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From start to finished yarn – that icky fleece

From start to finished yarn – that icky fleece

Generally, when I wash a fleece I skirt it heavily. (The one exception is for suint cleaning, everything must go into that bath.) I am of the opinion in my senior years, that I have less time than money, and sheep will grow more wool next year; on the other hand, I may not be here. This year I was fortunate enough to buy from a friend who is brilliant at spotting excellent fleece and equally brilliant at cleaning them. I trust her implicitly and with reason.

Once the heavy lifting of selecting, skirting, and washing is done the wool is ready for processing. It can be spun from locks, dyed, carded either on the drum or hand carders, combed, or left to be stroked endlessly if it’s a particularly nice specimen.

This year I was going gang busters with dyeing. I had so much lovely wool to play with, so many different types, it was glorious, but every once in a while I’ll spend too much time with a fleece. I was processing lots of lovely locks and grabbed a bag just brimming full of the little lovelies. So much of the wool was amazing, just shimmering with light and reflecting the colours like petals on flowers.

In the bottom of the larger bag was a small sealed bag that I did not check for quality. This was dyed alone and produced a lovely orange/red. The locks are soft and lusterous, compact and have a great texture. The experiment for this dye bath was to treat the final rinse with a hair conditioner.  I could feel that the wool had been stripped and would produce static during processing.  I laid the wool in the sink, rubbed hair conditioner on my hands and patted it all over the wool, pushed this down in the water and watched in shock and awe as sand, debris, vegetable matter fell out of the fleece.  However, it’s full of second cuts, and cotted spots and these also started to separate from the longer locks. I suspect this was a gifted bag. My pride is saying I can salvage this…but what a sorry site, so many second cuts, so much wastage.

The locks looked fine, but these held some disappointing surprises

In a saner moment I would have set it aside, or thrown it out, but ego took over and I needed to prove to myself that I could make something out of this mess. So I started teasing out the waste material, carded the results and did a test spin.

The waste is significant, approximately 20% of the original product, including VM and sand. The fiber is half as long as the other locks from the original dye baths.

This is the wastage from the second cuts, severely cotted wool and VM

When carded, the staple length of the fiber was too short and too lofty to shape into rolags without fighting the fiber, so I left them as small batts and stacked them for woollen spinning. They are holding together extremely well and spin like a dream using long draw.

The test spin is a perfectly gorgeous, fluffy, strong woolen yarn. I couldn’t be more pleased with the final result, I would use this as a weft, or for knitting something that needs a lot of warmth. I’m not sure it could withstand abrasion. I have no idea what the breed is, so wouldn’t know if felting is an option. The staple on these batts is only 1.5 – 2 inches. The crimp is very large, hence the loft. It does shed so that might be a problem down the road.

Lofty woolen, warm results from experiment, small sample.

So, I learned a few things from this. Hair conditioner is great stuff for spinners. There is now a bottle in my tool kit, cheap stuff, but it works. And maybe I should slow down on judging a fleece as not worth the effort. This one really was worth the little bit of extra work. It’s a pleasure to card, so easy to spin and the final result is wonderful. I would have missed that. My friend knew what she was doing keeping this little bit of wool aside for special care.

I did some dying on the weekend.

I did some dying on the weekend.

I needed to dye some orange wool to make a flower for a customer so if I am going to get the dye pot out I might as well do a bunch of dying. You can never have enough dyed wool. I dye on the side burner of my BBQ outside when the weather is above freezing. Now it’s not much above freezing, it was only about 10c/50f  but that’s good enough for me.

I made a bunch of 100gram/3.5oz balls of merino top.  I heat up the big dye pot of water with some vinegar.  I Unwind a ball and soak it in warm slightly soapy water. I mix my dye and add it to the pot. I gently squeeze the water out of the soaked wool and pop it into the dye pot. I let it go from 20-40 min. If the waters clear I take it out early, if it’s not I leave it for the 40 min. While it’s cooking I start the next wool soaking and mix the dye. My water is very hard and it effects the dye process. I don’t think I have ever managed to get an even dye job. that is one of the reasons I usually recard most of my wool.  Dyeing with rain water is on my list for this summer. My rain water comes of a metal roof so I don’t know how much difference it will make but its worth a try .

This is the result of Saturday and Sunday.  The wind was not cooperating so excuse the sloppy display. I was just happy they stayed on the back of the chairs long enough to get  a picture.

whole group

Here they all are in groups

purplesI couldn’t get the colours one right no matter how I fiddled. There are 5 colours there. The middle 3 all look the same. Two are very close but one is purple and turquoise.

oranges This one is pretty close to true.

greensThis is very close to true.  The pale green is from an MX or fibre reactive dye used as an acid dye. Its called sage leaf. The one next to it, fourth  from the top is supposed to be olive drab but is more like sage leaf.  The yellow and green one is the exhaust batch after the greens and I quite like it. I think I will recard it to blend the small spots of green in to it. The blue is the exhaust after the purples.

