The wool house presents: part 3

By now, Laurie needs no introduction. Today she dyes roving and I try to convince myself that making a really big mess with dye in my hopeless persuit of “laurieness” is counterproductive, since Laurie’s blogs are supposed to help me solve problems, not create them. I am well aware that dyeing roving only leads to spinning roving, and once that is done I will be helpless in the face of the urge to knit it instantly. This will not help me meet my deadline. Must resist Laurie.

To Dye or Not to Dye

When you stuff roving into the pantyhose leg, you are basically securing the fibers so that they cannot move around while you dye, steam, and rinse them. (I feel sure that pantyhose designers had much the same idea about their original use, give their restriction on normal leg movements.) With wool, such immobility is an advantage because it holds the fiber in place for dyeing and secures it against felting. Observe and imagine wool sausages:


I encase my hand and arm in the pantyhose here and make a small cup at the end into which I stuff the roving. Then I can pull from the other end:


Once I have my roving all neatly stuffed in, I tie a knot in the ends of each casing (note that I have stopped calling it pantyhose; it has been transformed). Then comes the hardest part: soaking. You need to soak your encased roving for at least a couple of hours in water with some Synthrapol or dishwashing liquid for better wetting. Patience is a virtue.


You will lay out two matching wool sausages side by side on separate lengths of saran wrap. Make SURE that you put the knots at the same end!! Putting all these materials on top of the newspaper will assure your family that you are not going to get dye on their beloved table. I arrange the squeeze bottles of different dyes in roughly rainbow array above these pairs:


The dyeing here will be of the creamy roving because you will be able to see the colors more easily. I often use some paper towel to test out different color combinations.


I am usually looking for four different colors per pair of rovings. In this case I am looking for a “trampled leaves” kind of effect for a certain Harlot friend of ours. With the squeeze bottles arrayed in order above the roving, I then squirt dye on each one of the pair in the same places:


After you have dosed both rovings in the same places, then you need to spritz them generously with vinegar (I use mostly acid dyes; koolaid ostensibly does not need the vinegar but easter egg dye DOES):


You may notice through the casing that the dye seems to disappear. I sometimes apply more at that point. You will DEFINITELY notice that the dye has not gone all the way through when you turn the casings over to do the other side:


Looks bruised, doesn’t it? Well this is why you line up the squeeze bottles as you applied them the first time. Repeat the squeezing on of dye and the spritzing with vinegar. Then, wrap the dyed wool sausages in the saran wrap and twist the ends closed:


Then coil the wrapped case and place it in your dye pot on a steamer rack of some sort. Neither the dye pot nor the steamer should EVER be used for cooking. Never. Ever. In the coil below, you will note that the lighter color is coiled on top. This wool sausage is the gray roving which I dyed in golden ochre on one end. That end needs to be on top! In general, lighter color rovings should be on top and darker colors should be on the bottom.


Tomorrow – General Principles, Steaming, Patience and The Reveal!

Note from Steph: Even if all of this is not your cup of tea, I urge you to pop in tomorrow and see the things that Laurie makes from this roving. Incredible. When I grow up, I want to be Laurie.

34 thoughts on “The wool house presents: part 3

  1. Let me get this straight: Laurie is teaching us all to dye, is saving you from blogging this week so you can work on whatever it is you’re working on, and she’s going to GIVE YOU THE RESULT!?!?!?
    Hell, I don’t wanna *be* Laurie — I wanna be Laurie’s FRIEND!

  2. I wanna be Laurie’s friend too!!
    Really though, I am so glad Laurie agreed to do this, because as far as dyeing and spinning go I am SUCH a newbie. It all makes more sense when you see it.

  3. Laurie, how important is it for the sausages to be fluffy? Have you had much trouble with compression/white voids or is part of the fix that you’re using the open-character Romney (and the extended pre-soak)? Do you remember the dye article/cover Stephenie Gaustad did for Spin-Off with her plaited cotton sliver? She wanted voids, but I’m wondering is a loose braid of wool sliver would hold together and be an open enough presentation. Have you tried it?

  4. Thank you so much for your informative post. I have been thinking about homespun and now I am tempted to dive right in through reading your interesting explanation as to how it is all actually done. So far I have only used wool fleece as stuffing for felted animals. There is a whole other world out there for me to be lost in! Yay! I am really looking forward to tomorrow!!

  5. Well there goes my summer sausage craveing. Thank you Laurie for doing this tutorial. I’m dyeing to see the next part. 🙂

  6. This is so fun! Why do we need two of each? Is it because we’re going to ply them? Did I miss this somehow in the previous posts? Ooh, I can’t wait to see.

  7. Those wool sausages crack me up! Another great post…I am really looking forward to seeing how the colors look together and how it all turns out. Thanks for helping February end on something postive and fun.

  8. Someday I’m going to ~do~ this! Laurie, it is very clear that you MUST have a blog. Even if only to occasionally post photos of roving sausages.

  9. 1. Wanting to be Laurie when you grow up seems to happen to people who know her in real life, too.
    2. Is being Laurie’s friend better than being Laurie? The world may never know. (Actually, the possibilities for answering that question are just too weird…we’ll let it be.) From where I sit, both look pretty good.
    3. I’ve only just now realized how effectively Laurie has deconstructed pantyhose. The only possible kink I see in the works is that those of us who have not worn pantyhose for years (or decades) may start buying them again, inadvertently feeding the industry’s belief that women really do want to be compressed, constrained, and condescended to.

  10. I dye my rovings differently so this is great fun to watch and learn a new method. I do think the purple wrap adds a festivity to it and should not be mocked.
    Mmmmm, brats.

