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

27 thoughts on “The wool house presents…

  1. Hi, Laurie! As one of the “folks who like oranges and browns” (perhaps the UR-“folk…who likes oranges and browns”), I would like to thank you for your sensitivity to spectral diversity.
    This may be coming in a future post, but…don’t forget the all-important spray bottle of Mr. Clean (probably a cousin to Steph’s Mr. Washie), to be used for emergency treatment of dye spills on tabletops/countertops/floors. (Or maybe you only need this when you invite a klutzy friend to dye with you?)

  2. Hi Laurie!
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom with the rest of us. I’ve always been tempted to try dyeing my own roving but I never found instructions that I felt truly answered all my questions. But you’re giving me hope. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s blog. Have fun!

  3. Laurie — your rovings are the only ones that have ever tempted me to try dyeing and/or spinning — with results that lovely, who wouldn’t give it a go? Thanks for taking the guest blog spot!

  4. I’ve been reading this blog since Christmas.
    I’ve not dyed wool but have done fabric for quilting. And can’t do wool now, well could but why since my wheel went to live with Sarah (Craftysnargle) at Christmas. I’d have to go visit her to spin!
    Enjoying all of this.

  5. Can’t wait until the next installment-I knew those pantyhose with runs in them would come in handy for something….
    And Steph, clever way of keeping us happy while you are off finishing what you have to do. Good luck with that.

  6. Oh, thank you, thank you! I’ve been dying to learn how to dye beautiful colours, and can’t wait for the next installment. I may have missed the posters, but does anyone in Toronto do workshops???

  7. Hi Laurie! Just to make you feel welcome, I’m going to give my usual smart-alecky commentary/rhetorical question. I hope that’s ok. If not, I’ll give you your money back. But the thing is, I gave up wearing panty hose years ago, and I’ve used up all my old ones tying up my tomato plants over the years. Does that mean I can’t be a dyer? 😀
    P.S.. Rule #17 for bloggers: No need to answer smart-alecky commenters.

  8. Not THAT Laurie?
    I’m with Norma. Damn. Gonna have to start wearing nylons again. Unless my working-girl fishnets would create interesting effects?

  9. Please start with the remedy for errors!!! Like spilling the dye on the corian counter, etc! I have not even contemplated dyeing my own wool since we put in a new kitchen! Please…give me hope!

  10. I love getting all the details on this kind of stuff. I don’t spin now, but who knows what I might get up to 5 years from now. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Yay Laurie (that Laurie!). I’m very excited to hear/read what you have to share with us this week.
    Kristen, where were you this weekend when I left a rosy ring on my mom’s kitchen counter? (Though beautiful, purple sock yarn is anathema to kitchen counter…..)
    Steph, I’m so glad, I mean, sad that someone else has deadlines.

  12. Do not fear! pantyhose-less individuals ARE allowed to dye. You can always go to the local bargain store and buy the absolutely cheapest ones you can find, as I do when I run out of ’em. But I do think that fishnet stockings would work beautifully as well.
    Always keep a large spray bottle of Mr. Clean around, as Kristen notes above, and immediately spritz any spills on corian or countertops. Or floors. or … I leave it to your imagination. Mr. Clean is pretty much magic in this regard.
    Kerry, I was not part of the Maine spinners calendar, and Shauna, if there is something I do NOT cover, ask away.
    Parts of the process may not be obvious. I do not have pictures of EVERYTHING — for example, mixing the dyes in old mayonnaise jars involves wearing a mask, pouring in dye powder carefully, and then adding very hot, even boiling water. I then use an eyedropped to spill a drop on a white paper towel to see whether the color is intense enough for me and add more if needed. Or funnel just a little into my squirt bottle and dilute it with water if the color is too intense. But can any color be TOO intense??
    Ah, well, if something is not clear, you folks will ask, I am sure…

  13. Hi Laurie
    I’m *really* hoping that there will be a bibliography as I’m a bit of an information junkie. Especially when it comes to well…just about anything actually. And just because all’s fair in love and bibliographies, here’s a few of my favorite resources:
    Knitty Article on Acid Dyes
    Dyeing cotton:
    Food grade dyes (i.e. Kool-Aid)
    Dharma Trading Co. seems to have decent pricing for acid dyes. I’m lucky enough to have G&S Dyes here in Toronto:

  14. Dear Laurie and Stephanie, thanks a lot for sharing this with us. I am a beginner in spinning, but this is a new temptation to add to my new addiction 😉 I will definitely try!

  15. Laurie, you have no idea how excited I was when you were announced as guest blogger. Your sock yarn is SO beautiful. It seriously tempts me to clean away the dirty dishes in my kitchen and get to work.

  16. Steph,
    Being from the South (and still living there): “Y’all” can be used for singular (as in the King’s “we,” but in this case “You”) and plural “You all.” I use “y’alls” as the possessive form – but I am not the authority on this subject. It just works well for me, and people seem to know what I am saying; so, there you are.
    Come down to 7exas, and we’ll show you a good time.

  17. OK – why did I have to put a “7” instead of a “T” in the word 7exas to be allowed to post my comment?

  18. I am so greatful for your post on this gorgeous dyeing. Will there be a second installment that shows how the dye is placed, and how you spin it to retain all those gorgeous stripes? Now I have new ideas for what to do with my grey fleece calling from the closet! Thanks!

  19. I am so greatful for your post on this gorgeous dyeing. Will there be a second installment that shows how the dye is placed, and how you spin it to retain all those gorgeous stripes? Now I have new ideas for what to do with my grey fleece calling from the closet! Thanks!

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