Friday, 27 June 2014

Weld Dyed Fleece, Overdyeing and Blending with Evernia Prunastri Dyed Fleece

Plant dye baths often seem to have a lot of colour left in them after the intended material has been dyed, even when a second batch of wool fibres has been simmered in the afterbath.  Appearances can be deceptive, though.  Dark looking baths may actually be spent of their dye potential.  

Weld leaves go on giving yellow to a surprising weight of fibre, so it is usually worth putting one last lot of wool in for a simmer. Evernia prunastri lichen takes so much nurturing to ferment it that it would be a crime not to eke out every drop of pink. These portions of fleece were used to soak up the remaining colour from a season of making these two plant dye baths.  They are locks of Polwarth fleece which got a bit mangled before I learned the knack of scouring them hot enough to get the lanolin out without causing felting.  On the left, the results of two or three lichen afterbaths, on the right, yellows from several weld afterbaths and in the middle, combined colours on locks that had a simmer in both dyes.
"Mmm, pink, orange and yellow, is it, Beaut?"  Elinor Gotland looked dubious.
"A red sky at sunset has colours like these."
I teased out the locks and carded them into rolags, some of each colour, some blending fibres from the different batches together. 
"Never mind a sunset, that Polwarth looks like it got left out in the rain. Us Gotlands are very sensitive, too.   I remember when we did a production of 'The Wizard of Oz' at Aberystwyth University. Some silly bugger special effects student chucked a bucket of water over us and turned the wind machine on full blast, trying to simulate a Kansas tornado.  Took me hours to comb the felting out of my fleece."
The effect of mixing fibres is distinctly different to overdyeing. Despite some felted locks, I managed to hand spin a fine single with occasional matted lumps, then navajo three plyed the skeins to keep solid stretches of colour, one seguing into another.  The intention was to knit a scarf with a grey green top line, a semicircular golden sun bulging on this 'horizon' and swathes of pink and yellow sky beyond it. 

"That's a valley horizon, alright, Beaut."

"OK, I know, I'll frog it, I suppose."
"You could do with a lesson in colour blending, too."  She rummaged in her stash.
"Oh, give over, Toto."
Elinor tossed her head in outrage, dislodging her eyewear.

Somewhere under the rainbow, Way down deep,


Are the specs that were mislaid By a very small, cross sheep.

Trawling Ravelry for patterns using no more than 150m aran weight yarn, I found Alise which looked perfect for my youngest niece's birthday. Magically, the colour changes worked better and I had enough yarn left over to crochet a llttle head scarf.


  1. These colours are beautiful Fran, I especially love the baby outfit. Tell me you didn't knit this in a week... I think I'm wasting my life, I still haven't got my new warp on and the county shows are stacking up.
    Love the rainbow dyed yarns too.

    1. The rainbow locks were material for our communal project at spinning camp, I can take no credit!