Monthly Archives: April 2016

Dyeing Multicolored Locks

20160414_111100  On Saturday, I’ll be at the Fiber Frolic at Beaver Lake Nature Center, demonstrating spinning and doing a variety of things fiber-y for people’s entertainment.

The Golden Fleece Spinners Society will have a story loom for public use.  It’s lots of fun, so come and add a few rows. You can use these  Leicester locks  which I’m dyeing today to add some colorful texture.


Thanks to Heather at Lochan Mor Farms for donating fiber for demonstrations! 20160414_140116

These are gorgeous locks.  They are bright white with creamy tips and a firm structure. Dyeing multicolored locks is all about the wide bottomed pot and leaving the locks alone while the dye does its thing.

Fill the bottom of your pot with a few inches of water and add citric acid.  Pre-acidifying the water will make the color strike quickly.  This means that some areas are going to take up more dye than others.

Put locks in and let them soak for at least 30 minutes.

When you are ready to dye, add just enough water to keep the locks wet, not enough so that they are floating freely.   Sprinkle dye powder in a few places and use a wooden skewer to gently spread the locks a bit and disperse the dye without sending it over into the other areas of the pot.  You can also add concentrated liquid dye.  I find the powder gives a better color variation.

Then, put in the temperature probe set to 180F, turn on medium heat and walk away until the probe beeps.
temp probe

Here’s the spot in the process where I made a mistake.  I was trying to do 27 things at once.  I forgot to add the handy dandy temperature warning probe which is my solution to trying to multitask.   The probe works by setting a goal temp- in this case 180F.  The probe hangs out in the pot and when the temp reaches 180, the base starts beeping.

Lots of people dye without using the probe.  You can just watch and wait until the pot almost comes to a boil and then turn down the heat.  I know myself better than that.

Normally,  the probe beeps, I catch the water before it boils, turn the heat down to low, and let the fiber sit in the hot, acidified water until

1) It reaches the color I would like,
2) the dye is exhausted & the water is clear or slightly milky, or
3) the fiber has absorbed all of the dye it is going to take.

It depends on the dye and the fiber, but that takes about 30-45 minutes- sometimes longer for a very saturated color.  If the dye isn’t exhausting, you can try adding more citric acid.  Or you may have used too much dye.  *Or* it may need to cool down for the last of the dye to take.

Here’s the important part.  After simmering, turn off the heat and walk away until the water cools to room temperature.  If you need to reinforcement, set the temperature probe for 70 degrees and don’t touch until the probe give you permission.

Really.  Don’t touch it.  Every time you poke at it, you will start to open up the locks and either risk felting or ruin the lock structure.

Today, touching the cooling locks was not my problem.  I forgot the probe but walked away waiting for the beep.  This pot went to boil.  Whoops!  These locks are pretty resilient.  It was tempting to start pulling on the fiber to see if it had felted.  I was surprisingly good about it.   I pulled the pot off the burner and walked away. (that’s unusual for me.  I’m a prodder)   Once it cooled, I was able to rinse thoroughly and get a rough idea of how things look.

20160414_123959.jpgThe saying is, “It isn’t felted until it is dry.”   I’ll also add to that, “You don’t know the color until it dries.”   In this case, everything still feels nice and loose. The colors are bright and have a nice variegated look.  There may be some spots that are felted.  Felting happens with heat and agitation.  The boiling of the water was definitely adding agitation, so I’ll find out tomorrow if there are any sections that are locked up. If I start pulling on the locks today, I risk making any felting worse.  So, it’s out in the sun with a kitty for company.   The cat isn’t crazy about cold, wet wool in her sunbeam, but she’s agreed to share.


It’s all about the base

 I grew up surrounded by women who sewed needlepoint, esp. canvases inspired by tapestries.  In needlepoint, the artist hand blends single plies of different color yarn and thread before stitching and then interlaces the colors on the canvas so that the eye blends them to create incredible depth & complexity.  In spinning, I do something similar by hand-blending roving and layering the plies.  In dyeing, it’s a totally different feel.  Hand-painting is the best way I’ve found to get complex colors, and I’m working on painting subtle yarn that will create the same feel when knitted as the complex colorwork in historic needlework.

Right now, it’s all about red.  Rose red, tiger lily red, hibiscus red.

reds sheilas gold base


Red can go so many different ways from barn red to slinky red dress.  So many possibilities, but also so many beautiful reds already being made by other dyers.

I’m developing the color below: Tiger Lily Red.  cropped tiger lily

It’s a true red with hints of orange red, red-pink, and some brown & gold tints throughout. This is on a superwash merino/nylon base.  It looks very earthy and floral rather than 50’s lipstick.  That’s the goal.  This base isn’t the best choice for the color I am after.  It’s a wonderful yarn that takes color easily and makes a bright, in your face yarn.  I’m trying for something a bit more mellow with the Tiger Lily.

Next up, trying it on shetland and on a camel/merino blend.   I also plan to spin up some targhee/alpaca roving that is a gorgeous light grey & brown.  The warm undertones of the handspun will add a nice depth to the finished colors.




Spinning for Stress Relief

20150706_001102Some days spinning is very upbeat.  I put on happy music, pick bright colors and shake off the funk of a crummy week.  Other days, it’s meditative.  No need for music.  The wheel and spindle make their own sounds to pair up with the feel of the fiber moving across my hands.  My thoughts drop away, and I am completely absorbed in the act of watching the yarn appear .

Spinning is incredibly cool on so many levels.  Each time I take out some fiber and a spindle, it hits me.  I’m about to play with something amazing that came from a living thing- a sheep, an alpaca, a cotton plant.  Magical things will happen in the interplay between with my fingers and the fibers, and at the end of it, I have beautiful yarn to play with!   I also know that while I spin, I will shake off all sorts of ugly thoughts and baggage that I’ve been carrying around during the day.  I’ll replace the yuck with the smell of the fiber, the look of the colors coming together, the sound of the wheel or spindle, and the feel of the fiber moving over my fingers.

My breathing will fall into sync with the rhythm of spinning.  On one level, the world becomes very small and immediate. While I spin, I’m apart from the million little thoughts pecking at me during the day.  On another level, I become a part of the long tradition and history of fiber arts that is at the core of societal development. I feel a tie not just to the people who have developed the craft but to the community of people who continue to find new ways to express themselves through fiber.

When I step away from the wheel, I take that feeling of peace and connectedness into the rest of my day.

Fiber: Malabrigo Nube Piedras
Spindle:  Turkish Spindle from Snyder Spindles