Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cotton Dye Day with podcast

Lots of photos to share! And there's a podcast to tell you all about these photos. It's episode 12 of yarnspinnerstales and if you have not already listened to it, I encourage you to check it out.

The podcast is on my website. Look for Episode 12.

Last Sunday four of us gathered to dye cotton. This is a totally new experience for me, I have only dyed wool in the past. I will be sharing in this post all about what the other three dyed, and then in the next post, I will talk all about my natural dyeing experience.

The project started in a Ravelry group called the Garden Spinning group. This group's focus is spinning with non wool fibers. During a discussion of cotton, which is so often (boring) white, it was decided that we could gather a few spinners, dye some cotton and then swap the resulting fiber. We limited the swap to 8 folks, and made a 2 oz sampling of fiber for each. One member, stashymama was very generous in sending a pound of cotton roving to three of us, and plenty of cotton lint for everyone, thus living up to her Ravelry name. Thanks Stashymama!

And one of our four had a wonderful stash of the old Cushings union dyes. These are no longer made, and do dye cotton wonderfully. So Anita shared her dyes. If you do not have these dyes, don't dispair! Any tie dyeing dye will work just fine, and I was able to find a wonderful selection of colors at my local art supply store, so you should be able to find some too, if not locally, then, on the internet.

First thing we all did, before arriving on Sunday, was to be sure to soak the fiber. Three of us soaked the fiber in soda ash/water solution. One only soaked her fiber, intentionally, in water. It was interesting that all four of us had different plans of attack, when it came to the actual dyeing process.

We set up tables, chairs and lots of dyeing equipment on the deck.

This photo just shows how it all started out. Believe me, things got lots messier later!

See those disposable metal pans? They really work great. Most everyone eventually decided it was better though to actually use the lids, which were plastic and not the bendy metal. The fiber was laid out in the plastic lids, the dye was placed on the fiber and then the metal could be placed over that during the warming period.

It was a bright sunny day, and since cotton only needs to be held just slightly warmer than body heat for 30 minutes, we found that just leaving the pans covered, out in the sun, did the trick. But we also did use the warmer rigged up by Anita.

The warmer is covered with a rubber tub:

And it you'd lift that up, inside you'd see a heating pad, wrapped in a towel, and a metal rack on top of that. Whether you are capturing solar or electric heat, the rubber tub holds it inside. The pans of dyed fiber sat inside for 30 minutes (or actually until we finished lunch).

The next photo shows the bottles of Cushing dyes. These are extremely concentrated, to be diluted by a ratio of 1 to 10. Note that since it is so hard to tell just what the colors are in the bottles, that small skeins of yarn are taped to the top of the bottles to show the color.

Anita did a gradiation study with the dyes and the following photo shows the bottles. Each end is a concentrated color, red on one end and blue on the other. 4 oz of dye was put in those outer bottles. Then first working with the red, she poured 2 oz of dye into the bottle next to it, and added 2 oz of water to the original bottle. That mixture was poured into the middle bottle, and again 2 oz of water was added to the original bottle. 2 oz of that was poured into the fourth bottle (and that's the one right next to the blue concentrate bottle). Finally 2 oz of water was added to the original bottle, making a very dilute red. The process was repeated with the blue, only going the other direction. When all of the dilutions had been made, the bottles were filled to the top with a mixture of soda ash and water. The soda ash is the dye activator, and the dyes will not strike unless there is soda ash somewhere in the process.

Once all of the eyeballing measurements were done, the fun begins:

And the rewards are great! Here's Anita's final roving.

Viki experimented with a different method. She soaked her roving only in water, counting on the soda ash in the dyes. The method from then on was the same, add dyes to the rovings, allow to be at 100 degrees for 30 minutes or so, and rinse.

Again, beautiful roving!

All of us just took the fiber home still in the dyes, and held the fiber that way (in ziplock bags) overnight. This gives the dye time to soak into the fiber as much as possible. And we all found out it takes lots of effort and time to get cotton roving dry!
The other fiber we all dyed was cotton lint. This is cotton about as raw and unprocessed as you can get. It does card up into punis with cotton cards, so the theory was to dye the lint in many different colors with the Cushings dyes, and then do the color blending with the cards. So here's a photo of the lint in a pan, being dyed.

Andrea also experimented with dyeing a yarn, and some carded cotton punis. The punis had not been soaked at all, and the yarn had been soaked in soda ash/water. No final pictures of those yet although she reassured me that those bedraggled punis really did fluff up pretty good once they were very dry, and that the yarn dyed well.

My dyeing was a completely different process, since I was using a natural dye, and I will be documenting that in the next post. However, just so I could go home with something pretty and purple, I had soaked some cotton/wool roving in water. This would be for me, not for the swap. After I got to the dye day, I soaked the roving in soda ash/water for 30 minutes and then made up some Procion MX dye. I put the roving in a large ziplock bag, squirted lots of dye on it, zipped up the bag and smooshed it to get the dye into as much of the fiber as possible. I left the bag in the sun for most of the afternoon and took it home and again left the dye on the fiber overnight.
When I rinsed the fiber, it looked like this:

And dried to a lovely variegated colorway. Just like lilacs in spring!


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Merry month of May

There was nothing 'May'-be about this month except my absence from blogging. Big life changes have no maybes about them.

I seldom write about personal things here, keeping this blog fiber related. It's much like those very specific newspapers that focus on world news from the perspective of the paper's focus. Lots of life happens to me all the time, but all I blog about is the knitting, spinning or podcasting that I manage to squeeze into free time.

So with that perspective in mind, let me say that a current life event will hopefully allow me with more time, for just those things. Maybe I will finally even blog more, maybe.

After working since 1976, I decided to take a sabatical. I am still required by hubby to call it that, to keep his faith that I have not quit working and retired for good. And in truth, I really don't feel ready to fully retire. Instead, I'd like a bit of time out (off) to decide just what I want to be, now that I am _really_ grown up.

I doubt it will be fiber related, this new career of mine. I say that because I truly have attempted that, although always while still working full time, and I find the fiber arts then become a job. Inventory has to be maintained (washing and carding fleece, spinning yarn) sales have to be begged online, or at local fiber fairs, etc etc. In short it's no longer fun.

No, I entirely want this sabatical to be fun. And if this first month is any indication, I am well on my way to just that.

Here's a bit of review. Note, most of this is the fiber bits.

Last day of work, May 2nd.

Frantic week of list making, errands, packing, getting house and pets ready for my departure for Sea Socks 08 cruise (yes, there will be pictures and details in a later post).

May 9-19th on the high seas, or in Seattle. Lots of knitters with me, lots of things to take pictures of, a few wonderful yarn stores, and even more wonderful yarn to buy. There was not much knitting actually accomplished, but it was lived and breathed every day.

Next week, a frantic week of unpacking, errand running, overdue paperwork and housework, and best of all, dyeing cotton both with my Tuesday knit group and by myself. That will all be explained soon, in the next podcast. All I'll say now is it was a surprisingly lovely shade of yellow and you'll never quess how I got it.

Last three days, a deep breath and finally relaxing into the wonderful fact that my time is all my own, for weeks at a time. I spent a good part of these days editing the next two podcasts, finishing a book I was reading, swatching for a new knitting project, and sleeping. Naps are a wonderful new discovery.

So for now, here's only the promise of more posts, more pictures, more knitting.

And a challenge: I plan to do the Olympic Spinning challenge again. Remember two years ago, my post about all the yarn I spun during the Olympics? This year I have something different in mind. I am still working out my details, just how much do I want to challenge myself. You all will be the first to know, when I decide.