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.