Monday, July 11, 2011

A study in orange

Today was a rest day on the Tour de Fleece, and I did some dyeing.
Long story short, I offered to knit my sister a sweater and she wants one just like this one that I did in 2009 when I was turning out one a month.  So I set out to replicate the dyeing process today.  I started using Wilton's cake decorating color gels to dye back when my kids were little, and I've kept up with it because it's easy to find and nontoxic, although I'm sure the "real" dyes are much more colorfast.  There are many tutorials on using Wilton's or other food colorings to dye wool: here's just one.

I dye in an old pressure canning kettle (I don't trust the pressure gauge, so I use it only for dyeing).  It makes the house smell like vinegar and hot, wet wool -- which is a smell that has grown on me, but my kids hate it.  The wool that is now orange is superwash, which means it can be washed in the machine without felting it.  And there are 2.5 pounds of it, which is a lot.  I dyed it in 5 8 oz. batches, using primarily copper, brown, and orange.  But of course I like to add blobs of other colors here and there, to make it interesting.  From the top down, my "recipes" (not scientific here) were
  1. about 2/3 of a jar of brown, plus blobs of orange and small blobs of teal, in a cold dyebath that heated up gradually.  This left areas of less color where the dye didn't penetrate.
  2. about 2/3 of a jar of copper, plus blobs of brown, stirred into the already hot dyepot before I added the fiber.  More even coverage.
  3. orange, plus copper and brown, also stirred into the hot dyepot.
  4. started fresh with a cold dyepot, mixed in nearly a whole jar of copper, then blobs of brown, royal blue, and red.
  5. brown, red, and a few other blobs.
This will take quite a while to spin up.  So far in the TDF I've been spinning like mad but I don't think I've spun a full pound yet.  Sweaters take a lot of wool.  I'll be spinning this in the fall when I have orange cravings.

Of course, I didn't want to waste all the effort of getting the dyepot out and so I dyed some Blue-faced Leicester from last year's Black Sheep Gathering trip (4 oz.).  In royal blue.

And then some Wensleydale from Woodland Woolworks, 8 oz. in delphinium blue.
BFL on the right, Wensleydale on the left (plus a tiny bit of generic wool to sop up the leftover dye).

 I didn't wear gloves.  It'll be better after a few days.  It was a fun Monday, but I didn't get much laundry done.

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