Stovetop dyeing

Over time I’ve spun through most of my colorful fiber and have mainly natural colors left.  Generally, I love spinning fibers in their original color.  So many bobbins of gray or cream or brown I’ve filled!  But I do like some color periodically, like all this red, so I’ve made a plan to dye a few lengths each day during the remainder of vacation to have interesting colors to spin.

Above are two of my previous dyeing efforts this week, in the pots and after drying.  The bright chartreuse is a definite change of pace for me!

Generally I dye in 4 to 8 oz. lengths as I can easily fit 4 oz. on a bobbin and 8 oz. usually gives me enough yarn for a variety of knitting choices.

Today I dyed some humbug BFL top. BFL stands for Blue Faced Leicester, a sheep breed that has wonderful wool for spinning, and humbug is a striped mixture of white and brown wool. Top is the fiber preparation method – it has been processed into long lengths of generally straight/parallel fibers.

Stovetop dyeing is so simple. Just soaking the top in cold water, adding powdered dye and vinegar, and then simmering on the stove until all of the dye is absorbed.  I use acid dyes from Dharma Trading, both their house dyes and the Jacquard brand. The vinegar and the heat set the dyes so they don’t wash out.

Having the stove fan on high while it simmers helps keep the vinegar fumes from bothering us.  I also have dedicated pots and glass dishes for dyeing so I don’t mix dye with food prep.  Sometimes I use an old slow cooker that we no longer use for food – it works just as well, and I can put it outside or downstairs to cut the vinegar smell further.

Today’s finished fiber out of the pot and drying in the shower- it will lighten slightly and fluff up when it is fully dry, but I was going for dark jewel tones so I’m pleased with it:


The process works just as well with wool yarn, so when I have bland or ugly yarn, I can over-dye it using the same methods.

Meanwhile, surrounded by all this color, what am I spinning?  This:


As the holiday winds down, I’ve been puttering about, craft-wise.  Mostly with yarn and fiber.

I spun up some pink and brown BFL, and then dyed some humbug BFL to make a second ply.  For a third, I used up a bobbin of brown and black alpaca that I spun quite some time ago from a batt I carded.

I ended up with about 240 yards of worsted weight 3 ply.

The brown alpaca ran out first, so to use up the rest of the bobbins, I mixed in random left overs from other spins, first some gold/brown, and then some pink silk/wool.

Note the classy toilet paper tubes – they fit over the yarn winder and are perfect for clearing bobbins for reuse.   A bit bumpy when rolling during plying, but not too bad.

It seemed very over-plied when it first came off the wheel, but the soak evened it out.


Since I was running out of colorful fibers, I dyed some more today in 4 oz. batches.

They’ll need a day or two to dry out, and then ready for new year spinning.

I also gave the wheel a coat of Danish oil as the wood seemed thirsty to me.  It was drying outside until the rains started up again, so it is finishing inside.  The brand I bought is low fumes and food safe, and I could tell the wheel was grateful for the attention!


Other than that, I’ve gotten a bit of knitting done, but haven’t touched the sewing machine.  The craft room needs some clearing out so I can free up work space.