The wool house presents: finale

In which the brilliant Laurie sums up, demonstrates her genius and makes all of us feel like throwing our knitting away.

General principles:

Fuchsia never exhausts.

Neither does purple really.

Everything will bleed into gold or yellow.

Mixed colors often spin up into particularly nice yarn.

The steamer water will be full of dye.

The wool sausages will look horrible, even if you use saran wrap that is NOT violet.

If you use carded wool instead of combed roving, you may end up with felted wool despite your best efforts.

When you steam these coils, you will need to use a lid. Wait until the sausages puff up and then let the kettle steam for at least twenty minutes to set the dye. You can take the lid off to look, but generally keep it on. Here I peeked:


After twenty minutes, take the pot off the heat and set it aside to cool. For a LONG time. The coiled wool need to be completely cool. I leave the pot in the back bathroom overnight. In a rush (and in cold weather), I have been known to leave the pot on the back stoop. Of course, I live in Maine, and our cold weather is VERY cold! Still, you need to let it cool and cool. Then, still using your rubber gloves, unwrap the ENDS of the packages in the sink and let the wool sausage slither out:


You will then need to soak and rinse the wool sausages (leave that roving in there!!) until the water runs clear. The water should be the same temperature that the sausages are. That temperature does not have to be EXACT, but close. I do the last rinse in the washing machine in order to spin all the moisture out afterwards. And make sure that your washing machine does not dump water on things during the spin cycle!!

The reward comes afterwards when you can untie the end of the wool sausage and pull your roving out!


When the rovings are wet, they can sometimes look disappointing. Especially commercial rovings, possibly because they are more compacted. When the rovings are dry, they look wonderful. More patience, alas!!

What do you do with a painted roving?


We have to let them dry thoroughly before spinning, etc. The Romney rovings, formerly gray, are on the left and the Bluefaced Leicester rovings are coiled up. Lovely, eh? Now we are GLAD we sacrificed that lovely gray roving from the other day.

When your rovings are PERFECTLY dry, you spin them up into very fine singles. You can knit as singles, ply together with another solid color single, or Navajo-ply (The Joy of Handspinning has video clips).

The first two options make the most of your singles. Knit the singles (after setting the twist on a plastic niddy noddy) and you have the full yardage, say 300 yards; ply with a solid color – again 300 yards. Since Navajo-plying is basically a three-ply, your 300 yards of singles becomes 100 yards of yarn.

Below are the various kinds of socks you can make with the yarn:


The two pairs of socks and yarns on the left use Navajo-plying technique. The far left socks, a.k.a. my Lifesaver socks, are dyed bluefaced Leicester. Note the bands — you can split the roving in halves and quarters so there will be more color repeats. And the sock next to them come from Romney rovings (one set of colors changes up the leg).

The middle sock, with the toucan colors, is knit from commercial roving I dyed, spun and plied with a black single – stretching my colors! The next to the last sock also helps extend the use of your handpainted yarn. That sock and the one in progress above it (which you cannot really see) use a fairisle pattern with one strand of black wool and one strand of the multicolor yarn. The far right sock is knit from singles, like the yarn above it.

To elaborate on what you can do with these yarns, I have a closer illustration of the socks and sweater:


The sweater I made by picking a cable pattern that I particularly like and knitting panels in that pattern. Putting it together took a lot of careful seaming, but the cables actually helped me line things up. I enjoyed myself thoroughly arranging and rearranging them before deciding how they would finally fit together.

In thinking about socks, you can get more info than you could possible use from the Socknitter web site. They have LOTS of tutorials for all kinds of socks of different weights. The ones I have knitted above are simple toe-up socks with a small fairisle design. You can, in fact, make up your own design or do a variation on ones that you have seen. Below you will see a new sock in progress with a honeycomb grid and my worksheet. Simple graph paper will do, but lots of sites give you ways to print out knitter’s graph paper – here is just one on the Brown Fox Fiber site : I have four patterns below marked on mine for the three fairisle socks on display. I chose more elongated honeycombs than my first effort.


For my socks, the yarn came out to about light worsted/DK weight. I used 48 stitches on American size 3 needles. That number of stitches is particularly nice because it divides evenly for so many different stitch repeats: 2, 3, 4, 6, 8. Remember my feet are VERY small so this number is fine for me because it blocks out to 5-6 stitches per inch. You could easily go up to size 4 or even 5 if you knit tightly. Please note that the sock in progress puckers; that effect blocks out. In fact the blocked sock is larger, so do not panic if it is tight on your foot.

I am never 100% sure how the wool sausage dyeing will come out, but I do know that the two rovings will match since I use the same dye in the same order on both. And I also know that SOME form of spinning and plying will make the colors work well.

One book that is really helpful is Twisted Sister Sock Book, by Lynne Vogel

I am not particularly fond of some of her color combinations, but she has excellent descriptions of particular dyes, dyeing different ways and, of course, sock patterns. Including the toe-up variety. This book is really where I started…

For those of you who are “pantyhose-challenged,” you can always buy a braided bath scubbie – you know those mesh jobs? The long ones that look like braids are made up of several rolled up tubes of mesh. If the tub is too wide, you could just sew down the middle to make two pockets. That strategy would make matching your sock rovings that much easier!

Now the limited Web Bibliography for Dyers:

Dyeing Protein Fibers with Kool-Aid – How-to

Page of Dyeing links – mostly NOT about the dyeing of yarn or spinning fiber

Fiber Arts Dyeing info – including color card for Cushings

How to hand-paint roving or yarn:

HJS Studio Tutorials

Inside the pot – using an old crockpot for dyeing:


Fleece artist: Colour ideas

Silkworker – be aware that silk dyes differently than wool!


Before you ask, there is no website, no yarn or socks for sale. I do this kind of project for fun on top of my day job. And now you know how you could do it as well!!

Many thanks to Laurie for doing this, I know that it was an unbelievable amount of work. I have it on good authority (ok…Laurie told me) that some of the above roving is in the mail to Harlotville. When it arrives we can take a closer look at the spinning. Happy weekend, especially to Laurie.