Dyeing wool

Of all the useful and memorable things I learned whilst at college studying textiles all those years ago, dyeing was not one of them! Oh yes, I spent quite a lot of time in the dye-lab, and created some wonderful colours – and also felted some lovely mohair yarn! I was taught how to prepare fibre and yarns for dyeing and how to dye these, but despite this teaching I can’t say I learned the sciencey bits about dyeing.  By that I mean working with weights and percentages so that I could mix colours, and be able to replicate them.

I was way to impatient, and didn’t see the point in keeping records – or if I did keep a note, I pyromptly lost it. I was enamoured with the way I could take hank of natural yarn – my blank canvas, and turn it into any colour, or combination of colours I wanted. I didn’t need to replicate them, I was experimenting! Every episode in the dye-lab was an adventure to me, I didn’t want to be tied down by technical stuff!

So now here I am actually doing the learning I should have done then on a personal level. When I worked in the knitting industry I designed yarns, fibre mixes and developed colour pallettes, but I didn’t develop the dye recipes.

A while ago I bought the Colourcraft primary colour acid dyes from George Weil and I’ve these a few times before, along with a Kemtex chestnut brown. This was the first time using them in a more considered and planned manner.

For a gentle start, I dyed a straight golden yellow, no mixing needed and it came out fine. The Dorset fleece is pretty soft so some felting occurred, but it’s OK.

For help in during this dyeing session I turned to Gail Callahan’s, Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece. This book makes dyeing very accessible, with clear explanations and some really interesting ideas and techniques.

I’ll add some photos of the carded fleece.

After my first success it was time for an orange, and my mix came out perfectly as planned!

My next attempt came out flourescent lime green, not the subtle olive green that I had planned.

I now moved on to the dark red, but sadly this came out a corally candy pink not dark red.

To give myself a really difficult challenge I decided to mix Duck Egg Blue. My first attempt came out a grey/lilac colour. I still don’t know why, as the mix sounded, and looked OK. I think it was too do with when I added the vinegar.

When the dye bath seemed almost exhausted I added some more blue and yellow and another 100g fibre. Whilst not a delicate Duck Egg Blue its a pretty green that I will definitely use.

So it was back to getting that dark slightly acid red I’f tried for earlier. This sits between a range of analogous colours that range from rich brown through the colour itself to dark maroon and plummy dark red. There was a lot more mixing involved in this but it was well worth it as the colour came out exactly as I wanted.

Finally I needed a blue, and went for Forget-me-not. It’s veered slight towards the Bluebell, but is acceptable. I added another 100g to the dye-bath and it totally exhausted all the colour. I’ve never seen this before, so here is a photo.

The absolutely clear, exhausted dye bath

Rainbow dyeing raw fleece on the stove

This came about after I read an article on Ravelry – https://www.ravelry.com/projects/castlemilk/stove-top-rainbow-dyeing. Its quite an old article and I found it via another post about dyeing. Because I have a few bags of fleece sitting festering in the shed that I need to wash I was rather taken with the idea of washing and dyeing with acid dyes at the same time.

My family make a dreadful fuss about the smell, whether I’m dyeing or scouring, so I thought, lets do them together. Be warned though, it does stink! I am sitting here feeling a bit queasy.

I’ve not been adventurous with my colours for the first attempt, rainbow it is – cyan, lemon and magenta dyes used.

Immediately after adding the dye powder

Basically you put a little water, a good 3 squirts of washing liquid and vinegar (for the dye) into the pot then pack in the fleece. After this you add water to just cover the fleece and sprinkle on the dye powder. Bring to the simmer and simmer for 40 minutes and DO NOT TOUCH IT – it is SO tempting, but don’t! The dye penetrates and mixes by itself, which is what makes such a random and pretty result. Leave it all to cool until you can handle it safely and then rinse well.

After bringing the dye bath to simmer, the colours are spreading and softening

The dye bath was really yucky, so I threw it out, but the original article suggested that you could use this to do another exhaust bath with more fleece if you so wanted. My stomach was not strong enough I’m afraid, besides which the colour seemed sludgy grey and I didn’t want to dye anything that colour.

My first attempt came out more pastel sure drying than I had anticipated, which must be for to the proportions of fibre to dye

My first batch came out well, but the second batch went a bit murky. I hope this will spin up to be a heathery brown and purple with dashes of colour.

Pretty highlights, but basically a light purpley-brown.

I haven’t carded or spun any of this yet. I’m not actually sure what I will do, as carding will mix it up – so maybe I can spin from the lock. I’ll have a go.

Update is that it sounds from the lock after the tips are opened with a flicker brush. This means I can retain the occasional highlights which carding would homogenise.