The Spinner’s Palette

Sometimes simplicity is best. After my last batch of dyeing, I’ve been trying to work through various colours to create a ‘palette’ to be able to spin from. The nice thing about dyeing top for spinning rather than dyeing a skein of wool directly is that this still leaves a huge number of possibilities for colour blending and mixing at different stages of the process.

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Spinzilla Part 1

It’s Spinzilla week! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Spinzilla, it’s a week for burnt thumbs, sore shoulders and empty-looking stashes as you spin as much fibre as you can in a week.

While spinners across the globe eagerly awaited the clock to strike midnight for spinning time to commence, with their piles of combed top and carded batts prepped for the wheel, I was struggling to sleep with what was going to turn out to be a really miserable cold. My fibre stash also better resembled an aimless fluff pile than anything with a plan in mind.

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That’s why Day 1 of spinning time turned into Day 1 of fibre prep time…

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Heating Procion MX Dyes and Science Sundays

While discovering that Procion MX dyes are very happy to dye wools, I came across something else that gave me pause for thought. Although there’s not a wealth of information on using Procion MX dyes with acid, most of the advice that is out there says you need to steam or heat the fibre after applying the dye.

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For acid dyes, heating the dyebath is standard practice to help fix the dyes. Fibre reactive dyes, like Procion MX, don’t require this, which is definitely an advantage when trying to do large bits of tie-dying. The standard advice when working with fibre reactive dyes on cellulose fibres and silks is to do your dyeing, then leave your fibre damp with the dye on it for at least a good few hours, closer to 24, if you want strong colours.

As I tend to like very intense, saturated colours, I tend to err on the side of giving the dye a longer reaction time.  For some short-sighted reason, I’d always assumed that there was some kind of degradation of the Procion dyes at higher temperatures, hence leaving them to react at ‘room temperature’ but seeing as steaming the wool lately with Procion dyes had worked just fine, that obviously couldn’t be the case.

Was there really a way to go speed up Procion dyeing so I didn’t have to wait so long to see what wonderful mess I’d made?

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Wool with Procion MX Dyes

A common theme of frustration since I’ve started dyeing has been how difficult it can be to get good, informative resources on the hows and whys of certain dyeing techniques. For most other techniques, I have a series of ‘go to’ reference books which I can consult to at least have some idea of what I’m doing but I’ve yet to find something similar for dyeing. Fellow dyers, what is your favourite literature on the subject?

I’d seen in a few places that Procion MX dyes could in fact to be used to dye wools, as well as cellulous fibres and silk. The only thing you needed to change to use Procion MX dyes with wool is that, instead of using an alkaline dye bath with soda ash, you needed something acidic instead.

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There was some ambiguity in the sources I’d read as to whether the wool could be left in the dye to react just at room temperature or required steaming, so I thought I’d give up reading and just see what results I’d get for myself.

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Mixing it up

When you first start dyeing, there’s an overwhelming range of colours to choose from. As well as thinking about what kind of materials you want to be dyeing, whether you are going to need any auxiliary chemicals for the techniques you want to use, you need to think about what set of dyes you’re going to use to get you started.

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Now this is all a lot easier if you have an infinite budget and the cupboard space to match. You can just buy a bit of everything to try. Some suppliers offer ‘starter kits’ as well, with smaller amounts of a range of different dyes to get started. Many dyers will tell you though that all you need is a small select palette and you can mix the rest. So is it really worth investing in a big range of different dyes?

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