Disclaimer: By no means take any of these statements for fact. I am a wanna-be fiber artist attempting to process her own wool for the very first time by means of the project titled “Project Sheep to Sweater.” The following series of statements and any future statements are my observations only.
So my wool has been washed and hanging out with me for the past 7 months. After acquiring it I had washed it multiple times (see previous posts on washing and shearing) and let it dry completely. It then sat in a bin for the next 7 months, travelling from Pomona, to Los Angeles, driving north over 1,000 miles, to Bellevue (Washington), and finally to my apartment in Seattle. After many long months of waiting for my life to transition, I finally started with the dyeing process, thanks to the readily available supplies that are pretty easy to find here at Weaving Works.
Dyeing, when done correctly seems to be a science. I, however, do not do it correctly. At least I’ll admit it to myself. I have a little here and a little there. But I can definitely say I understand how it should be done correctly with ratios of ounces of liquid, grams of dye powder, amount of fiber, etc.
I acquired a crockpot at the nearby Goodwill for a mere $10 which was great. I didn’t want to spend too much; granted I’m sure I could have gotten one for cheaper, but it’s in great condition and I probably could have used it for cooking if I had so desired. I decided on the crockpot method due to the seemingly easy method of leaving it and basically forgetting it, only coming back to check every now and then so I could do things as I pleased.
So my first batch, I chose to do a chartreuse with my Rambouillet. (Quick project update: I’m blending my Rambouillet fleece with some Shetland and Tencel in order to get the strength of Shetland with some shimmer of Tencel; we’ll see how this goes). I thought, well 2 ounces of fiber will fit in the pot so lets do it! I followed that thought with “let’s fill (almost) the entire pot with water to ensure maximum coverage. Then let’s set it to low so it doesn’t felt. Then let’s open it regularly to make sure it’s okay. Then let’s add a little dye because this doesn’t seem to be working.”
Mistake. Fail. Fail. Meh.
The above picture is the crockpot at work. FOR SEVEN HOURS. It took so gosh darn long for the fiber to get up to temperature that I had to leave the house and turn it off by that time. Meaning there was no way in heck the dye set. So I was left with a wasted day and a pot of fiber that was attempting to dye.
Lesson here: Do not fill your crockpot up with this much water. You really don’t need that much water so long as it remains covered. Moreover, don’t keep opening the crockpot up! This only allowed the heat to escape so the temperature lowered, thus making it take way longer to get up to temperature.
I ended up having to recover from this pretty crappy mistake by redoing the process about 4 times until I got the desired result. In the end, I had to put this fleece into a bag where my not-so-satisfactory fleece goes that’ll be used for some woolen bitted yarn. But I absolutely despise waste so it will get used. Plus the wool became a weird green-light green with extreme changes that cannot be explained.
After this, I’ve gone with 1 ounce of fiber at a time, with barely enough water to cover it. This has resulted in a much more satisfactory result. Often times, I’ll let it get to the temperature it needs with a good amount of water, then keep it on warm through the night, turning it off in the morning. This way it lets the dye set and I can set it and forget it.
As you saw yesterday though it’s coming along really well. While the dyeing has been much more difficult and time consuming than I had thought, I still love it. And it’s getting better; lot’s better! I think if I can find a good sized pot at Goodwill, I might do the stovetop method when I have some spare time. It seems like it might go a lot faster, and seeing as I hope to dye/process about 1.5-2 lbs of fiber for this sweater, I still have about 1-1.5 lbs to go. I’m getting impatient with the dyeing.
Til next time!
Meet Penny, a dachshund from the Humane Society who had stolen my heart 2 weeks ago. She by no means replaces my Penny-weenie, but she is so heart-wrenchingly adorable. I am still rejoicing in the fact that she just got adopted today!