I've been a member of the Aurora Colony Handspinners' Guild for over a year now. Every July they have a picnic/dye day, where everyone gets together to eat, dye, and spin. I missed it last year, but was able to get the day off this year!
The best part was that the guild had pots, burners, and dye for members to use if they didn't have their own. It was a great introduction to the processes of dying fiber, and now I want to get my own!
When you're dyeing fiber, the best kind to use is white fiber. It allows for more predictable and bright colors. However, I didn't have much white fiber - just a white silk scarf blank, a skein of light brown wool yarn that I spun, and a large bump of light brown wool roving. It was actually a lot of fun to overdye the brown wool with different colors.
First up is the silk scarf. I dipped it in a vat of moss green, but only for about thirty seconds. I wanted to keep it fairly light, so I had more options for overdyeing. I picked my colors for the next step - bright aqua, peacock blue, and bright iris. The dyes come in powdered form, and they're not exactly the color they will turn the fabric, so it was a bit of a guess. I wanted to go for a sort of ocean look. I spread the wet scarf out on plastic wrap (and weighted the edges down to keep the wind from flipping it off the table). Then I took small amounts of the blue and purple dyes in tiny plastic cups, and sprinkled them randomly over the scarf. After each application of powder, I spritzed the area with a mixture of water and citric acid to help force the dye into the fabric. When I thought I had done enough, I rolled the scarf up in the plastic wrap and steamed it to set the dye.
After cooling, unwrapping, rinsing, and drying:
It actually turned out really neat, if not exactly what I was expecting. A little dye goes a long way, and it's hard to tell how dark it's going to be until after the steam bath. I'm really happy with it, and thinking about ordering more silk scarf blanks to dye :)
Next up is a skein of yarn that I didn't entirely choose the color on. I hadn't figured out what color I wanted to do, and the woman who was using the dye pot before me hadn't used up all her dye. I wanted the water clear to start my roving, so I decided to use the yarn to absorb the rest of her orange dye. It actually turned out really wonderful over the natural brown of the wool.
Next was a large amount of light brown roving. One of the other dye-ers had put three skeins of yarn in a green/blue vat of dye, but the first one soaked up most of the dye, leaving the third one a pale green. So she took some peacock blue dye, and poured a little in directly on top of the yarn, creating a section of darker blue. She did this multiple times, coming out with a beautifully mottled yarn.
So, I decided to try something similar with my roving. I started by placing it all in a vat of chocolate brown to slightly darken the natural color of the wool. Then I played around with small bits of dye in assorted colors, adding splotches of greens, browns, yellows, and orange. I know there's also a bit of dark blue in there, but I'm really not sure where it came from. I'm thinking it probably came from an interaction between one of the greens and a brown dye I used.
I can't wait to spin this all up - I have another bump of the same roving that I left undyed, so I'm planning to ply them together, and hopefully have a lot of lightweight yarn for a nifty shawl.
Here's some more eye candy shots :)
Feel free to ask me any questions about the process! I'm not an expert by any means, but I'm happy to share what I learned.