Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dye Day

Fiber on the hoof -Paris, the hulking ram beast, is busy at work growing another lovely fleece. He leads a hard, hard life here.

Fiber from last year's fleece. I sheared him in the fall and had it washed at Gretchen's Wool Mill. His fleece will weigh 7-11 lbs going into the mill, depending on how liberally I skirt and how long since his last shearing. This is about a quarter of his fleece. Here is how I dye my wool.

I heat several gallons of water in my cauldron up to 180 degrees, but NOT over. (I LOVE being able to say I'm using my 'cauldron' -it sounds so Earth Motherly-like!) I put in a good squirt of Dawn detergent and then add the Jacquard Acid Dye powder "2% - 4% of dry weight." (I have also used Kool-Aid as a dye powder, which works great but makes one think twice about giving it to small tots.) Slob that I am, I don't measure but just add a liberal spoon or lid full. Add fiber -it needs to be able to move freely. I probably put in about 6 ounces of fiber per dye batch here. Add 1/4 c. white vinegar (this is the acid part) when hot. I gently stir it every so often with a dowel specifically set aside just for this purpose. I try to be careful and not agitate it too much, which can felt the fiber, while keeping the dye bath hot for half an hour or so.

When all or most of the dye has been absorbed, or I feel enough is enough, I remove the dye bath from the heat. It can be left to cool a bit, or a lot, or immediately but very carefully, pour off the hot dye bath. The actual color of the fiber depends on the time in dye, temperature of bath, and concentration of powder -my being a slob with all three of these variables is why my dyeing always comes out a bit different. I rinse by filling the cauldron with hot water, with the fiber removed or pulled to the side-NOT running the water on to the fiber, which can (again) felt it. I rinse several times, gradually decreasing the temperature of the water, until the rinse water runs reasonably clear. Do not use the cauldron, or anything else used in dyeing, for food preparation.

I lay the fiber out to dry, preferably on a warm sunny day outside, where it will dry in a day. Otherwise, I put it somewhere covered and out of the way, where it will take as long as it takes, which depends on the air temperature and humidity. That's all there is to it! Next, I plan to blend these all together: teal, sapphire blue, violet, and Paris' natural ivory. My drum carder is set up in the cool basement and with the temperatures edging towards the 90's it will be a pleasant task to cross off my 'To Do' list. Weed wacking can wait.

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