Archive for the ‘dyeing’ Category

Orcas spinning camp

I spent last week up on Orcas Island at “spinning camp” with Judith MacKenzie – my 4th time at this event (I missed 2009).  This year’s theme was “Bringing Color into Your Spinning”.  They were set up to do a lot of dyeing outdoors (always a bit iffy in February in NW Washington).  Then it snowed.  And got really cold.  But our organizers managed to score an indoor space in an adjacent cabin to the meeting room, swathed it in tarps to protect the furnishings, and we pressed on!

The first day Judith entertained us with stories of her trip to Peru in November 2010.  She was one of the speakers at Tinkuy de Tejedores (A Gathering of Weavers) near Cusco.  She brought back some beautiful textiles, all nature dyed handspun and woven on primitive backstrap looms.  She also shared a portion of her collection of Peruvian “burial dolls” – many of them very, very old.  They are not really dolls, but religious or ceremonial objects.  The clothes they wear are made from fragments of cloth that were originally on mummies, so in some cases the textile fragments could be thousands of years old.

Judith with burial dolls

The first class project was to spin a boucle yarn using a rayon core and kid mohair locks that Judith had dyed.  I skipped this one, as I have tried it before, am really bad at it, and know I won’t be pursuing this one any time soon.

Next she had us spin up some Corriedale rovings in white and black (natural colors) and make a series of 3-ply yarns: 3 white plies, 1 white/2 black, 2 white/1 black, 3 black.  Then we overdyed the final skein(s) with a color of our choice to see how the color interacts with the underlying makeup of the yarn.  Or this would be a way to make a graduated color yarn as you transition from white to black.  Mine came out sort of “sea lettuce green”:

After they got the dye area set up, we were able to dye solid colors in big dye pots on the cabin front porch, or go inside where they had 4 electric roasters set up to dye variegated color rovings or yarn with a direct pour application.  Each of us were given 4 oz of Corriedale roving, chose a colorway, then Judith dyed it for us while we observed the technique.  After everyone had done one roving this way, we were able to do more on our own (with her help with the colors, “if needed” – ha ha, always needed…)

my first dyed roving

Another spinning exercise: we were given 4 oz of Corriedale roving that Judith had already dyed (variegated in color like the one above).  Then we were encouraged to “share and share alike” by getting small amounts of other colors from other folks in the room.  The idea was to introduce other colors into the spun singles, in either a random or semi-methodical way, to obtain a final plied yarn that is more complex in color than if you had spun up just the single colorway represented by your roving.  This was a lot of fun and I like the idea a lot.  I finished plying mine when I got back home but I don’t have a picture of the final yarn yet and here it is:

The basic roving was quite muted, cream through shades of greyish purple, but I introduced short sections from another roving from time to time: dark royal blue through purple, and a brighter turquoise color.  I spun all the singles, divided it into thirds by weight, and made a 3-ply yarn where all the colors just come and go randomly.  I am pleased with the result and will probably use this idea again.

I also spun up some Polwarth roving that I bought from Maxine of Island Fibers on Lopez Island, at the event.  I made about 150 yds of 3-ply and it is wonderful, springy and soft yarn.  I will definitely be spinning more of this fiber.  I dyed it in one of the roasters along with some merino/tencel roving I also bought from Maxine.  Can you say RED?

Here are two more batches of dyed merino/tencel roving:

The one on the left was supposed to have more purple tones in it, but as it turns out this was superwash merino and it takes up dye very quickly.  It all just sort of blended together.  But I can put it back in a dye bath at home and try to modify it some, and I will.


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Painterly Dyeing

I finally got around to trying out a dye method I ran across last year in the magazine put out by Ashford Handicrafts Ltd in New Zealand (makers of Ashford spinning wheels, Ashford dyes, etc).  After randomly applying 2-3 colors of acid dyes to a long skein of wool using squeeze bottles, a roller is used to work the dyes into the fiber and create new colors where the dyes blend together.  Then the skein is microwaved or steamed as usual, to set the dye.

