Sunday, October 15, 2006

Crockpot, dyepot, and red, red, red....

In order to launch into spinning the fiber from my last post, I had to clear out a few bobbins. I plyed together 2 bobbins of rather hairy grey alpaca. From its texture I think it must be suri alpaca. The result was a couple of skeins with enough yarn to make a pair of fingerless gloves. I work in a building with 1950's heat/ac and there are times my hands get almost too cold to type. To make the gloves interestingly striped, I decided to space-dye the two skeins. Bright colors would be muted by the grey of the yarn. In the throws of a nasty cold, I didn't have the energy to drag out the dyepots, so I sacrificed my crockpot to the greater good of fiberart. (In the past I have dyed in the crockpot with Koolaid only to keep it food-safe. One experience with acid dyes and it will never see food again. My mother suggests that I label it with a skull and crossbones.) Here is the step-by-step process I used:

I tied the two skeins together at 4 points so that the color variegations would be the same length in both skeins.

I soaked the yarn in warm water for 20 minutes or so, with a little dishsoap as a wetting agent.

I set up the crockpot with two glass canning jars inside.

Shuffling through my collection of dyes, I chose sun yellow, mountain blue, and grevillea (yellow, blue and red). A purist would have weighed out the fiber and mixed up dye solutions, adding just the right amount after careful calculations. I don't do math on weekends, especially not when I don't feel well. So I filled each canning jar, and the crockpot around them, about 2/3rds full of warm water. I sprinkled red into one jar, blue into another, and yellow into the surrounding water.

I stirred each color with a seperate chopstick (very handy items - I always pick up an extra set when buying Chinese food). I set the crockpot to low.

Then I stuck one end of the presoaked skein in the red jar and the other in the blue jar, letting the lengths between drape into the yellow. I put the lid on and left the whole thing to simmer for about 2.5 hours. Then I turned off the crockpot and let it cool for a couple of hours. The aforementioned purist has unending patience and would let it cool overnight. I'm not a purist.

When I rinsed out the skein it ran a lot, but the remaining color is anything but subtle.

Here it is hanging in the sun to dry.

Since there was still plenty of dye in the pot, I stuffed some white wool into the blue and now tomato red liquid (I accidently knocked over the red into the yellow). After simmering for a couple more hours, the blue was exhausted, but the red was still going strong. So I added more water and stuffed a bunch of "Beast" roving into the pot. Then I threw in some yellow roving to be overdyed. The pot was still not exhausted, but what was left became more and more orange. The next morning I threw in even more fiber. Finally exhausted!

All in all, the actual energy required for this project was low and the length of simmering time for each batch of fibers allowed plenty of nap time.


beryl said...

I've never tried space dyeing in the crock pot -- I think you've taken crock pots to a whole new level. I agree that crock pot dyeing is definitely easy and a no brainer as long as you don't get silly about measuring things:-)

Sharon said...

Finally exhausted?? You or the dye!? I think your results are wonderful. I might have to sacrifice my crockpot as well, since I've only used it a couple of times.