February 21, 2005

The wool house presents...

Welcome to the first of Laurie (yes, that Laurie's) guest blogs. Laurie is a talented, inspiring and sadly blogless soul, who has graciously spent several days getting together an awesome dyeing tutorial. Laurie has done so during this particular week knowing that I am a little busy right now. (Read: way, way over my head on the work stuff due March 1st. So far in over my head that I stayed at my mothers last night so that the kids and Mr. Washie couldn't bug me.) Laurie's decision to do this is a gift to both you, who will learn any number of very nifty new things, and to me...who may surface with my sanity (Stop that. I am too sane...) intact as a result. Feel free to ask Laurie questions in the comments, where she will be lurking about. Enjoy today's installment, in which Laurie lets you know why throwing away those pantyhose last week is a decision you will live to regret.

Modest Disclaimer: I want to point out right here and now that I am not claiming any originality here. Deb Menz's book on color, Hands On Dyeing, assorted websites and lists, Spin-Off and a fellow member of the Maine Spinner's Registry are all sources for this information. In fact the member of the Maine Spinner's Registry (whose name has, alas, fled my aging brain) freely shared the idea for the casings which I use. All I promise here is what I do to dye my rovings and a little of what I do with the roving after I have dyed it!

Prep Work

You need to start collecting things to get ready for dyeing with the gradual color shifts that show up in Steph’s birthday roving and socks (see July 5 for the adventure of Steph spinning this roving!). Start setting aside the pantyhose that have runs in them, all mayonnaise jars and glass juice jars with good tops, and those squeeze bottles for whatever you happen to squeeze. In order to dye the roving, you will need the objects in this picture, plus a BIG dye pot (preferably purchased on the cheap from Goodwill):


Clockwise from the lower right hand corner: newspaper for spills, spray bottle full of vinegar (acid dyes), your dyes (koolaid, cushings, Jacard Dyes, Country Classics, easter egg pellets, whatever), squeeze bottles of some sort to apply the dye, roving (white for clear colors, gray for jewel tones), rubber gloves, plastic wrap (yours need not be violet, mine is because of a spousal quirk), mask to protect you from breathing dye particles, and, most crucial of all, your casings for the rovings, i.e. pantyhose.

I am particularly fond of Cushings because some of their colors “break” interesting ways, that is, they spread into their constituent colors. The following are favs: Myrtle Green, Red Grape, Peacock (doesn’t break, but a great blue with just a hint of green), Olive Green, Purple, Rust (for folks who like oranges and browns). Among the Jaquard dyes, I really like Gold Ochre, which is a dark yellow that goes well with the colors above. Country Classics makes a great purple-fuschia called Raspberry and a true Teal.

The following items are useful but not necessary:


The strainer and the funnel are useful for getting various fluids, water and dye respectively, to go where you want them to go. (Actually the funnel verges on essential for getting your dyes from the jars where you mix them into the squeeze bottles you will need to apply them. You can pour the dye mixture, but that process can get VERY messy.) Synthrapol helps the dye to penetrate your fibers, but you can use a teaspoon or so of dishwashing liquid to much the same effect. You can also guesstimate the roving amounts rather than using a scale. I use the scale because I know that I need about 2 ounces of roving per pantyhose leg in order to have enough wool for socks. You can get pretty close by balancing your amount of roving against a 50g skein of wool – just close your eyes and hold one in each hand. Switch if you are unsure.

I use either prepared roving, the creamy bluefaced Leicester in the picture above, or my own combed wool, usually some form of Romney cross. Generally I prefer my own combed wool, especially when I can get gray wool. If the dye does not completely take, gray shows through less garishly than does cream or white. Also Romney wool is generally quite lustrous, and I prefer the way the colors look with the shine. Romney is a pretty strong wool and so wears well for socks.

Next up – Combing and Dizzing, or the Thrills of Using Sharp Objects and Pulling Wool through Holes

Posted by Stephanie at February 21, 2005 1:32 PM