Monday, February 21, 2011

Peek Inside The Creative Process: Hand-dyed Fiber

I've always loved getting a peek into an artist's or crafter's creative process.  I find it's not only interesting and insightful, but inspirational as well.  There's a level of intimacy involved when an artist allows a glimpse into their creative world, and I'm excited to offer you a little glimpse into mine.

Today I embarked on a creative journey:  to take raw, organic fiber (Rambouillet sheep's roving) and hand-dye it using the trusty Kool-Aid method.  Yep, Kool-Aid.  I acquired a rather large volume of the roving for free from the kind lady that sold me my beloved Lendrum Spinning Wheel.  At the time of purchase, I was an inexperienced spinning wheel spinner (I wasn't bad on a drop spindle, though), and she gave me the roving for practice.  So since I had the day off of work and the house pretty much to myself, I decided that today was as good a day as ever to give hand-dyeing a go.  Here's how it went:

First, I measured out 1 1/2 oz. of roving.

Undyed roving, after shearing, cleaning, and carding.

Next, I filled a large pot with water and added a splash of vinegar.  I heard that adding vinegar would result in deeper color saturation.  Once the water came to a low boil, I removed it from the heat source and mixed in 1 package each of Cherry and Orange Kool-Aid.  Then I gently submerged the fiber into the Kool-Aid bath.  After about a 45 minute soak, the water left in the pot was clear so I knew my fiber had drank up all of the cherry/orange color mix.

Doesn't look very appetizing, I know.

I then emptied the pot into a colander I had placed in the sink and gently squeezed as much excess water as I could from the wet, fibery glob.  The last step was to lay out the newly dyed fiber on a towel to air dry.  You can see from the picture below that some of the fiber soaked up more color than the rest.  I surmised this was because I left the fiber alone as it soaked without rotating it in the pot so that the color would coat more evenly.  I attempted to fix this issue with the next batch.

Newly dyed fiber with an (unintentional) ombre effect.

Moving along to the next batch.  This time I used 1 package each of Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade and Lemon-Lime Kool-Aid.  Here's a look at it during the soak.

Fiber soup

This time I rotated the fiber a few times during it's 45 minute bath and voila! evenly coated batch.  Yay!  I was careful not to agitate it too much otherwise it would felt, and we don't want that.

MUCH better!

I had time to do one more batch, so I decided to see what would happen without adding the vinegar.  For the final batch I used about 1/2 cup of store brand grape drink mix.  I was going for a real vibrant purple, which I unfortunately did not achieve.  As you can see below, the color hardly saturated the fiber at all.  So I've concluded that I will be using vinegar in my Kool-Aid dyeing projects from now on.

This was supposed to be a rich purple.  :(
And there you have it!  My first foray into hand-dyeing fiber.  Part II of this project will take you inside my studio for a little spinning action.  Once these freshly dyed fibers have been dried and drafted, I will feed them to Eloise, that Lendrum wheel I mentioned above and whose pic is below, and let her work her magic.  With a little help from me, Eloise will transform the fiber into a beautiful skein of usable yarn.  Can't wait!

My beloved Lendrum Single Treadle Spinning Wheel.  love!