Dyeing up some fleece

I spun up some Fleece Artist mohair and merino recently as a gift for a friend and, as always, was as enchanted by the carded, blended fibres as by the finished product. Behold:

DSC03830a DSC03833a

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The word “gossamer” always comes to mind in the face of such loveliness.

Yesterday was occupied by my determination to make a dent on the fibres already in my possession before the whopping shipment that I’m expecting comes in sometime very soon (in a few days). They should arrive at around the same time as the massive heap of dyes. I predict a messy, messy (but highly entertaining and productive) time in my future!

I dyed up some cheviot fleece using Majik Carpet dyes that I found at a craft seconds sale last year. They are very intense dyes and, if you use the right amount of acetic acid and heat AND if you allow enough time for the dye bath to truly exhaust itself, there is very little residue to rinse out. This is important, because rinsing things is bloody tedious and is one of those stages in which you run the risk of really messing things up by felting the whole works.

Anyway, I’ve been using 95% acetic acid, purchased from a camera supply store (it’s used for the stop bath in film developing, in case you’re looking). After consulting with a chemist friend, I’ve been using 1 tbsp of the acid per gallon of water to replace vinegar. 1 gram of dye will give medium-intensity hues to 100g of fibre, although your mileage might vary if you’re not using the same fibres as I. The finer the fibre, the darker it seems to look. The cheviot wool, for instance, looked lighter than the alpaca.

So I soaked the fibres for a while (longer than half an hour, shorter than a morning), mixed the dyes, put them in all in my dye-only second-hand roasting containers and popped them in the oven and on the stove top to simmer for almost an hour:

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In fact, I often set the dyes up in the oven, turn it on for an hour, then switch it off and leave things overnight, to be dealt with when people go out the door in the morning and the house is quiet.

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When the pots of fibre are cool (this can be accomplished wonderfully in winter by putting them out on the front stoop), I bring them in and rinse them. Then they are set on racks to dry over a heating source. Alpaca takes forbloodyever and wool dries quite quickly.:

DSC03856a (wool, in crazy mixed-up colours)

DSC03857a (alpaca, in blues and blacks)

Finally, I give you The Guardian of the Fleece. Every spinner needs a cat to keep them humble.

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