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Fiber Dyeing


We dye a lot of yarn and really enjoy it.  It's easy and fun.  Indigo and other natural dyes, acid dyes, fiber reactive dyes, hand painting, vat dyeing - it's all fun and easy.  It's also exhausting since I'm not as young as I used to be and we usually do marathon days when we set up a dye day.  We mostly do a dump method.  We start with a color, say blue, and then add whatever strikes our fancy..... purple, green, pink, whatever.... until we have a color we like.  It means we always get wonderful colors we love but can never reproduce them.  We do have a couple of "recipes" for hand painted color combinations we really like, but only a couple.

Now we have a client who wants us to help create a store brand of hand dyed yarns.  This is a whole different kind of dyeing for us.  It means we have to have reproducible colors.  It's different but also exciting and interesting.  We need to find dyes we can combine easily to get the colors our client is looking for.  And we are working toward the final decision on which yarns they want.  The process is turning our normal dyeing experience upside down but in a really fun way.

This past Saturday, Peggy and I spent the day working on some new dyes, aiming at the colors we are trying to obtain.  It was a great day.  We decided to begin with fiber and save the yarn till we knew we were close to the colors we wanted.  Since our clients want both protein and cellulose based yarn, we used wool, silk and bast bamboo fiber for the dye day.  Whew!  We dyed 14 pounds of Polworth, Wensleydale, BFL/Tussah and Superwash BFL into 14 colors.

All the fiber looks wonderful.  It started out drying on my skirting table in the dye shed and this morning I moved it to the studio to finish drying.

Dyeing fiber is different than dyeing yarn.  Yarn has all that wonderful twist that holds it together through the entire dyeing process while the unspun fiber tends to drift apart if it's not treated gently.  Of the fibers we've dyed, wool seems to hold together the best.  Add silk to the wool and it's more likely to come apart.  But Superwash is the worst.  Without the scales on the individual fibers that would cause it to felt, Superwash wool tends to drift apart as soon as it goes into the water.  Even with a beautiful new color, the Superwash wool looks ghastly when it comes out the dye bath.  It looks better as it dries and looks wonderful by the time it's totally dry and has been pulled back into shape and fluffed.