While these where in the pot I added some yarns too. These are all form when I was learning to spin. I didn’t like the colours.

blue and brown yarn This was a natural brown plied with a white. It went into the bright blue dye bath.

brown and green yarn purple yarnThe purple one was white. The one on the right was natural grey plied with white. It went in the sage bath.. The one on the left was another brown and white and it went in the olive drab dye bath.  You can see the purple and the gray have gone all curly with not being plied properly. They are not balanced yarns. I think they will be fine to use for decoration on felt. It will add interest.

purple and blue yarn The one on the right is a commercial ladder yarn that was a horrible pale green. I had no idea what it was made off except it wasn’t natural. I tossed it into the bright blue bath to see what would happen. It came out great.  The top one went into one of the purple baths. It was a purple I mixed myself with turquoise and red. It spit into turquoise and purple. The others were ones that I bought mixed but they split too.  One of them started out pink but I can’t figure out which one now.

All in all a good weekend I didn’t even felt them badly like I usually do.

 

 

 

Jackson Pollock Piece Finally Finished.

Jackson Pollock Piece Finally Finished.

I started my first quarter challenge back at the beginning of February. I made a piece of nuno felt using black wool prefelt and white silk to make a canvas.

beginning beginning felted

Finally the other day I decided to try out my idea on how to paint the canvas. I thickened some die with arrowroot powder. I was aiming for a paint like texture. I had never thickened dye before and I didn’t want to spend any money ordering something special. I looked up thickeners and arrowroot was the one recommended for acidic things.  It is a very fine powder.

thickened dye

I added a little to each small batch of acid dye and heated it a little. The first one I heated too much and it was like vulcanised rubber in the bottom of the cup. lesson learned less powder and less heat.

I started with yellow.It wasn’t dribbling how I wanted so I thinned it down. I didn’t like that either it  spread out too much. For the next 3 colours I poured it from the cups and moved them across the canvas quickly. That worked really well. Then I heated it in the microwave.

dye applied 1 into the microwave 1

While I was doing this I realised I had not put any vinegar in the dye. I heated up some water and put it in a basin and when the canvas come out of the microwave I put it into the acidified water and heated it in the microwave a bit and let it cool. having to put it in the water bath blurred the lines a bit but the arrowroot made it stay put for the most part. as you can see the thickened yellow is what moved in to the water the most.

after microwave vinigar bath 1

When I rinsed it and it felt really slimy. I thought I rinsed it well but it was harsh and stiff feeling when dry so I gave it a good wash with some shampoo. This is the finished piece. I think its very Pollock like.

finished pollock

I haven’t ironed it yet but I think I will and use the heat and steam to square it up.

Dyeing Cotton Fabrics

Dyeing Cotton Fabrics

A few weeks ago I decided to dye some of the cotton fabrics I was using in felting: Cotton Gauze, Cheesecloth, Muslin, a few lightweight cottons and some cotton/synthetic mixes. I started out using some Scarlet RIT dye and I was really pleased with how easy it was to use and how well the colours turned out. I used the ‘Hot Water in a bucket’ method. I weighed the amount of fabric I had and then ran some really hot water into a bucket and measured out how much I needed. I poured this into the dyeing bucket, saving a little in a jug to add to the dye I’d measured out  into an old glass jar. I added salt to the dyeing bucket, then poured the dye solution in, and gave it a stir around. The instructions had said to wet the fabric before adding to the dye bath, so I’d put the fabrics in the other bucket while I prepared the dye bath. The instructions said to stir constantly for about 30 minutes until the desired colour is reached, but I just stirred occasionally. I also added fabric at different stages or tied/scrunched to get different shades/effects. Using the instructions on the RIT packet, I made some calculations for dyeing smaller amounts of fabrics and used this as a guide for dyeing the fabric a medium shade.

The second dye brand I tried was Dylon, I bought the 50g hand dyeing pack. I used to buy the Dylon Multi purpose dyes years ago, they were meant for using in a pan on the stove, but gave excellent results just using hot water in a bucket, so I expected these Hand Dyes to be really good. The instructions were pretty much the same as for RIT except no laundry detergent was used. I bought a dark brown so that I could add fabrics at different stages and get lots of gorgeous natural looking shades. What I actually got was a load of fabrics all very much the same pale shade of beige 🙁  I think I would have got richer colours using tea or coffee. I made some calculations for dyeing smaller amounts of fabric for the Dylon too, though I’m not sure I’ll use it again.

The next time I dyed some cottons, I used a RIT dye again, Navy Blue. I was really pleased with the way those fabrics turned out too. I even dyed some egyptian cotton top, which turned out nice, the photos didn’t though 🙂

Do you have a favourite dye for cottons or maybe a favourite method? Do you have any hints or tips to share with us? We’d love to hear your opinions. Click on the pictures for bigger images.

Direct Dyeing

Direct Dyeing

Direct dyeing is a method where the dye is applied directly to the fibre. This can be done with very small or fairly large amounts of fibre depending on what utensils are available to you, but it is particularly good for smaller amounts. One advantage is that the fibres don’t move around so there is less tangling or felting. Another advantage is that very small amounts of dye can be made up, reducing the risk of waste.

Dyed Silk Throwster’s waste

 I have written a step by step tutorial with lots of photos and a table to help work out very small amounts of dye/solution. I apologise to anyone more familiar with imperial measurements, the quantities used are so small that the tiniest measuring spoons are used and they are metric, so it was easier to stick to one measurement. And also US and UK fluid ounces differ, and even cups have metric, US and Canadian versions 🙂  If anyone needs a converter I find online conversion is excellent for everything.

Direct Dyeing Tutorial, please click for PDF

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