarn, my favorite part of dying is working with natural wool. I think that must be because of how much I love the meditative feeling of sitting with my spinning wheel, and also I think the raw qualities of natural wool draws me in.
Dying wool is also one of the easiest ways to really understand how color combinations may work, what colors you like together, and which will simply never work.
Some tips for immersion dying (yarn, wool, silk, etc.)
~Ventilation is important when dying. Dying outdoors is both refreshing, and a great way to provide natural air movement. If dying inside, open the windows to allow some fresh air in.
~ Test your fiber and colors with a small amount of the fiber that you will be using before immersing your entire piece. This allows you to know for sure if the color is exactly the way you want.
~Remember that with natural dyes, each batch will be slightly different, depending on the season that it was harvested, the weather conditions of that year, etc. One of my favorites dyes is Lac, and each batch that I order, it always looks slightly different. If you are dying as a business, it will be important to remember to dye enough yarn at a time to allow people what they need to create their piece. If dying for yourself, always make sure that you dye your skeins together to ensure color continuity for your project.
~ Your water makes a difference (chlorine, metals, etc.), so if you are planning to use different water supplies, your yarns and fiber will look different.
~ If you are dying with Indigo, have a dedicated pot to keep your indigo concentration in, and store somewhere where no one can accidentally spill it (that is a mess you never want to experience).
~ Remember that working with natural dyes, either from your garden or concentrated, will produce a residue. These are truly natural materials, and you may see some of that even once the fiber is dried and ready to use.
~ Wear gloves to be safe.
To begin the dying process
1. If you have natural fibers that have not been washed, you will want to scour them to remove dirt, oils, etc.
2. Weigh your dry fiber to determine the Dry Weight of The Goods. You will use this # to determine both how much mordant is needed, as well as how much dye.
3. As I mentioned yesterday, you will want to soak your fiber through before you begin the mordanting process (except raw fiber). I generally always soak my yarns over night, and my fiber in the roaster during the mordanting process.
As you can see, the process is relatively easy, and a lot of fun to do.
1. Fill your roaster with hot water, and allow to come to 250 degrees. Dissolve the amount of mordant to be used (see below on how to determine how much you need) with boiling water, and add it to the water in the roaster.
2. Weigh out the amount of fiber that you would like to use, and place it into your mesh painters bag.
3. Very carefully add the fiber into the water, and using a fork or spoon, gently submerge it into the water. Cover
4. Allow the fiber to soak into the mordant for about two hours, being careful to ensure that the water never comes to even a simmer.
5. Once the fiber is done mordanting, prepare your dyes and add them in by pouring over the fiber.
6. You can gently use a spoon to lift the fiber up and allow the dye to color the bottom of the fiber.
7. Allow to sit in the dye for at least 30 minutes, or however long it takes the dye to strike.
8. Carefully remove the mesh bag with the fiber inside. Place the bag into a strainer, and allow to cool.
9. Fill a small plastic tub (or sink) with water, and allow it to soak. gently rinse the fiber until it runs clean.
10. You can very carefully roll the fiber up in a towel, being careful to not squeeze, and then place on a drying rack in the sunshine, or inside with a towel under it to catch the water.
One major question for anyone wanting to dye yarns naturally would be, how does the Dry Weight of Goods equation work, and exactly how much dye do I need to use.
The Dye Works has a wonderful web page dedicated to mordanting and dying with natural materials, and they provide a chart listing the dyes that they carry, and the percentages that you need of each. They also have a segment that explains exactly how to determine your WOG, and how to use it throughout the dying process.
One thing to keep in mind is that EVERY dye has a rate of strike (meaning how fast will the dye exhaust itself). This is very important for many reasons, one being how to combine colors, but also in determining the amount of dye that you may want to use, and how long to leave it in the pot for. Again, if you click on the individual name of the dye on the Dye Works website, you will see that they give you the strike of each dye.
On Tuesday, I will be completing the tutorials with my favorite ways to both immersion dye, and hand paint yarns, and I will share a few of my favorite color recipes as well.
Our Great Outdoors Challenge pic for today is a funny little moment that I captured of Elwood doing all that he could think of to find a way to climb a tree like his big brother.
See you tomorrow for Circle of Stones