Crockpot Fiber Dyeing
If you're interested in dyeing fiber (or yarn), this post is for you. I've tried to make clear, helpful instructions with pictures to guide you along the way. Once you try this, you will become SO addicted, believe me!
Ready? Set? Let's DYE!!!
-Approx. 4-6 ounces of undyed fiber (or yarn) rolled into loose coils:
-An old crockpot that you will only be using for dyeing...not for cooking anything to eat in:
-A plastic spoon (clear or white) or measuring spoons (using them only for dyeing), a plastic fork, your dye powder, white vinegar, a measuring cup, rubber gloves, and towels:
1. Put 1 cup of water and 1 "glug" of vinegar into the bottom of the crockpot:
2. Place 1 coil of fiber in the bottom of the crockpot into the water:
3. Using a measuring spoon or plastic spoon, sprinkle out desired amount of dye powder onto the coil. I usually use 1/8-1/4 tsp per coil layer:
4. Put another coil of fiber, another sprinkling of dye powder. Repeat for layer 3:
5. Pour 5 cups of water (one at a time) over the fiber coil layers. Measure out one more cup of water, add a "glug" of vinegar to it and pour that in as well. Some of the dyes will disperse:
6. Put the crockpot on low, cover and let steam for 1 hour:
7. Take cover off and VERY GENTLY press the fiber down into the water with the fork. Use light pressure and go along the whole circumference and center of the fiber coils. Re-cover pot and steam for 5-6 more hours, until the water in the pot is clear and the dyes have exhausted (been absorbed by the fiber):
8. Take cover off, turn the crockpot off and let the fiber and water cool to room temperature (or cooler). For me, this takes at least 2-3 hours. (If you put the crockpot on an hour before bed, you can press it down before going to sleep and then turn it off in the morning when you get up. By lunchtime or sooner, it's all cool and ready to go.)
9. Gently, using both hands, lift the fiber mass out of the water, and squeeze firmly to expell most of the water, but do NOT wring the fiber or twist it. When you've gotten the mass to stop streaming water, place in a lingerie washing bag, zip it up and place in the washing machine. Place the machine on the SPIN ONLY cycle to expell the rest of the water. (This step REALLY helps to let the fiber dry quickly.)
10. Take the fiber mass out of the bag and (very slowly and with much patience) start to fan out the fibers horizontally just a bit. You're just opening up the coils of fiber so that they can dry more quickly. At first, the damp coils will look like 3 damp ropes. Take one at a time and using your fingers to pull the fiber apart from top to bottom. They will look like this when you're done.....(sorry about the dark picture):
11. Let the three strips of fiber dry either on a mesh sweater drying rack, on a table lined with thick dry towels or (if you have a wood stove like I do), over a chair next to the stove (but not TOO close!).
12. After the fiber is dry, you can tie a knot with the three strips at one end and braid them together. Knot at the other end and roll into a coil. My finished fiber (about 4.5 oz of superwash merino/tussah silk using two shades of yellow dye and royal blue dye) looked like this:
*This method is very quick and easy once you do it a couple times. You will love it! The only things I will mention that make this a secondary method to handpainting are these:
-You usually cannot duplicate your fiber colorway. I tried doing the same exact thing (with the same measurements of red and black dye and same weight of yarn/water) and I got these two fiber colorways.
-And....you can only do up to 6 oz. of fiber at a time (well, unless you find a HUGE crockpot). My instructions are for a medium size crockpot...and the vertical ones (the ones that are more deep than wide) are the best for this. If you are handpainting yarn or fiber, you can do a LOT at one time and it can be very close to dupllication of colorways.
Here is another example of my latest dyeing fiber experiments:
This is a merino fiber that I dyed with fushia, a bit of red and a smidge of black. I gave it to Joanne of A Knitter's Garden as a gift. I called it, "Knitter's Garden Rose". I think she liked it! Sometimes, I have no idea how the colors will come out, but that's all the fun!
Good luck and would love to see how your fibers (or yarn) come out!