I had 17 skeins of 3-ply yarn that I spun up over the course of the last couple of months, using roving that was sent to me by my sister in California.  It came from a friend of hers who raises (or used to raise) sheep but she didn’t seem to know what breed they were.  It isn’t a fine wool, probably more like Romney, so I spun it woolen and then made a 3-ply for knitting.

So this is how I spent the last couple of days.  Jeez, it’s a lot of work just skeining everything, soaking, washing it out afterwards, etc.  But it was a learning experience!

First I re-skeined them into 4-yard skeins (to fit the length of a 6-foot work table) using my warping board:

After soaking them in a vinegar solution, I laid them out on the table and applied dye.  Of course this is the fun part, and also the most challenging part for me.  How do I come up with 3 colors that will play well with each other?  I used some of my dyed samples from last summer’s workshop as a guide, and also just played around with some mixes, trying them out on coffee filters.  I was trying to just have fun and be a little loose about it (not easy for me sometimes) but I did make notes – on the coffee filters!! – about what worked, and what didn’t work as well.

dye applied from squeeze bottles

dyes blended with the roller

The roller came from a paint store and is meant for use in wallpapering.  It has a little texture to the plastic surface, and I would like to find something smoother but still OK with water and dye.  But basically, it did the job.

After steaming, they had to be washed and rinsed, hung to dry – then I re-skeined them yet again into the standard 2-yard skeins that is my standard put-up for handspun.  I plan to sell these at the guild sale this weekend.  Hardly a “money maker” after spinning, plying, washing, and doing all this process to dye it – but I can’t use everything I produce and this was basically a learning experience for me.

They did turn out OK – some better than others – I got more subtle results when I diluted the 1% dyestock solution with equal parts to 3 times as much water.  Major lesson, that.

the finished skeins

I enjoyed this approach so much that I think I will try it on some finer yarns wound for a warp, and maybe some rovings for spinning.

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Completely batty

I have so many ideas in my head about things I want to try, and/or a queue of projects I am trying to get to, that it sometimes almost seems like a random choice as far as what to dive into next.

However, I had so much fun dyeing those shawls a week ago – and Sara at Ashford Gallery in Winthrop keeps asking me for spinning fiber (you can tell fall is on its way – knitting and spinning are coming back into people’s minds around here) – that I decided the fiberarts project for this week was to dye up some fleece and drumcard some spinning/felting batts.

I used about 3 lbs of a white Romney fleece I bought last year from The Pines Farm in Maple Valley, WA.  The Schwiders raise white and natural colored Romney sheep, and Angora goats.  They are well-respected breeders and also chief organizers of the Shepherds’ Extravaganza held each April at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.  Judith MacKenzie McCuin recommended them to me for a fiber source.

I dyed 4 colors using Judith’s dyes (Mother MacKenzie’s) in various combinations of Blue, Magenta and Violet.  I used the dye samples from the workshop in Preston this past summer as a guide, and am happy to report that the colors came out quite similar even though it was fleece and not yarn.

3 colors destined to be carded together into layered batts:

3 colors all using Blue-Magenta-Violet

3 colors all using Blue-Magenta-Violet

The 4th color was a similar to the color on the right above, only a little more purple, so I used it by itself and then added a “frosting” of dyed kid mohair locks on the second pass:

4th color carded on first pass

4th color carded on first pass

after adding dyed kid mohair locks

after adding dyed kid mohair locks

I got eight 2-oz. batts from this color plus the kid mohair.

Here’s the drumcarder in action.  Love this tool!  It was built by Judith’s husband, Nick McCuin.

drumcarder in action

I failed to take pictures at some point.  This blogging is very demanding.  The 3 colors shown above were put on the carder in layers:  blueberry, most of the fuchsia color, then the violet, then a light frosting of the fuchsia again.  I got 16  batts, each 2-oz. of fiber.

After taking 10 batts up to the gallery this morning, I still have this nice box full of lovely batts, ready to spin or sell at the holiday sales coming up in November.  I know, I won’t get rich doing it- but every time I do a project like this I get more confident about what I am doing, and it is really a blast!

