Spinning Small Batch Dyed Fibers


I’ve been meaning to get this post up for months now, since most of the fiber that I’ll be spinning for the holidays has been dyed in the manner.

And promptly buried in the spare room behind a DJ rig. This is the story of my life, people.

Anyway, I discovered the joys of small batch kettle dyeing this summer-I mean, really small batch-things that can fit in canning jars.

This produces a very volatile roving with the potential for a huge amount of variation between batches-which begs the question, what do you do with fibers that have such a huge variation in coloring?

There are two main methods to spinning fibers dyed like this:

1. Roll with it.

Just grab the fiber and spin, white space and all. You’ll end up with what’s sometimes called a potluck style yarn which is fully one of a kind. All yarn spun with these types of rovings are going to be one of a kind, but this will really not be replicated. Pretty much ever. You might end up with a lot of white space in your yarn-so I would recommend plying it back onto itself with either a center pull ball for a 2 ply or a chain ply for a three ply. It’ll barber pole, but you’ll avoid having huge splotches of white/undyed fiber.

2. Create a spinning plan

The fiber pictured above is all very small batch Koolaide dyed fibers. I alternate each fiber, I believe there’s seven or eight total, and is called Hawthorne. I have a system where I alternate in a big circle, switching out the wool about once every five minutes. It is then plied back onto itself for a 2 ply.

There are undoutably more options to spinning small batch fibers than this, but these are the two that I default to most often.


Dyeing in Pint Jars-Solar or Stove Top

I’m sort of in between projects right now. Or rather, I’m sort of in the middle. Even the shrub I’m working on is still at the sit there stage.

It makes it kind of hard to post about anything, when all I have to show you is a half finished or quarter finished project.

This wasn’t meant to be the summer of the dye pot, but I’ll tell you what I have been doing all the time lately. This has easily become one of my favorite ways to dye. I use it all the time right now.

There are some downsides to pint jar dyeing, and the big one is that you can only fit so much fiber in a jar at once. I don’t mind my roving being split because I split it anyway but I can see this being an issue if you’re dyeing yarn. You’re also limited to how many jars you can fit in a stock pot, unless you’re solar dyeing and can just sort of line them up. But since this is the year without a summer, I’m going stove top.

I also don’t normally like a roving with a lot of white space, and every batch that I’ve run has given me if not white space then significantly lighter splotches. I’m okay with that, though.

One of the upsides to dyeing like this is that since your dye pot itself is not containing dyes, you can rerun the same pot multiple times, thereby saving the water. I know that’s one of the big issues that comes up when I talk about dyeing. You can reuse the water in the jars a couple of times too but keep in mind that every round is adding acid, which can alter your outcome. If you’re okay with unstable/unpredictable dyes, than that’s fine.

A lot of words for a fairly simple process.

Here’s a solar dye:

solar dye pint jarand rovings dyed in the stove top:

hawthornehawthorne 2 hawthorne 3See what I mean about the splotching?

The process itself is simple. If you’ve ever melted chocolate in a double boiler you can do this. I’ve found that the jar can hold about 3 packages of kool-aide without an issue.

Add your powder to the jar, then fill the jar about halfway with water. Wrap -dry- roving around your hand about five times (I’ve found that with the size of my hand, five wraps is about the maximum amount of wool I can get into the jar). You may have to really force the wool into the jar. Fill the jar with water to fill.

Yes, the top of the wool will most likely not be covered in dye. Hence the splotches.

Add the jars to a water bath  (the double boiler effect) and bring to at least a simmer. Let it cook for about an hour (though I’ve done up to 45 minutes without an issue with striking). Pull the pot from heat, or pull the jars with a jar lifter, and let the jars come to room temperature.

Carefully take the wool out of the jars and unwrap the bundles. Rinse and let them drip dry. I haven’t had any issues with felting if I follow that process.

Again, a lot of words for a fairly simple dyeing process.

*The wool that looks like it didn’t take dye well in those photos, did. I ran three batches sampling all the reds in my collection, including the pinks which struck but didn’t necessarily photograph well. It’s not under the best natural light.


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Edward Olive Green

I have a confession to make.

I hate following other people’s dye recipes. I don’t trust them. I know that I post mine, and I hope that people are capable of replicating my results.

