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Dye Day!

November 12, 2013

I've been meaning to do a post about Dyeing for a while now....but the truth is I haven't been dyeing much these days! I had a pretty steep mountain of fiber that needed to be worked through before I could add more.

Yesterday however, I hit the dye pots because I'm working on something a little different for the months ahead and I needed some fresh color.

 So, once I got the people out the door or down for naps, I cleaned up the kitchen and set up for a dye day.

Setting up for dyeing, for me, involves scrubbing down the sink and clearing off the counters, moving all cooking tools and materials to the other side of the kitchen and putting down plastic cutting matts to protect the counters. I have a special cupboard in my kitchen where I store all of my dye stuff together, that includes special roasting pans, measuring cups, measuring spoons, gloves. spoons, strainers, and jars- dye tools only. You never want to mix your dye tools with your cooking tools, also keep out of reach of children.

I make my own dye mixtures as I go, and rarely carry them over from dye sessions. This is usually what my jars look like when I haul them out. Once I am set up and all my tools are in place, I fill up my roasting pans with lukewarm water and white vinegar. Then I start to heat them up on the stove over low heat. 

Next I mix my colors. I usually mix up a batch of 8-10 colors depending on my mood, a specific inspiration or just randomly.  I use Cushing's Perfection Acid Dyes for all my wool. Cushing Dye is a Maine company so when I started dyeing my own wool 6 years ago, it was a natural choice for me. Cushing Dye comes in 1/3 oz packets and they offer up 94 different colors. I have tried most of the colors available, but not all of them.  I keep about 30-40 different colors on hand and pretty much use the same 20 religiously. You can check out a Cushing Perfection Dye color chart, here.

I don't usually use straight up Cushing colors, instead I mix my own colors from the 30-40 packs on hand. Sometimes I measure, usually I don't. I have a really good sense of each color, so I can usually just sprinkle the right amount to get the color that I want to achieve. 

Sometimes I mix colors together just because I've been wondering what it would be like- yes I do sit around day dreaming about dye mixes, don't you?

After I've sprinkled a little of this and a little of that into each jar, I fill it with hot water to dissolve the dye and blend the colors. I usually let that hang out for a bit while I weigh out my wool. 

I'm not one to crank out pound and pounds of wool in a day. I like to take my time when I'm dyeing, pay attention to temperatures and usually play with the kids or spin in between dye pots. I typically get through about 4-5 lbs of wool in a session and that will take the better part of the day. I weigh out all my wool in 8 oz bumps- and that's how much I put in each roasting pan. 

Once my wool is all weighed out I lay it out in my roasting pan. I do not pre-soak my wool. I let it hang out in the roasting pan so that it comes up to temperature there. I like to handle my wool as little as possible to avoid temperature changes and agitation.

Once my wool is the desired temperature, I hit it with some color! Sometimes I mix the color around, sometimes I don't. In this particular batch I did not and I just let the colors disperse naturally while it simmered. 

This is what it looked like after about 10 minutes of simmering. I keep it on the heat until all or the majority of the dye has been exhausted from the water. Then I let it hang out and cool in the roasting pan with the heat off until it is about room temperature. 

Once the wool has cooled down, I put on my gloves and very gently move it to the sink where it will finish cooling completely. I re use my dye water over and over again so I try and let every drop drip out of the wool before I put it in the sink. 

Interestingly enough, yesterday there was a burst water main in the afternoon while I was mid-dye. They ended up shutting off our water for about 6 hours, but because I pre-mix my dyes and re-use my dye water, my work session was not interrupted! Thankfully the water was back on after dinner. 

Once the wool has cooled completely in the sink I give it a good rinse and then hang it to dry. My drying situation is always so crummy this time of year when it's cold outside but mostly it just takes patience. 

And there you have it, that is (one of) my dye process(es). 

Follow along on Instagram to see the action in real time OR my Tumblr Blog, Making Yarn.


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