Box full of spinning batts

Box full of spinning batts

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I set up my Weck electric canner last week for the first time – in my case it is a Weck electric “dyepot”.  This thing is wonderful.  It is heavy gauge stainless steel, has temperature control and a drain spigot:

Weck dyepot

The project at hand was to overdye a woven shawl and a handknit shawl.  Both were originally made using a colorway in the New Zealand handpainted yarns I get from Fiber Trends, in a colorway not too many people besides me seem to like.  The company has changed dyers now, anyway, and I am not sure this color will be available anymore.  So anyway, I overdyed the two pieces, which were a yellow-green-grey-taupe mix, with about 60% blue and 40% violet at a DOS i.e. depth-of-shade of 0.75.   I was aiming not to completely obscure the color changes in the original yarn, but transform it to a blue green overall color.

The domino wrap, before and after:

domino wrap before dyeingoverdyed domino wrap

The woven shawl, before and after:

Sagebrush with wool handpaintoverdyed shawl

On the knitted wrap, I really like the way the mohair boucle and brushed mohair domino squares took up the dye a little differently from the plain wool squares.  It’s just a lot more interesting looking, besides being a better color.

As long as I am tooting my own horn, let me add that the knitted wrap is my own pattern which I call the Fats Domino Wrap.  I have been selling it with the yarns, which I get wholesale from Fiber Trends, as a knitting kit, mainly up at the Ashford Gallery in Winthrop, WA.  Fiber Trends is also promoting it as the Fats Domino Wrap/Shawl Kit with Pattern.  Fiber Trends is wholesale only, but you can order it through this link and it will be fulfilled by one of their participating retailers – the one nearest to you, I believe.  Fiber Trends provides a wide range of knitting and felting patterns under their own label, plus the full range of Naturally yarns from New Zealand, including the handpainted yarns I have used in the kit.

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Dye Days in Preston

Last weekend I went over to the coast for a fiber dyeing workshop out in Preston.  The goal was to create a notebook of dye samples using Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s dyes (“Mother MacKenzie’s Miracle Dyes”).  These are professional quality acid dyes used to dye protein fibers – “acid” means they require a slightly acidic solution to work, not that they are acidic themselves.  Once in solution, they have no demonstrated health risks and require only common household vinegar and no other additive chemicals to work.  So these are the dyes I have been using myself, but faced with bottles of stock solution of the 9 basic colors, it is often hard to figure out how to get started in creating the colors I want for a particular project.

The idea was for each workshop participant to choose a selection of 3 of the 9 colors and then dye 36 samples with ratios of each color varying in increments of 10%.  This would show the range of colors possible using those 3 dyes, and as a bonus each of those colors seem to work well with each other, so it makes it easy to set up a palette for a dye project.

The leader of the workshop was extremely organized and had our workstations set up with fiber ready to dye, the stock solutions all mixed up, and any other tools we needed besides the bowl we each brought to mix colors in.  We had a chart that showed the 36 combinations and how much dye to measure out for colors A, B and C for each combination (plus water and vinegar) for the amount of fiber in each bundle.

dye sample skeinsThe fiber bundles contained 12 strands each of Cascade 220 (a basic wool knitting yarn), a laceweight wool/silk and a fine spun silk.  Each type of fiber takes up the dye a little differently.

Here we are spending the first day measuring out dye, water and vinegar, immersing our little bundles and mushing them around, wrapping them in plastic wrap ready to be steamed (the heat sets the dye).

dyeing the samplesAfter the bundles were steamed and cooled, we had to unwrap them and rinse them 3 times, then hang them to dry.

dye samples dryingYou think that was a repetitive task?  But wait, there’s more!  The next day we spent taking apart each bundle and tying 3 strands (one wool, one silk/wool and one spun silk) of each color onto 10 pre-printed cards.

dye samples pagesThis was a task that did not get finished.  I have some here at home that I am still working on, but eventually we will all get the finished cards with everyone’s samples.

Its was a great group of women, some of whom I have known for years, so as we sat there muttering “2.7 cc’s cyan, 0.5 cc’s magenta, 3.6 cc’s prime yellow” or the equivalent, we also enjoyed wide ranging conversations and lots of laughter.  Plus delicious potluck lunches.  And cookies.

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