But this project is exactly why I don’t follow other people’s dye recipes. I was going to do a solar dyeing course while I was on vacation, which fell through in large part because of a freak Polar Vortex that is relevant to my fiber art in more ways than one. I knew I was going to have fiber coming out of my ears, so I decided to start a project I’ve had on my mind-one that was supposed come out navy blue.

When I mixed the dye pot, it was murky green. But I plunged ahead anyway, deciding to be trusting for once.

So this is how Edward is a yellow leaning olive. I like it, I actually really like it, but it’s no navy blue and this is why I won’t follow people’s dye recipes.

The naming for this one comes from a Lady Edward, a figure who featured in the English World War I peace movement.


2 packages blue koolaide or similar (sample is dyed with ice blue lemonade)

1 package orange

This is your base dye pot. Start with about 2 ounces wool for coverage shown in photos.


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Dye What You Can When You Can-Dyelot, Fiber Choice, and Acidity


You know how store-bought yarn comes with a warning to make sure to purchase enough yarn at any given time to finish a project because of dye lot variations?

This holds even more true for hand dyeing, especially when you work with a method like solar or kettle dyeing.

It is exceptionally hard to maintain the same color across batches, especially if you have to vary fiber choice later on down the line. That can have a lot of fun; different protein fibers take up color in different ways-and even differing types of the same fiber such as different wool breeds will impact your color way. This can be a lot of fun and is actually part of the appeal of hand dyeing for me.

One of the greatest impacts on the dyeing process is the amount (and even type) of acid used. A ‘good’ dyer will make sure that every batch has the same amount of acid, of the same type, across the board. I’m a child of chaos so when I dye I rarely do that, though I do mark what I did in my dyeing notebook in case I have to try to mimic what I did before for a sale, trade, or supplement a custom job I gave as a gift.

When using a dyeing technique known for volatile results like solar dyeing or kettle dyeing, both of which being techniques that like to break colors, keep in mind you’re not going to get it to mimic perfectly every time. You can probably get the colors to break again but not in the same places to the same extent.

The bottom line: make sure you dye large enough amounts to fulfill your intended projects, or make sure you’re okay with two radically different lots in case it happens.

Both blues pictured are both Dubh batches; they differ slightly in acid strength and wool choice. The latter came out much darker and richer than the first, which came out a much brighter, stronger neon color, though the darker breaks are the shades in the second skein.

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Spring Through Your Stash Wrap Up 2014


How did you do this spring? Did you manage to get any of your stash worked down?

This year was both a huge success and a miserable failure at the same time.

I didn’t get any knitting done. I made two hats and started a 10 stitch blanket that’s languishing somewhere in the bowels of my apartment. One of the hats still needs to be seamed. I should do that before festival in a couple of weeks.

…But then I got Freya out, and that’s where the fun really began.

I started out with several pounds of wool, including a partial raw Babydoll fleece. I was on a fiber no buy for the duration of the event (the whole stash busting aspect). The Central New York Fiber Festival completely destroyed my no buy-but that was the only fiber I purchased. I have since bought some natural wool for a class I’m teaching at festival.

The partial project run down-

Frigga-grey Icelandic wool. At least 450 yards, cable plied

Storm King-Lincoln locks, chain plied

Candy-solar dyed Cotswold roving

Dubh, batch one-dyed Heinz 57 wool

Dubh, batch two-Cotswold that needs to be plied and dyed

Boo-green dyed Babydoll and natural brown Babydoll

Max-long term natural colored mixed fiber project, including spindling

Alexandria-solar dyed Heinz 57 wool roving, chain plied

I think I put out close to 2000 finished yardage. I’m not sure though, I don’t have a final tally since several of these projects are still on bobbins.


I can’t believe that I forgot about Dubh, what with it being the yarn for the tutorial and the project that got me back into dyeing and all.

I don’t know what’s been wrong with me lately. I’m dyeing and spinning colors that I never work with right now. My next dye will be pink. Pink. I don’t even like pink.

I am sort of in love with Dubh though.

My hands have been wobbly off and on as I’m adjusting to a med change, so the top picture is a little blurry. It shows the color variation better though. This batch was spun bare and then dyed. The base yarn is sort of a creamy natural color.



base wool: heinz 57 from the woolery

ply: n-ply

wpi: 10

yardage: 368 across two skeins

dye: food grade w/ citric acid

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Brass Penny (Tuesday Fiber)

The photos are dark, but I don’t think I’m going to get a better shot even with better light. I was going for something on the brassy, brown end of yellow and orange. Think the carpets in 1970s movies. The yarn is nice and squishy. I’m not all that familiar with this Classic Wool; it’s been a long time since I’ve gone yarn shopping. I’m hoping to make another hat out of it. I don’t have a lot of warm tones to wrap with so I’m left with a lot of outfits topped with black.


