Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Prepare to Dye!

Hear ye, hear ye! Tomorrow I am going to dye. I have been preparing myself and my fiber, and I am almost ready.

This is my first true adventure in dyeing. Oh, I've done my share of tie-dying, but this is serious stuff. To prepare, I've dragged all my fiber downstairs for review. I've put everything in bins. I've hand-picked through all the fiber, trying to remove debris. I've labelled my bins with the status of my fiber: "clean white alpaca, ready to wash and then dye", "dirty alpaca, hand-picked, ready for washing then dyeing").

I've also inventoried my dyes and my carcinogens (err... chemicals). My dyes are to die for. I bought them from a very nice lady who must have really liked dyeing, because there are dozens of colors, and plenty of dye. I can't wait to see how things turn out. And I plan to be bold. Although I'm really more of a natural fiber type of person, I think I need some color in my fiber to spark things up.

At the moment I smell like an alpaca. I know, I said in an earlier post that good alpaca doesn't smell, but I'm working with Suri alpaca today. It feels like long dog hair, so it feels like dirt clings to it more. I've never dyed Suri alpaca, and I've never spun with it, so I'm a little nervous. I don't think I'd like a garment made entirely from Suri alpaca. I've looked around on the web, and I think it needs to be blended with something else. And, well, it smells like an alpaca, at least at the moment. Those nice Huacaya alpacas have fluffy fiber, even while they're still wearing it, but the Suri... well, it's heavier and kind of hangs like a big sheep dog's fiber. So I guess we'll see.

Now I'll bet you're dying to see the difference between a Suri and Huacaya alpaca's fibers. So here's a picture of a nice Suri, taken at EastWest Alpaca Ranch. See how the fiber looks long and sort of stringy?

Now take a look at the Huacaya fiber. It's more like a teddy bear's. But don't write off the Suri alpaca's fiber - it's more silk-like, and it's the longest fiber I've ever worked with. The Suri fiber is prized even more than the Huyacaya fiber. So I may just dazzle you yet.

I'll be dyeing at my friend Val Gropp's house. She's an expert dyer, so I'm hoping to learn the tricks of the trade from her. And Kristi, from East West Alpacas, is going to try her hand at dying as well. We are novices, hoping that Val will teach us everything we need to know.

My husband Ed has already checked to make sure I have proper equipment for dyeing. I'm afraid that a few years ago I tried tie dyeing with my son, and somehow everything I learned about dyeing in my youth had disappeared from my brain. So he did all the rubber bands, and I did the dyeing, and, when all was said and done, my hands were black from the dye. That didn't seem like a big deal until my hands started to itch. They really itched a lot. For weeks. So Ed called the doctor, and the doctor asked if I had worn gloves, and of course I hadn't. So the doctor told Ed that I was an idiot and should know better than to dip myself in carcinogens. Perhaps you'd fire your doctor for a comment like that, but, well, he had a point. It's not like I didn't read the instructions. Anyway, this time I have heavy duty gloves, a special apron, a big box of lighter weight gloves, and one of those special masks, the kind that look like gas masks. This time, I am not going to come away itching. Well, at least I hope not.

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