Monday, November 8, 2010

Indigo is All About the Blues

We did another round of dyeing last week. This time, my friend Val wanted to try dyeing with indigo. So indigo we did. I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but the water is a nice sludgy pea green. When you pull the fiber out and it hits the air, it turns blue. Also, take note of the fact that Val is wearing protective gloves. Val can be a little cavalier when it comes to safety issues, so I figure it's my job to be the glove nag. Also, we're using my turkey roasters. They worked very well, except for one thing - it took us about six hours of dyeing in the garage before it dawned on us that if we shut the garage door we would be warmer. Once we closed the doors, the turkey roasters worked much better at maintaining the hot temperature needed for dyeing.

We started out by trying to dye wool and alpaca. It didn't go very well. The fiber, I think, was not clean enough. OK, it wasn't particularly cleaned much at all. And with dye, clean fiber is important. So the colors were pretty faded. What we should have done was fill up buckets and go after the fiber to get it more clean, but instead, we kept trying to make the dye more concentrated. Nothing really seemed to click until we tried dyeing yarn, which, of course, you'd expect to be pretty clean. Then, finally, we got some results.

This is Val's yarn, which came out kind of slate blue. One neat thing was that the yarn got darker as it sat drying. I think we would have gotten darker results if we had closed the garage door sooner. Really, when my husband came out and gave us blankets, that's when it finally occured to us that we were freezing without cause.

This next picture shows my indigo results. On the left is bunny, which took the dye pretty well. Then I tried yarn, but I made an ill-fated stupid mistake - the yarn was all tied in places to hold it together. I should have loosened the ties. As a result, I have stripes of white running through my fabulous yarn. And OH it was fabulous yarn. Perfectly spun baby moreno, spun by someone other than me. I am still pondering what I will do. In spite of the stripes, I love it very much and will not let it go to waste.

In terms of tools that worked well for us, the laundry baskets with the metal shelving worked really well. They also motivated me to take the fiber in and do final processing as quickly as possible (we were running out of underwear!). So I'd take a batch in, fill the washing machine, turn off the cold water faucet, soak in hot water, move it into the salad spinner, spin it out and then put it back on the rack to dry. Everything dried surprisingly fast. I also like sweater racks, which are long and flat and you can put them on top of each other. I have four of those and will continue to buy more at future garage sales. Val's tongs, for stirring the fiber in the dye, were essential. I must get myself some tongs. The turkey roasters would have worked better without the garage door being open - we blew out the power several times before we finally used extension cords and plugged into different parts of the house.

One thing about indigo... well, any color, for that matter. After a while, you get sick of one color and feel the need to go on to another. So we did a lot of blue, purple and green. A little bit of orange, but not much.

So, now that we've tried dyeing in the garage in the cold, I'm thinking I could do more that way. I'm pretty sure I could just set up one table, forego the need to pull out all of my assorted chemicals, and just plug through one color at a time. I definitely can't dye in the house. I'm just too sloppy. Anyway, I found a source for white alpaca on ebay, ordered up 6 pounds, and am hopeful that it will arrive in the next week (it is coming from Canada).It's very hard to buy fiber on ebay, because you can't really guarantee that it will be nice. I look for descriptions that say that it is prime, so I won't get a bunch of short stuff, or stuff from the alpaca's butt, and I look for descriptions to say that it is fine alpaca, which I presume means it will be soft. Well, we'll see how that all works out when it arrives. I really want to dye the white alpaca and then blend it with bunny, moreno and silk, as those are my favorites.


  1. aha..there I your blog so theretofore(love that word)..theretofore I AM in your life!!

  2. As if there were any doubts. Now we need to move on to making self-striping yarn. It occurs to me that I should take my hanks and turn them into balls, since we'll be winding. Now... do I need to go to Walmart and buy the plastic multi-pants hanger, and if so, are there any specifications that I should be worried about?