Base yarn: Patons Classic Wool Roving in Aran (bulky, 120 yards)

Dyes: Various Wilton’s dyes in oranges and yellows, little bit of green, McCormick’s black

Acid: Fruit Fresh

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Inferno Status

If you’re a fairly new reader-and a number of you are, hello there! you may not be familiar with my habit of starting large scale, potentially multiyear multiskill projects. My last completed one was Doyle (read more about that here), the shawl I’m wearing in my profile pic on the sidebar.

Two summers ago I was struck with the idea of a ‘hellfire’ shawl- something based around Dante’s Inferno which has been a love for almost as long as I have been knitting. Each yarn has to have been processed by me in some form, either spun, dyed, or both. There are a couple of last minute changes to that with regards to dyed yarn-more on that after the picture.



3. This was originally going to be a yarn called pyschopomp that I never finished spinning. I need to get it off of my spindle, but I also know that since I’ve processed about 10 yarns since I started that one, psychopomp is something of a lost cause. This is the pink-est of the yarns in the bunch but it was overdyed with black cherry several years ago and there’s not enough yardage there for a stand alone project. We’ll call that one Folk Devil, because folk devil is one of my favorite sociological terms.

4. Ember

5. Wrath

6. Anomie

7. Phoenix

8. The Forgotten-what’s interesting about this one is that I know that I overdyed it for this project, but I forgot about it. I think that since it’s so much duskier/lighter/less intense than the others that it got put aside for sexier yarns. In the layout though it works okay. I may overdye it again.

Number 9 will be something I overdye from my stash. I have a yarn in mind already. I want to have this project on needles by February if I can at all help it. I have enough of Anomie spun up to knit right now, and that just leaves the second half of the singles from Phoenix.


Each year in July we go to a week long festival. The way that the festival is set up is such that each week day is color coded, starting with yellow.

At some point along the way I decided that I wanted a shawl for the evenings (which tend to still run cool enough to want a shawl)- one for each day.

The way that I spin I end up with little bits of fluff, left over singles from multi-ply projects, stuff like that. I’m too cheap to throw those bits away so at some point I started carding them together and plying them with a strand of natural colored wool.

That habit collided with the desire to have a shawl in every color.

The thing is, during last year’s tour de fleece I tried my hand at solar dyeing, and started my ripley project to have a skein of this recyled/garbage yarn in every color. It occured to me last fall that I could just have one shawl for this year’s festival- but have it be in a running color gradient so it would be appropriate for every night.

Thus Doyle was born. I have no idea what the yardage on this thing is, I took the very scientific approach of spinning between 75-150 yards for each skein, dyeing it, and then reserving a skein of rather ugly 100% merino to overdye to make up any difference between the halves. There’s much more green because I used that as the mirror point, and instead of splitting 150 yards in half I spun two full skeins to increase length on each half.

(Doyle has also been christened the chakra shawl…and I have never seen so many knitters come out of the woodwork when I was working on this at Brushwood on Saturday…)

Next recycle project- overdying the yarn yellow- I’ll start that at this year’s festival.

6 months ago- Merry Christmas!

Posted here (please scroll down), craft envy  postively splendid

ghoulaide (blackberry koolaide)

i tried a picture search and came up with nothing.

the seasonal halloween koolaide flavor this year is supposed to dye up a deep clear purple ranging on the indigo end. it does look more blue to me in the pictures that i’ve seen, but i’m not sure what base fiber it was over.

i guess that it’s fairly hard to find. i managed to find it at tops and picked up 10 packets. i’m not sure how much longer it’ll be out though because most stores seem to be flipping into christmas already- though maybe that means that they’ll have a green color for that season? a dyer can only hope anyway.

i’m hoping that this will be a decent indigo range purple for my faux gradient once i get to spinning and dyeing again. it would be fun to see what this would do with solar dyeing.

some of the yarns that i’ve seen dyed up also look to be vaguely steel grey. in that case i think that if you wanted to replicate the color, using a 2 to 1 purple to orange ratio may work, just being sure to use at least twice as much purple to orange.