Monday, 16 September 2013

Spinning Separate Colours

Microwaved Dyeing
I am having a lot of fun dyeing roving.  I have spent a lot of hours in the kitchen with bubbling saucepans and tubs of dye on my fledgling hobby.  

I dyed a few plaits of roving in some plain colours but then I stumbled across a few you-tube videos describing how you can dye roving in the microwave and I wasted no time giving it a go.

I only have one microwave - a few of the dyers on the videos were advocating having a machine expressly for this purpose.  Mine is quite old so I thought - nothing to lose .. 

While I was soaking the plait of roving, I covered my island bench in glad wrap and decided on 3 colours, magenta, wattle and blue.  Rather haphazardly, I started dying sections using an old plastic bottle.  I didn't put too much effort into it as I was really not sure if the roving (and indeed the microwave) would survive this dyeing method.

Once I was happy that all the roving had some colour, I wrapped it up securely in the glad wrap (or cling film in some parts of the world) and popped it in the microwave on high for 5 mins.  Make sure that you have it in a bowl in case there are some leaks - I can see why a second microwave would be a good idea.   

You can imagine my surprise (and delight) when the roving came out in all the shades of the rainbow.  I was thrilled and couldn't wait for it to dry.

Just out of the microwave .. 
But how do you spin with it?  I was a bit daunted as I didn't think it was simply a case of picking up one end and spinning.  I searched the internet seeking inspiration and I eventually found exactly what I was looking for at Craftsy.

They had a class called 'Spinning Dyed Fibers' so I enrolled.

I then spent a number of fascinated hours watching Felicia and learning how to use the colours in the fibre to achieve all manner of different effects.  

Separating the plait of roving

So, time to get started.  When I undid the plait and laid out the roving, I  seemed to have very definite changes of colour alternating between the magenta and blue and used this as my start.

I took the top piece of roving and divided it into 5 strips  and started spinning these to keep the colours 'clean'.  That is, the spun wool would just have these colours in it with no blues etc.

Keeping colours separate
Separating Magenta
Spinning blue and yellow

I then repeated the process with the second piece of roving to keep the blue and magenta separate from the yellow.  In essence, I was trying to keep as much of the colour from blending into a muddied hue. 

I kept repeating the process of spinning the separated colours of roving, all the while getting more and more excited at what was appearing on the bobbin.

Once I had finished spinning, it came time to ply. Rather than ply 2 bobbins together (this was always going to be tricky as I only had one bobbin of this homespun), the craftsy course taught me how to Navajo Ply.  This is a chain 3 ply.  To put it very simply, you create a loop (or chain), reach in and grab the homespun and the 3 strands spin together.  Got that?  I honestly don't think there is anyway I could verbally describe how to do this so the written instructions can be found here at Knitty or the Yarn Wench.  If it all gets too much and you need to see someone doing it, then I can't recommend the Craftsy class enough.  The Knit Girlls tutorial is also fantastic.  This method allows you to ply in sections which means you can keep colours together - or at least try to.
Spun Circus
Navajo Plying

In the end, I managed to keep some blocks of colour separate and, consequently, my dyed roving has gone from 'rainbow' to 'circus'.

Happy Spinning


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  1. Following on FB from the I Gotta Try That link-up.

    That is GORGEOUS! We just moved to a farm, and I want to get some sheep next year expressly for the purpose of being able to take wool from the animal to the sweater (etc etc).

    1. LuAnn, you have the same dream as me. I'd also like some alpacas but I'd be happy with some sheep, chickens, fruit trees and a vegetable patch. Good luck with your sweater.


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