Not just for yarn… Dyed Roving!
There’s something about a braid of hand dyed roving that never fails to excite me. It doesn’t usually matter what the colors themselves are – it’s more about how those perfect blotches of color can be so concentrated in one spot, fading and blending with other colors in another… It’s essentially a super thick hand-dyed yarn, so it showcases your hard work in a much more obvious way. But then you can transform that beautiful thing into something so different, you won’t even believe the yarn you just spun came from that original braid. Like the Nube by Malabrigo Yarn I spun a while back (dubbed Velocicrafter).
As I learn about dyeing fiber, I’m gradually becoming more confident about the process. Confidence is definitely required when dyeing roving and other un-spun fibers, because they’re a little harder to work with than yarn. Most importantly, you have to be super careful about not letting the fiber mat or felt, so be patient with the process. This can be tricky for sure, considering how hot you have to get things to make the dye set. Here are a few points to always remember when you’re dyeing fiber (and yarn, for that matter):
• Once it’s time to heat things up, do it gradually. The fiber should be wet and in the pot before you turn that burner on.
• Manipulate the fiber as little as possible. Even when you’re squeezing out excess water after the pre-soak, be gentle – press, don’t wring or agitate. When everything is cooking in the dye bath, only move it around if you have to and even then, be as gentle as possible.
• Always allow the fiber to cool COMPLETELY before rinsing. If warm wool meets cool water, you’ve got a pretty good chance it won’t be so soft and easy to spin afterwards.
Ok, that’s enough lecture time. On to the experiment! I chose one ounce each of three different fibers to dye: Blue Face Leicester Wool Top Fiber, Coopworth Blend Wool Roving Fiber, and Finn Wool Fiber.
These soaked for a bit in water with a little sprinkle of Citric Acid Crystals, 8 oz.. Then I removed some of the water and started applying dye, using a kettle dyeing technique.
After applying the dye where I wanted it, I turned on the heat. Once it starts to steam and simmer, I keep a very close eye on things. You usually know it’s done when the water in the pot is clear. I use a plastic spoon handle to gently move some fiber away from the side of the pan to check. With turquoise, though, the water never seems to go clear (this time around, neither did the violet). But that’s ok – once it seemed like a very long time had gone by, I decided to turn the heat off and call it good. Here’s how they came out:
I was worried about getting the Finn confused with the BFL, but as you can see the BFL is much fuzzier; I had no trouble telling the two apart. And look at how different the gray Coopworth blend ended up! Those same bright colors you see on the white fiber turn much more somber on the darker base.
There are a lot of different ways folks will spin their hand dyed roving. Planned color changes and different plying techniques can yield hundreds of different results. There was an awesome issue of PLY Magazine a few months back that had some really interesting articles about this subject, from which I learned a great deal. As much as I like to ignore such knowledge in pursuit of crafting adventures, I decided to give one technique a try.
First, I took the BFL and split in half, lengthwise. I set one half aside, and split the other one in half again. I set one half of this to another side, and continued until I had a series of thick to thin lengths of roving. My plan: to spin the first half I set aside as one ply, then spinning the rest in order of thickest to thinnest for the second ply. Technically, that should mean the first ply will have longer color changes, with the color changes happening faster as the roving gets thinner. The result was much more pastel than I’d expected…
Blue Face Leicester Wool Top Fiber is so fluffy and soft! But what about that Coopworth Blend Wool Roving Fiber? For this one, I didn’t divide the length of roving at all. Spun with the longest possible color changes, I then chain-plied this to create more of a gradual, almost gradient yarn.
The result was a sturdy, wooly yarn with a decent amount of drape and softness. Not bad for an experiment!
If you’re interested in giving this a try yourself, you can click here to browse our fiber selection. You can also click here to see what we’ve got for dyes. If you love the stuff but can’t be bothered, check out these great fibers that have already been dyed for you:
Nube by Malabrigo Fiber is 100% Merino, kettle dyed in various colorways. I’ve spun two of these braids already myself, and they will not be the last.
Hand-Dyed Blue Face Leicester Wool Fiber is always eye catching, and it’s very easy to spin. I can’t tell you how many people have asked if we have this as already spun yarn! (We don’t, I’m sorry to say – but I did try to approximate one of the colorways for our recent Hand-Dyed collection, which you can check out by clicking here)
Maine Coast Hand-Dyed Romney Wool Fiber Blend comes in slightly deeper tones, and Romney is always a joy to spin. I have a skein of single ply fingering weight spun from this at home, which I think I might someday incorporate into a warm shawl.
Whether you dyed them yourself or not, these variegated wool rovings can be used so many different ways it’s sometimes overwhelming. I guess that just means we need to spend more time playing with them!