Friday, July 1, 2011

Alpaca dye job, gearing up for Tour de Fleece

Tour de Fleece begins tomorrow -- all spinners on Ravelry, join in! I'm captain of Team Crunchy Green, our local team, as well as a member of Team Schacht Spinners, Team Extra Credit, and the official Peloton team. I'm not sure how that all happened.

Today I spend the afternoon dyeing up four ounces ounces of white alpaca roving that I bought from Cherry Tree Hill alpacas at the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival, using ordinary food coloring and white vinegar to see what I could come up with.

I wish I'd gotten a better picture when it was all light and fluffy, but I started the photoessay with the roving soaking in vinegar and water, following the instructions in Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece.

While the roving soaked, I got my dyes ready, adding food coloring to jars of water with just a dab of white vinegar for extra insurance. I tested different color blends by dipping cotton swabs into the mix and dabbing it on white paper towels. Interesting that some that should have blended well turned to greeny-brown mud, especially blends that used the purple from the neon colors box. Always test first!

A whirl in the salad spinner took out most of the moisture. Contrary to what I thought, the book says that if the fiber is too wet, it will tend to repel the dyes.

With the work surface covered with a white garbage bag, I laid out the damp roving:

Then set to work with sponge brushes, dipping them in the dyes and dabbing the dyes on. Press, lift, press, lift, try not to felt the roving, press, lift...

After much dabbing and dabbing and dabbing, I got it all done:

I flipped it over to check the back and touched up any thin spots. I wasn't concerned about keeping the colors entirely separate, so I rolled the dyed roving up, from one long side to the other, and put it in a glass bowl, put a plate on top of the bowl, then microwaved for two minutes. The instructions said to turn the roving over using tongs (or the two big wooden spoons I had on hand) and microwave one more minute. By then and liquid coming off was running clear, so the dyes had been good and heat set:

The resulting colors weren't quite as saturated as I'd have liked, so I spread the roving out again and dabbed on more color in several places, and repeated the heat set process. The second time, there was more color in the liquid coming off. I guessed that the roving had taken on all the dye that it could. However, this latest post from Three Fates Knitting blog speaks of one more step I could have taken before dyeing that might have made the colors even richer.

After rinsing in cool water, then spinning in the salad spinner until I couldn't spin out any more water, the roving ended up looking like this:

Pretty! Tomorrow, let the spinning begin!


LaVelle said...

Thanks for showing the steps you took to color this roving. That looks cool and fun. I can't wait to see you spinning it tomorrow.

Mereknits said...

Karen, its so beautiful, can't wait to see the final product. Good luck,


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