This was a terribly busy course - the first day we managed to dye most of the samples, with the second day devoted to mixes to get browns and shades of green. I think we probably worked at speed and accuracy suffered somewhat, we ran out of wool and vinegar, and on the second day the wool was barely wetted properly so the uptake of dye was a bit uneven in places.
So what did we learn?
- Wetting wool with warm water and a bit of soap for 20 mins or longer enables uptake of dye
- Water, dye solution to a particular dilution, vinegar is heated with the wool, stirring at the beginning to enable even distribution of dye onto the wool (or other protein fibre)
- Dye solutions can be calculated and mixed to enable any colour needed to be dyed (apart from black and white), mainly using the primaries, violet
- Leave the dye bath to heat up to boiling point, then turn off the heat source and leave to cool naturally, as the dye apparently takes optimally at 80 degrees and it spends more time going through the right temperatures on the cooling phase
- Keep records meticulously and accurately - if you want to reproduce the colours in the future
- Don't hurry these steps otherwise you may not get the results you need(!)
Dye baths on the second day, a red-range with small amounts of turquoise (left) and blue (right)
Dyed wools drying an approximate colour order
On the second day the skeins were wound into balls in preparation for cutting into short sections for our colour cards
I was not planning on doing this course, but am glad I did. It taught me a few things that will be useful when I come to dye my own yarns for some future projects.
The final shade card looks quite good:
And now to the admission of a horrible mistake I made. I was not feeling well on the second day - had a terrible headache and quite frankly could not think straight. When I got home I thought I better give the yarn another rinse, as the vinegar could make the wool brittle. So I put all my yarns into the washing machine in pillow cases and put the machine on the rinse programme with extra rinse - well, what can I say?! the wool felted and the whole bunch came out in various levels of fulling, apart from the silk, and the superwashed wool.
Here's the dreadful pile of yarn:
The green and pink wool is quite felted and the wool has shrunk in all skeins. In the case of the green that is not really a bad thing, as the wool was quite loosely plied before fulling. Now it is a denser yarn and will be better for tapestry weaving, although it does have a hairy surface. The wool-silk ply has fared worse though. I wanted those skeins to be smooth and that is no longer possible, the wool shrunk and the silk had stayed as it is, making the yarn more fluffy. I had dyed some a pale coral red to go into the shell tapestry, I will need to see how this works when I blend it.
So what did I learn there? - not to make radical decisions when unwell, and certainly not any decision that suggests an easy short-cut when it plainly will not work. I know how wool behaves quite well, and this issue could have easily been prevented. Nevertheless the wool is still usable, so all is not completely lost.