Sun Tea dying experiment #1

I realize that it has been a while since I blogged.  We won’t talk about all that time apart.  We’re together now.

That’s all that matters. In the last month, I have developed a deep and abiding love for my new Louet mini wool combs.  They are the perfect size for my hands.  They don’t strain my wrists the way that hand cards do, and they produce the most incredibly luscious little nests of combed top.  It is the softest, most lovely thing I think I have ever felt.  I am even more deeply in love with my Alpacas after spinning from hand combed top.  There really are no words.

Hand combed alpaca nests

As much as I love these perfect little nests of fiber goodness, they are well… kinda… white.  And, white gets boring after a while.  I am getting pretty desperate for some color actually.  The problem is, that my previous experiments with dying fiber have… um… not gone so well.  Did I get dye on the fiber? Yes.  Was it easily usable afterwards?  Well… No, not really.  I don’t want this for my perfect little nests.  They deserve better.

When I dyed washed locks, I got a matted, slightly felted mess (I’m pretty sure that I moved things around a bit too much).  I could salvage it to card, but it was not a pleasant experience.  The variegated color that comes out of the dye pot when dying fleece is really pretty fabulous, but when I carded it up it all blended together into a kind of “blah” version of the original color.  This isn’t what I’m going for.

When I attempted to dye roving, I carded up some white fiber, pin drafted it into roving, and tied it like a skein of yarn.  The pin drafted roving came out of the dye pot looking like rope.  This time I had felted it pretty much beyond rescuing.  I still ran it through the spinning wheel adding a silk thread as a binder, but what came out looked pretty much like I had decided to spin some dark green dread locks.  It wasn’t all together unpleasant, but it was totally not what I was going for.

Which brings me to my nests.  I love my nests, but I know that given my dubious dying past some of them are going to have to be sacrificed in the name of science and the pursuit of color.  I’m going to have to experiment.

I have 2 problems, though.  Problem #1 is that it is almost July, and I don’t have central air conditioning in my home.  That means that it is pretty much as hot as sin every afternoon.  Dying by it’s nature requires heat to set the dye on the fiber, and I am loathe to add to my already sweltering house by boiling a big old pot of dye on the stove.   Problem #2 is that  my combed alpaca seems to want to drift apart when wet.  I’m afraid that if I drop it into a giant pot of almost boiling water I will end up with a giant pot of  loose dyed fiber.  As mentioned before, loose dyed fiber and I don’t get along so well at the moment, but also, this will negate the hours I already spent combing the fiber.  This makes me want to cry a little  inside, and no one wants that.

While consulting with Dr. Google about the problem, I found several links that explained “sun tea” solar dying.  In this type of dying, you put yarn in a jar of dye and let the sun’s heat set the dye just like the heat would brew a jar of sun tea.  This sounded promising.  It wouldn’t heat up my house, AND it would contain all my little nests in a jar instead of a big open stock pot.  Perfect!

If I am going to sacrifice my perfect fiber then I’m going to do this experiment right.  I’m not going to wing it.  I’m going to write things down.  I’m going to be uniform.  If you want to experiment along with me, please see the instructions at the bottom of the post. Processing went off without a hitch.  My kitchen did not get covered in brightly colored dye.  My alpaca nests stayed all coiled up inside their jars, and my list of carefully controlled variables made me feel quite grown up and accomplished.  When I was all done, I set my happy jars of fiber out on the super hot west facing porch to cook.  That was about noon.


An hour later, the sky looked like this, and I could hear thunder in the distance

. Stormy Sky

A quick tilt of the jars told me that 1 hour is definitely not enough to exhaust the dye. 20140627_133531

I don’t know if it will be hot enough to cook my fiber this afternoon, what with the rain and all, but I can always set my jars out again tomorrow if it doesn’t work out today.  Solar dying seems to be flexible like that.

Solar dying experiment #1

Materials for each jar of dyed fiber:

1/2 oz combed alpaca top

1/4 tsp acid dye of choice (I am using country classics powdered acid dye)

1 large mouth quart mason jar

Materials for boiled water solution: (this produces more solution than I needed.  Next time I will adjust)

1 cup  vinegar

1 large stock pot dedicating to dying filled half full with water



1) Fill the stock pot half full with water.  Add 1 cup vinegar and bring to a boil

2) Put 1/4 tsp of your dye of choice in the mason jar

3) Add 2 cups of the boiling water mixture from the stock pot to the mason jar and mix up the dye.

4) Add the un-soaked (dry) fiber to the mason jar, squishing it down until it is all saturated with the dye

5) Screw on the lid and set in a very sunny spot to “cook” until the water inside appears clear. (the internet tells me this should take 4-8 hrs)

6) Allow the jar to cool to room temperature (or just leave it out all night to cool).

7) Pour the fiber out and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear (DO NOT let the water run directly on the fiber.  It will felt.  Trust me)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: