Dyeing to Spin

This weekend’s project is to dye some of the new roving I just bought from a seller on Etsy using Kool-Aid. I’ve posted about this before, but the bright colors of Kool-Aide make it great fun to play with and it requires none of the precautions dyeing with chemical dyes require. It is just plain fun. I bought two balls of roving and the plan is to dye one and leave the other natural white. I will spin both balls and then ply them together to make a bright rainbow-colored two ply yarn. Just a few hurdles and this will be fait accompli. Let’s see–I need to learn to dye better, spin better, ply better–this one’s in the can.

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Happily I have every color of Kool-Aid they ever stock at our local Stop&Shop. Mixing the Kool-Aid with vinegar brings back memories of dyeing Easter Eggs. I would say dyeing Easter Eggs with the kids but inevitably after two eggs, they were done and I was alone in the kitchen dyeing eggs by myself. This is similar to the pumpkin carving and tree decorating experiences at the Frost Home.

photo (57)Next step is a good soaking for the roving. The water should be cold as one goal in all of this is not to cause the roving to begin felting. Wool wants to felt when it is agitated and heat helps the process. After about 30 minutes of soaking, it needs to be gently rung out of excess water.

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I thought long and hard about where to do this dyeing process. I like crawling around on the floor for extended periods less and less. It is too cold outside. Can’t do it on the carpet. At last I remembered that our kitchen table was created to roll dough out easily and comfortably. No, I have not yet in four + years ever used the table for rolling dough, but will work great for dyeing roving. When applying the dye, the roving needs to be thoroughly doused in color, but not too much. Penetration through all the fiber is important, but the next step requires wrapping plastic wrap around the fiber and you don’t want leakage.

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After wrapping the roving into a long plastic-wrapped, Kool-Aid-smelling snake, it gets set into a pyrex dish of some sort and micro-waved. The neatest thing is that when the roving is done, the dye will have been absorbed into the fiber and any water will run clear. It is just like magic! I micro-waved the fiber for about five minutes until the condensed beads of water inside the plastic wrap appeared clear.

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The smell of Kool-Aid with just a touch of vinegar pervades the air at this point. The roving is steaming hot and needs to have a chance to cool before it can be handled. The sense of anticipation to see what is under the plastic wrap is almost overwhelming. I usually have to go do something in another room to control myself at this point!

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I almost forgot to mention the most essential tool in any crafter’s arsenal. Not many people are blessed with this secret weapon, but I am pleased to say that I have the best helper in the whole world.

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The steaming roving can slowly be unfolded across the counter to continue to cool. The condensation continues to obscure the actual colors and depth of the dye. Ohhh, I hope it is colorful!!

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Voila!! Wet but colorful roving drying on a rack. After the plastic wrap was removed the roving got another cool bath in fresh water. Despite this the twin smells of Kool-Aid and vinegar waft through the house. The smell will stay well through the spinning process. It isn’t nearly as nice as the natural smell of lanolin, but sheep don’t come in these colors naturally so it is a tradeoff.

photo (67)The dye isn’t perfect. I need more practice, but I think it will have a very interesting effect when it is spun. The roving will need some extensive pre-drafting to separate the fibers. They have felted a tiny bit from the handling. I will split the roving into long strips and alternate the colors so there will be progressions through all the color changes. The bits which don’t have as much dye will simply add to the color changes.

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With the Bologna Children’s Book Fair on the horizon next week, it will be a while before I can try to spin this stuff, but it has been great fun playing around with it. Plus, I got it all cleaned up in time to cook dinner which makes me much more popular at home than all the dyeing and knitting in the world.


One Comment to “Dyeing to Spin”

  1. Great kaleidoscopic intestines have invaded my house! And they reek of acetic acid. Could this be the end? Actually, when the shrieking has ended I will hurry to watch the wheel in motion. What will come when Jenny twists and turns?

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