Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Hand Dyeing Adventures: Brown Sheep Spinning Fiber for the Tour de Fleece

After all of my adventures with overdyeing finished knits, I was tempted once again to break out the dye pots for this year's Tour de Fleece event. One of my colleagues hosts a team each year, and for the 2019 TDF, Brown Sheep Company provided us with some spinning fiber....and when I say "some" spinning fiber I actually mean quite a bit - here's a photo of what arrived on my doorstep with my cat Tilly for scale.
Now THAT'S a lot of spinning fiber!

As lovely as all this fiber is (it's a blend of Rambouillet and Columbia wool - heavenly!), I thought it could use a bit of color. To be totally honest, I've been on a real dyeing kick, so any excuse to break out the dyepots is a good one in my book....and this giant ball o' spinning fiber had me feeling particularly inspired to step outside of my regular color scheme of murky shades and greens and blues. But first, I had to separate it out into smaller bundles so that each one would fit in my dyeing crock pot (when the weather is nice, I prefer to dye on my back porch using my crock pot that is dedicated to dyeing, rather than dyeing indoors on my stove top).

First, I dyed the fiber for the team host, Laura, to offer as a prize for my fellow teammates - click here to check out the thread on Rav! For some reason, I have a lot of pink dye, despite the fact that it's my least favorite color. This was the perfect opportunity to put it to use, since I know a lot of folks love pink. I was able to get some really vibrant colors! Each braid of fiber is a little bit different, but coordinated enough so that they could be plied together if you want.

As you can see, the fibers took the dye BEAUTIFULLY.  I've dyed a lot of different yarns and fibers over the years, and some are more challenging than others. For this project, I had no issues achieving vibrant, saturated colors using my trusty Gaywool dyes and a little citric acid.

Dyeing is really quite simple - you just need to prep your yarn or fiber by soaking in tepid water and a bit of soap while you heat up water for your dye bath. I also use this time to measure and mix my dyestuffs and auxiliaries (I like to use citric acid and occasionally glaubers salts, if I'm looking for an even color tone).

Once the water is hot enough, I add the dyestuffs and auxiliaries and stir until they dissolve:

Then all you have to do is add your yarn or fiber, and leave in the heated dyebath until the dye exhausts (i.e. the dye is transferred completely to the thing you're dyeing, and the water is clear). Fun fact: most of dyeing is waiting!

I like to let the fiber cool down before I remove it from the pot - sometimes, I even let it sit overnight after the actual dyeing process is finished. Then I remove it, gently squeeze out the excess water, and lay it somewhere to dry (outdoors is best, if the weather cooperates!).

For more info on my dyeing process, check out overdyeing a finished knit and tips for overdyeing yarn.

Naturally, I saved some of the fiber for myself, and decided to continue my exploration of atypical-for-me colors. I started with a yellow that I wasn't sure would turn out very well, but it exceeded my expectations once it emerged from the dye pots (phew!). Next, I wanted to do an orangey-red with some of the pretty natural fiber shining through. For the last one, I returned to my comfort zone and created a pretty blue.

Last week I started spinning the fiber and it's a dream to work with - very soft and easy to draft as I work. I'm pretty happy with how the yellow and orange braids have spun up, and I am going to try to ply them this week before the TDF ends on Friday. That blue braid of fiber might have to wait til after the event, which is fine by me, I'd like to have something to look forward to once the event is over so that I keep on spinning !
Tour de Fleece spinning progress, 2 weeks in.

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