Friday, February 19, 2010

Fiber Arts Friday - Adventures in Dye

This week I decided to fight the winter blahs by bringing some color to the fiber I've been working with.  It's been awhile since I last dyed fiber.  Why?  Well, for starters, I LOVE the natural colors that alpaca come in so I don't dye too much plus I've been working on learning so many other great techniques that playing with the dye pots have been low on my priority list.
Samples of yarn I've spun from the Wonder Herd.
Also alpacas are supposed to come in 22 shades even though the ARI color chart only shows 16 but hey, that's not such a shabby number either.

What I do like is taking the natural color of alpaca and blending it with a dyed fiber whether it be more alpaca, wool (all types although partial to merino and cormo), bamboo, silk, etc.  I think that additional color just emphasizes the beauty of the natural color.

On Tuesday I dyed up one white huacaya, one fawn huacaya and one merino fleece.  I had a couple of crock pots going.  I dyed the white and fawn huacaya in yellow and red.  It's amazing the difference the fawn makes in giving you a richer color.

I won't get into the technical steps of dyeing fiber because they are very simple and easily read on the instructions... really, hot water, dye, vinegar and fiber are all the ingredients.  Oh, and rubber gloves or else you will have, in my case, red, yellow and bluish fingers.  I will let you know that I am using Jacqard Dye.

No matter how long you let the white huacaya set, it turns pinkish but you put fawn in that same mixture and a beautiful deep red pops at least when you are using the Fire Red Color that I ordered from Knitpicks.

What I was blown away with was the merino.  I have never processed merino from the raw fleece before.  I've bought merino top and dyed that but WOW!  I see why so many fiber artists like to work with wool.

It's EASY!  Yes, it appears that everything that has to deal with processing wool is easy.  I know!  The fact that there are so many more sheep that Alpaca doesn't help either.  No wonder when I visit Fiber Fest, it's stall after stall of wool.  Of course, my heart melts when I see and feel Alpaca...which means that the extra work to process it is so worth it.

The merino absorbed the color so quickly and when I started to blend colors it was amazing watching the transformation compared to alpaca.  I wish I could describe it better but the best way I can is to say that alpaca is so dense compared to the "airiness" of merino.  It takes longer for the alpaca to absorb the color.  I would put the Alpaca fiber into the crock and it would take some time for the color to absorb into the fiber but when I put the merino in **POOF** color took.  It took so well that I actually created some blends instead of just a straight color.  I was able to sprinkle the dye on certain areas of the fleeces and it didn't take over the whole pot.  I LOVED IT!

So...I had fun with the dye.  Like I said before, I use Jacquard Dye.  I only say this because I tried Kool Aid when I first started to play with fiber and didn't like it at all.  Now I know some other farms who are using natural dyes straight from nature (like onion, bark, nuts, etc) and I want to try that too but for now I am learning the technique of using dye.  This is where I would love to hear feedback from you, my fiber friends.  What do you dye with?  Have you noticed a difference in the way various fiber absorbs the dye?

There is a great book I bought that explains the dye process and how colors are affected by blending and fibers which I recommend you read.  COLOR IN SPINNING by Deb Menz. 

Once the fiber is dry...and I have finished my Ravelympics knitting projects, I am going to get busy carding up my dyed fiber with some natural colors to create some batts and roving.  By the way, here is the progress on my handspun hat for Ravelympics.  I have started Chart 2, which is the 26 row decrease.  Not bad for day seven of the Olympics while running two businesses and a family.
I know, doesn't look like I made much progress from the other day but I did, and the pattern is gorgeous!

Like I said before, I LOVE to experiment.  Now next week, I am going to be without internet for four long days.  I don't know if I can manage this because I am so dependent on my Blogger, Twitter, Facebook and Ravelry although I can access some from my phone.  I will be taking a seminar on Fiber Sorting/Grading which is the beginning of me becoming a Certified Grader/Sorter of Fiber.  I am very excited about this.  I'll be down in Terre Haute, Indiana for the seminar leaving the farm and the family under the care of my husband.  If you hear screams of distress, it's him having a meltdown when he realizes how much I do around the house and farm.

Keep up the Fiber Fun!  I will try to post some of my new-found knowledge, if I can, next Friday.  If not, you will have another week to wait and learn.  Regardless, I will have Fiber Arts Friday up and running.

Now, for this week.  Please share you adventures in Fiber Arts!
Fiber Arts Friday Blog Carnival!

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  1. great colors! I work mostly with wool and love to dye it with all kinds of things-but I really do like to use Kool Aid the best. There's a big variety of colors and I think they take pretty well. I use a large canning pot and canning jars. I get great results-but I've never tried dying alpaca-so that may be a different story--I'll give it a try and let you know how it works.

  2. Very nice post! Good description of dyeing the various colors, I also love dyeing fawn (as well as grey). Thanks for taking over Fiber Arts Friday!

  3. I love your dye experiments! I also use Jacquard dyes and have been really pleased with the color results.
    One thing I have learned about dyeing alpaca fiber is to let it soak a REALLY long time (like overnight) and to add a little vinegar or drop of Dawn to the soak. This help prep the fiber to take dye better.

  4. Very nice. We have to get together and dye naturally! I did notice that alpaca does take a bit longer to dye than wool. But it depends on the dye. I used onion skins and it took brilliantly. I have been messing around more with wool than alpaca. Only know.
    And fawn is supposed to dye nicely. I am going to dye a range of alpaca with the avocado and I am going to use seconds! Tamara

  5. Love your post! Honestly, after going the whole gamut with dying, I still find myself back with Landscape dyes. Natural dying has it's charm and some very nice colors but it's far more work than I have time for. I have had fabo result from Koolaid and still use it from time to time but it's not my first choice. Since I am huge fan of over dying, I have to use dyes that are known for their intensity, which brings me back to Landscape. Love dying..just love it!

  6. What an AWESOME post. I'm totally into dyeing fiber lately so this hit the spot for me. I'm fascinated with your bit about how adding some fawn to the white alpaca made the red deeper...I TOTALLY hadn't thought about doing something like that.

    I have a white alpaca, a silver alpaca, and a black and white alpaca. I keep wondering how my silver boy's fleece would dye, but I love his color so much I keep using it undyed and never get around to experimenting with it with dyes!

  7. Very nice! What lovely colors. Thanks for the great post and for hosting Fiber Arts Friday!

  8. Love these colors! Can't wait for the new FAFriday button :)

  9. I can not wait to get up there and get a tast of all this Wonder!

  10. I'm so proud of you. Wuv that you are doing this. You rock, babycakes!