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I wasn't born with wings, so I'm trying to make my own
Tuesday, February 20, 2007  

Sorry for the blog pause, I was busy hibernating. Actually, I got a lot done about my absense, and hopefully I'll have some time to write about it all tomorrow. Until then, I wanted to write about the fiber I conquered yesterday :-)

So, yesterday was dye day and it went SO well. It didn’t go as planned (what does?) but I’m very happy with the results anyway. Sunday I was really starting to stress about it - I am such a perfectionist and things did not seem to be going according to my “master plan.” I wanted to get all the calculations and dye mixing done on Sunday while I was at my parents’ house so that my mom and I would be ready to dye on Monday. But then the calculations took longer than I thought they would (thanks to typos in the formulae in Color in Spinning), so I only had the dyes for one colorway (out of four) mixed by the time I left on Sunday. And out of the only finished batch, one of the colors didn’t look right in the bottle. I was starting to feel overwhelmed by all the time and materials I had already put into this process – I had mixed my dye stocks, created plans for colorways, found the colors and formulae in the sample notebook, calculated all the dye, water, and dye assist amounts, and mixed up some of the dyes for Monday. Hours of work, already! And even with all that, I hadn’t even done the actual dyeing! I started to feel that pressure, that “this had better not just go right, but be freaking PERFECT, after all the work I’ve done” stress. That “Perfect or Bust” feeling. And I was working myself up nicely into a stompy, huffy little princess hissy fit – and then I discovered the fibery wreckage in my living room (more about that tomorrow. There was a kitten involved. Of course). Sunday night was not a good night to be me (or be around me, for that matter. Poor Mark).

Monday morning, I was feeling much more relaxed about the whole thing (ah, the wonders of a good night’s sleep). I decided not to let my craziness ruin my day off. I had planned out four colorways, and I was really excited about all of them. On Sunday, I felt like if I couldn’t do them all, IT WOULD ALL BE FOR NOTHING, but I could tell that I wasn’t going to be able to do four in the time we had dedicated to dyeing. On Monday, though, instead of being in denial about that and rushing around trying to finish and then being crushed when we didn’t, I just accepted that we wouldn’t get all four done, I’d just do my best on whichever ones we did, and we’d do the rest another time (this may be one of those “duh” things for some of you, but this is a BIG STEP for me).

Even with that attitude adjustment, I was still debating how to handle the one dye that didn’t look right. I wanted a very particular blue for a colorway, and I had found one I liked in my dye sample notebook. This particular dye formula was featured in a couple of different places in the sample notebook and in both places it appeared totally, completely blue. BUT it was made by mixing a blue dye and a red dye in equal amounts. To me, that means purple. And the dye in the bottle looked purple. But the samples were blue, the EXACT blue I wanted. So the debate was, should I follow my instincts and mix a different blue, or should I blindly follow the notebook? The colorway I was doing already had a couple of purples and it didn’t need another one. It needed blue. This was my first time using these dyes, so I didn’t have any experience to draw from. I had three different blues, maybe this one was so bright that the recommended amount of red just toned it down without making it look purple. Wouldn’t the experts know better than little ol’ me?

In the end I decided to split the difference. I used the dye purple-looking dye I had already mixed, just so I could see what it would turn out as, but I also mixed my own blue, just to make sure that I actually had SOME blue in the colorway. I’m glad that I followed my gut, because that dye that looked purple and sounded purple, but was blue in the notebook? Yeah, it turned out to be purple. When am I going to learn to quit being such a ninny and listen to my gut?

Ok, so enough talk, talk, talk. Time for some pictures!

The first colorway was inspired by a couple of different violet (the flower, not the color) colorways I’ve seen online, dyed in a sock hop-y style, with plenty of white between the dye spots. Here’s the just-painted roving

And here’s the rinsed, dried, fluffed roving

Yeah, that didn’t turn out as planned. The dye spread quite a bit, so there’s very (very, very) little white left. Clearly, I’ll need to perfect this technique. I applied the dye on this one with squeeze bottles, and I think that was part of the problem. I’ll try using brushes next time for a more controlled application. So, this one didn’t turn out at all like I planned it to, but I like it for what it is. I’m going to try again for what I originally planned. I’m going to use more than one green and they’ll be brighter and less olive-y than what I used here. I’ll also dim down the blue quite a bit. The blue portions here are from the dye I mixed up on the fly to replace the one I wasn’t sure about. I meant for it to be lighter, but I mixed it quickly and didn’t pay enough attention to the dye/water proportion, so the dye ended up being a darker shade than I intended. But I actually think that the way it turned out works better here than the blue I had planned on. I’ll just want a lighter blue for the “colorway in my head.” So, room for improvement on this one, but I’m happy with the results in spite of all the “flaws.”

And here’s round two.

This colorway is modeled after this yarn that Claudia created, although it’s obviously a different way of achieving the result (she dyed her colors separately, then blended). I’m ecstatic with this colorway! Obviously, I won’t have the “whole story” until I spin it, but right now it’s exactly what I wanted. I love the colors. But again, one of the colors (green) didn’t look right in the bottle and I had to strike out on my own. I felt much more confident after the first experiment. And this time I got EXACTLY what I wanted. I am prouder than a peacock over this colorway. I cannot wait to spin it! I think it is totally gorgeous and I think it will make some beautiful yarn for a new shawl (why, yes, my arm is a bit sore from patting my own back).

When I rinsed out these rovings, not even a smidge of dye came out. The dyes were completely exhausted. And the rovings don’t appear to be felted at all, unlike some of my early dye experiments, which I didn’t handle with utmost care. And the silk content (50%) gives the rovings such a shine! So far, I consider yesterday a total success. The proof will be in the finished projects, so I may not know the whole truth for awhile, but for now I’m really happy. And I can’t wait to do it again (and again and again). It was the perfect first attempt – I learned a lot from my mistakes, but the mistakes didn’t ruin anything. Yay!

Absolutely gorgeous! I actually like them both, and I think the violet one really does look like the flower.

So when you say "fluffed" what did you do? Did you pre-draft the entire roving? How did you handle it to prevent felting? Enquiring minds...
I love the colorways you ended up with, well done!
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