  11. Heck with Friend, would Laurie adopt me? I’m eagerly awaiting tomorrow and I hope like heck nothing happens to prevent me!

  12. Wow, the possibilities of pantyhose. Up until now, I have only seen them being useful for three things: traditional giving you a hard time when wearing a skirt; tying up tomato plants; filter bags for aquarium carbon. Now I can add roving sausage to the mix!
    roggey–no, it’s not just you. mmmmmm sausage…

  13. This whole spinning/dyeing thing is like a big black hole calling out to me to dive in. Must. Resist. Must. Resist. Steph and Laurie, you’re not helping.

  14. I’m with Nathania – no time to dye roving. (But.. I have a dye pot from last year’s Science Fair project. (yes. my eldest did dyeing as a Science Fair project)… and I have dye…. and I have roving… and I have no time. (have to remember the last. No time. Not for a year or two. Really)
    But – that aside – these postings are wonderful! I feel like I could do this now with little problem. And (probably) make lovely things!

  15. My fingers are itching– this looks so cool! I don’t know how I’ll fall asleep tonight with the excitement of the reveal tomorrow.

  16. Well, there I was having so much fun with my KoolAid dyeing this week, and now it turns out to have only been the appetizer….or dare I say…foreplay? Is that allowed on this blog or is it too risqu�? Fantastic tutorial, Laurie!!!

  17. I’m in class right now being bored, and I think I’m getting weird looks because of the strange images today. I can’t wait to see the reveal, but how weird it all looks today! 🙂

  18. Interesting that some people have such negative associations with stockings/pantyhose. I wear them in the winter when it’s too cold just for slacks but not cold enough for full on long johns. I also wear them in the summer to deal with the notorious “chub rub” (the only shorts I wear in public are my cycling shorts–I wear linen slacks or skirts in the summer).
    In any case…I’m enjoying the tutorial, thanks Laurie!!

  19. We always used pantyhose to purify our beeswax. I thought that’s what they were manufactured for when I was a little kid.
    I’ve never seen the “sausage” trick, gotta try that.
    Barb B.

  20. Laurie,
    I truly hope you will come back tomorrow and show us the finale. At the moment, if I were your Mom, I would be telling you “Laurie, you are making a Big Mess.”
    It all looks like lots of fun.

  21. Laurie-very interesting, can’t wait until tomorrow. The pictures definately help! Steph-since when is growing up mandatory?

  22. We tried dizzing yesterday, but out sausages of wool just turned out… like, very fluffy but not with a whole lot of fibers in them. Very funny. What do I have to do to make them look like yours? Shouls I remove all the lanolin first?
    Yes I am cooking along with you, just like standing in front of the TV and cooking dinner with the TV cook. It is very interesting, and we are making enough yarn for 3 socks. Hopefully. 200 grams? Must be enough. 🙂
    Thankyou for this, thanks a lot.

  23. as i haven’t worn stockings or “real shoes” for about ten years now, (birks rule)i suppose i am a dyed in the wool, lavender sniffing hippie wanna be… just like the big kids….however, there are times when i find i do need pantihose for some off the wall project and i cannot decribe the joy i get from asking my “normal” friends for castoffs…..i can’t wait for the look on their faces….many thanks for including us in the “classroom”

  24. I can’t wait for tomorrow! I have done some of this, but certainly not in as organized a fashion, and since I’m still experimenting, I never end up with more than an ounce of anything. I am feeling inspired now!

  25. Puffy rovings that are WELL soaked DO take up the dye more readily and completely than prepared roving. The “spots of white” do bug me even though they really do spread out in the spinning process and create a more pastel color. Your dizzed fiber may be more puffy than fiber for a couple of reasons. The fibers may be full of static. Some folks spritz the wool on the comb with plain water to damp down the static. I spritz mine with a mixture of a lot of water, amuch much less light olive oil, and a pinch of washing soda into which I have grated some REAL handmade soap — this recipe (in its broad outlines) is the one that Alden Amos recommends. Before I got fancy, I just used a mixture of light olive oil and water (VERY light on the olive oil). I know, I know, it is crazy to wash the wool to get out all the lanolin and then put oil BACK in. And the dyeing works either way. I just like the easier drafting I get with the mixture.
    There are NUMEROUS alternatives to the dreaded pantyhose. Most recently I went to the local dollar store and bought one of those bath scrubbies made of plastic netting. Actually I got one that was a long braided chain for scrubbing your back. Turns out each link of the chain is its own tube of rolled up netting. Tie one end and (after stuffing) the other. THese are a bit WIDE for me, but I could easily put a seam down the middle and make it two sausages that are REALLY side by side. (I mention this possibility again in tomorrow’s post for those who do not read the comments).
    And, Ro, I do two of each to make matching socks! For the sweater I did them one at a time.
    For the time-challenged, there is a link for crockpot dyeing tomorrow…

  26. Help Laurie…”Lash fiber onto comb” what does that really mean. I am hopelessly new… this is from your two days ago post…
    I’m trying to make it through alden’s book. wish me luck. I much prefer your conversational tone than jokes about spiders… page 30 footnote or so…
    This is wonderful, Thank you!

  27. Imagine the way you would brush your hair if it were really tangled. You would start toward the end and stroke the ends of your hair so that the hairs were imbedded (temporarily) in the brush. It is really the same process with a stationary comb; you “stroke” the fiber onto it while keeping your distance so you do not get poked.
    I know what you mean about Amos. He always makes it sound like “my way or the highway.”
    Hope my description helps.

  28. Hey Laurie, thanks for the great idea and tutorial. So, how much roving is in each sausage for each sock? An ounce? 2 ounces? Inquiring minds need to know this.

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