Is it still winter where you are? Here at the farm and fibre mill, we still have not shaken old man winter, so my imagination has been working overtime thinking about all of the gorgeous colours of spring. But first, meet Cosmo:
Isn't he beautiful? He's a sweet boy (and also the "Best in Show Suri" at the 2012 Rockton World's Fair) and I decided to dye some of his raw fibre. Given the endless supply of snow February brought us, I was dreaming about Caribbean waters and tropical temperatures - and perhaps the occasional rum punch. When you look at the end result - keep that in mind. : )
So first I selected some of the fibre, and picked out the unwanted stuff - that would be anything you do NOT want in your end product.
Yes Pixel, this means you.
Cosmo, like many of my boys, manages to cover himself in whatever happens to be in his paddock at the moment - so this part kept me busy. In the mill entire fleeces are spread out on skirting screens and we can shake out dirt and little short bits etc., but since I was only dyeing about a pound of fibre, my kitchen worked fine.
The next step is washing the fibre, and one of those mesh bags for fine washables or mesh laundry bags with drawstrings works well to soak your fibre. Use hot water and fill a wash tub, using about a teaspoon or so (depending on how much fibre you are washing) of either a basic baby shampoo, or a fine washables commercial detergent. (I have also used Dawn dish soap but don't tell anyone.)
Be sure to tie the bag securely - fibre likes to escape. When the sink or tub is filled with hot water and whatever soap/detergent you are using, only then add your bag of fibre. Gently push it under the water and hold it there until the bag and fibre are soaked, then let it soak for 15 minutes. RESIST THE URGE TO SWISH OR SQUEEZE! Agitation of wet fibre causes felting. Really. Unless you want a solid clump of felted fibre that would make an ideal Halloween decoration, be careful!
After 15 minutes, remove the fibre bag, drain the sink/tub and fill wit fresh hot water - no soap - for rinse. Repeat the above until the water you drain away is pretty clear. You can use the spin cycle of your washing machine for about 15 seconds to drain the excess water. Open the bag and spread on a towel to dry slightly before dyeing.
Right about now is when I usually let my "Inner Space Geek" loose and declare (in my best Klingon voice) "TODAY IS A GOOD DAY TO DYE..."
That part is strictly optional.
For the rest of you, fill a large pot with water and turn the burner on.
At this point you should follow the instructions that come with your dye. Unless you are me.
I'm going for a two toned effect with this fibre, so that means I'm going to start by adding about 3/4 cup of vinegar to the pot of water, then add my still damp fibre. I'll mix up my two colours, for this batch that would be Kelly Green and Turquoise, and put them into squirt bottles.
When the fibre starts to boil (for those using a thermometer that would be about 95C or 200F - just before the true boiling point) I use the Kelly Green and squirt it directly onto the fibre in the pot while stirring with a spoon. I'll pick up globs of fibre and squirt them then put them back into the steaming pot. I do this until I am happy with the result, put a lid on it for 2 minutes, then turn the burner off and let it sit to cool off for about 20 mins.
Then it's time to add the second colour, so I turn the heat on and just when the fibre starts to boil I apply the second colour the same way I did the first - only I carefully watch to be sure I get just enough colour to create highlights. I let it cool down quite a bit (an hour or so) before I dump it into a sink and rinse. This is what I get:
It's far prettier in real life. You can't really see the intense colour or the lustre here, but trust me, it is lovely.
I was so inspired, I tried another batch. I started off with Sunflower yellow.
When that was cooled a bit, I mixed up a mixture of orange and red called Tangelo, and when the fibre was starting to boil again I applied it carefully - I didn't want to drown out the lighter yellow. This is the result:
When everything was dry, I bagged the fibre and voila:
Instant Spring! I can almost hear the steel drums and taste the fruity rum punch!
Sometimes when life gets a little dreary and gray, you have to take matters into your own hands, and jump start things with a burst of colour. Drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know your favourite way to add some colour to life.