The best thing about living with my parents while we househunt (cross fingers for good luck this summer!!) is that we’re saving tons of cash on rent. The worst part about living with one’s parents, tho, is that one usually has to wait until they go out of town to do anything fun (and/or potentially messy). Yay for conventions in Las Vegas!

Last Saturday, while my parents were debating the relative merits of the round pool with the fountain vs the smaller pool with the bubbles, I was cajoling the long-suffering Grant into coming with me on a little road trip to Port Hope (a town about an hour’s drive away from where we live) to buy sheep fuzz. Our target: The Black Lamb, an awesome shop stuffed to the gills with yarns and fibres. Small but perfectly formed, as they say. I left with nearly three pounds of undyed fibre: 2 one-pound bags of merino, a half pound of cashmere/merino/nylon blend, and a 225g bag of merino/seacell. At home, I had a 12-pack of Wilton’s food dye, a bunch of roasting pans, a bit of vinegar and a mad gleam in my eye.

I let the yarn soak in a vinegar/water solution for a few hours, mixed my dyes in a bunch of measuring cups until I was satisfied with the colours (read: bored of mixing), and started to pour. With no real plan, of course:

I threw in a bit of pink, too, for extra visual interest. I spooned on the pink to try and keep it from getting too muddy. Also pictured: my awesome StrongBad tshirt.

I was very surprised to see the difference between the wet dye and the baked version:

The pink was surprisingly…pink. I had kind of mixed feelings about the final product.

Of course, I didn’t let it sit for hours to let it cool slowly like you’re supposed to with pure wool fibres. I threw it in a warm SOAK-y bath after only a few impatient minutes and laid it out to dry.

This is probably why it ended up felting a bit. I had to tease apart the fibres before I could spin with it.

After looking at it for a little while, I decided there was a bit too much white left on the fibre, so I grabbed about half of it, threw it back in the roasting pan and, after a quick soak, threw some leftover dye on it, which actually didn’t make the hugest difference evar. I think I was just overloading my roasting pans, which is dangerous with this dyeing method since only the top layer seems to absorb the dye. Ah well.

The next day, it was just about dry enough to start spinning:

The colours became much paler after they dried, and washed out even more when I drafted the fibre. Interesting to note. I’ve been plying one strand of original-dyed yarn with another strand of the twice-dyed stuff, which should help to keep the colours balanced (although now that I’m almost near the end of the fibre, it seems that I have a little bit more of the darker fibre than the lighter stuff. Ah well).

Here’s one of the big balls I have made with it so far:

I’m calling the colourway Sea Glass. Not terribly original, I admit, but it’s what I think of when I look at it.

I haven’t measured the yardage or wpi yet (kind of a long story, but the short version is 1. I don’t have a niddy-noddy yet, and 2. I just grab whatever needles are nearby and look appropriate), but I reckon it’s aran weight, and will eventually be enough for a smallish sweater. I’ll probably knit it with 5mm needles.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started this adventure, but I’m sure I didn’t expect this! Although I do have to say that despite my initial misgivings about the colours, I quite like them all spun up and plied together. I’ve knitted a small “taste testing” swatch, but there are so many colours scattered throughout the yarn that it’ll take a whole garment to reveal them all. Soon, soon…!

In short, my dyeing adventures were triumphant. And not least because the only mess I made was on my hands (gloves, schmoves!)

Which, I am happy to report, completely faded by the end of the day, with no extraordinary effort on my part. Yay food-based dyes! Although I can’t wait for my acid dyeing induction this Friday at LK!! So much fun, so little time…

Oh yeah…I dyed the seacell/merino, too, but I’m going to hold back on that story until my laceweight Golding spindle arrives (seriously, it’s been “any day now” for almost two weeks). So, something else to look forward to! :P

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