It takes a little over two ounces of fiber to produce approximately 115 yards of sport weight yarn. The dyed top in its various stages can look quite different from when you have completed dyeing to when the top dries to when you have spun it up! I developed my particular dyeing strategies by building on the description offered by the Sassy Spinner. I have added details and my recipes are my own.
Dye your own roving in 6 thick-walled quart jars or beer mugs or even glasses, set on a rack in a big pot with water 3-4 inches up the sides of the jars/mugs. You can experiment with colors in a variety of ways, but I strongly recommend making up concentrated dye solutions first, remembering to wear an industrial grade dye mask!
Fiber: Bluefaced Leicester or Bluefaced Leicester/silk blends work very well; the samples in the images are mostly the latter. I use four ounces of top and split it in half for two rounds of dyeing.
For making concentrated dye solutions:
3-4 10 ounce jars with lids or plastic bottles with lids
face mask (high grade for painting)
very hot tap water
For dyeing the fiber:
scales (or premeasured top)
5-6 heavy weight quart jars
large beer steins
thick walled glasses
a big enough canning pot for a low rack that holds the jars/glasses
1 quart of vinegar
string for marking lengths
a big plastic spoon
a plastic pitcher of the sort you use for juice in the summer – clear, if you can find one!
I got all my supplies but the dyes, the top, and the scales, at our local dollar store. Please note: no supplies used for dyeing can be used for food thereafter!
Weigh or use pre-weighed BLF/silk top in a four-ounce length(or a little more to be safe!): split it in half -- 2 ounces or a little more for the rope of top you now have. You will be using JUST that two-ounce rope.
Arrange your roving in five folds on a counter, with two "half-size" ends (depending on how many color changes you want, you might also choose seven folds). Place VERY loose ties (yarn markers) at the folds to help you keep track of lengths (and half lengths which you will join).
I used 4 beer mugs and two glasses, with the two glasses on the ends holding roving half as long as the four main mugs. Put the glass array you have chosen in the sink and put your top in using your yarn markers to let you know that you have the right lengths in place. Fill the glasses with about a quarter cup of vinegar to four cups of water. Let the top soak for at least an hour, shifting the top gently back and forth from time to time across your containers so that it ALL gets soaked. While it soaks, make up your concentrated dye solution.
Wearing your mask, pick your colors (I offer some possibilities below). Ten-ounce wide-mouthed plastic drink bottles work well for mixing up the concentrate (denuded Slimfast bottles work well). Check your chosen bottles to make sure that a) you can pour from them neatly and b) their lids will keep liquid inside when shaken.
Make your concentrate either outside or in a utility sink. That way you do not have to worry about spillage! Make sure there is great ventilation – even with the mask on, you will want air flow.
Fill your concentrate bottles about half way with VERY hot water, add in 1/2 teaspoon of dye. Fill the bottle almost to the top with very hot tap water. Cap and shake GENTLY but thoroughly. Once in solution, the dye particles are less likely to cause a respiratory health hazard, but ALWAYS wear rubber gloves! You're now ready to work with your soaked top.
Moving from glass to glass and wearing your rubber gloves, squeeze out all the liquid that you can from your soaked top, replacing the top in its own glass before you move to the next one. Once you have completely squeezed out all the separate lengths, you are ready for the dyeing itself, so set up your canning pot with the rack inside and take it with you to your dyeing location (again outside or at the utility sink). Array your glasses/jars in the canning pot and prepare to reload each glass in order.
I used one of my glasses to approximate on the side of my pitcher how much dye/water mixture I will need for each receptacle. So I pour enough hot water into the pitcher just to reach the appropriate level and then add my dye concentrate.
To get the most evenly dyed top, go glass by glass, taking out the length of top first. First pour in a couple of inches of solution, then enough top to sink into that solution, then a couple more inches of solution, then enough top to sink into it. Repeat until the full length for that glass is submerged, maybe even a bit past the yarn marker. Then move onto to the next glass/mug and next color or color blend, being sure once again to shift the wet top back and forth between glasses around your yarn markers. When I finish, my canning pot and glasses look like the pic at right. Then put the canning pot on the stove and add water around the glasses/jars, about a third of the way up the sides. Bring the water bath up to just below a simmer for around an hour. When the water inside the glass is clear, the dye has exhausted (been absorbed by the fiber). After an hour, turn the heat off and leave it to cool completely. Once cool, pour the dyed top, glass by glass, into a mesh lingerie bag in the sink so the liquid drains out. Then soak that bag in SOAK, Eucalan or a similar woolwash before spinning out the excess water in the spin cycle of the washer (beyond any spraying in your spin cycle) or using a repurposed salad spinner. Array on an drying rack over night, and, when your roving is completely dry, start spinning.
I have used a different color in each glass: Aztec gold, russet, crimson, burgundy, and purple for the dyed top (top right).
For each glass/mug I added 2T of concentrate to the proper amount of hot water – the 2T in the half lengths make the purple segment very dark and the Aztec gold just dark enough (the various yellows sometimes need more dye concentrate, just as fuchsia and turquoise need less and sometimes do not exhaust).
The longer version of the Kayak cowl is a colorway I call "electric rainbow." Here is the recipe, using dye concentrates.
4-4.5 ounces of top
Folds for SIX containers
#1 -- 1T Sun Yellow (the half fold)
#2 -- 1T Sun Yellow; 1T Turquoise
#3 -- 2T Turquoise
#4 -- 1T Turquoise; 1/2t Hot Fuschia
#5 -- 1T Turquoise; 1T Hot Fuschia (electric violet -- stir well!)
#6 -- 1T Hot Fuschia
I dyed gradient roving by making up two related colors in concentrated form. For the blue-to-yellow rovings in the shawl shown at right, I used Royal Blue and Golden Ochre Jacquard dyes in the following range of concentrate (diluted to the amount of liquid needed in the jars/mugs):
Using six containers:
#1 -- 2T Golden Ochre; 1/2t Royal Blue
#2 -- 2T Golden Ochre; 1t Royal Blue
#3 -- 2T Golden Ochre; 2t Royal Blue
#4 -- 2T Golden Ochre; 1T Royal Blue
#5 -- 2T Royal Blue; 2t Golden Ochre
#6 -- 1T (smaller container) Royal Blue; 1 1/2 t Golden Ochre
ABOUT THE DESIGNER
Laurie Osborne is thatlaurie on Ravelry and, in her non-knitting life, a professor of English literature at Colby College in Maine. Guess what her specialty is!