Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dying- the First Attempt.

     So, I've been spinning less than a year. Starting because I had fun fixing, then making a few spindles, and have been enjoying spinning as well. I've tried several types of fibers, coming back to base wools (BFL, for example) as tried and true baselines.
    Over the holiday season I bought some unprepared fleeces, as my wife was wanting to try some of the raw wool to wash, dye and spin... and as a few varieties of wool became available to me, I splurged a bit. This led to us having now several boxes of raw wools of different types, and led to her suggesting I try as well.
   Well, now, I have a Fine Arts background, have a working knowledge of color theory, and mixing rules, so I thought, 'Yeah, I could try this...'  -SIGH-  and I watched her dye some, and asked a few questions... finding out that mixed dyes can 'break' oddly, and that even heavy-handed dyes tend to fade/bleed in unexpected ways. Oh yes, and you have to cook the dyes long enough to make them set properly.... so keep careful watch to add water to the steaming pan.
  Unfortunately I should have asked for baselines- both in times and dyes.
  So Since I'm a bit rough when I play I chose to try the Shropshire as it tends to be hard to felt, cleaned it, and then began dying. I wanted to try two different things, so I divided it roughly in half. The first was using a dark blue,and two different yellows (golden and lemon) to try to get a broken set of greens. The second was a light blue, with bits of green and dark brown to make a layered turquoise effect. 
  Remembering how watercolors fade as they dry, and thinking that the breaks and layers would make it substantially lighter in the centers, I mixed my dyes into deep color sets, blended them into the wool, and let them set for an hour or so, turning the zip-lock bags ever 15-20 minutes. Then I prepped the steamer.
   Bamboo steam pot, one bag per layer, with a large water pot underneath- once it was hot and ready, I put the bamboo steamers over the pot, and started a timer and a movie. Every 20 minutes I checked the pot, adding more warm water as necessary. Then the movie ended- I switched layers top/bottom so the other side would be in the more direct heat, and did it again for a second film.
   I then let them cool off, strained them, washed them with cool water to get any loose dye off, and ended up with downed rat curls of two different shades of black... a warm and a cool flat black. Worse, it was a scratchy, dehydrated, crunchy mess.  Thinking, 'maybe it's just too compacted?' I tried carding it to loosen the fibers... that's what is pictured above.
   At this point, I was thinking it was completely dead. But I was wrong. A good friend of ours, and owner of my favorite Local Fiber Shop (plug for A Weaver's Yarn) Suggested that all might not be lost... and so I carded it again, this time spritzing it with baby oil with each clump, and then bagged it. I'd leave it sit overnight, and then do it again as the wool absorbed some of the baby oil bringing it back from the crunchy-dehydrated mass back to a softer wool. After a couple of times it had softened back to a 'normal' scratchy wool level.

   One of my spin-a-long groups is going through the Harry Potter (Books and Movies) which is on Goblet of Fire this month, and the more I worked with this wool, the more I was reminded of the Thestrals. The two blacks mixed to an odd grey/green/blue tinted almost black, that reminded me of the night flight of these hidden beasts- and then was inspired to add blue and green sparkles to account for magical ways to view them- like Luna's Spectrespecs.

    So after adding way more sparkle than advised, I finally felt it was ready, and had been making rollags, which I am beginning to spin.... (yeah, again just starting this month's spin and it's already the 16th?) Well, I haven't finished any of the others in the month, so why should this one be any different? -SIGH- Still have to finish and ply by book three spin (single is almost done though...) and I need to update my Etsy... I think I just need more days in the week.--- maybe I'll spin all day on that new day.


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