Dyeing Process

I've had a few how-to questions about my dyeing process, so I thought I would try to document it today. It's neither very scientific nor very exciting, but here it goes!

First, the building blocks. For today's example, I photographed some merino top, but the process works about the same with yarns, too. I start with:
8 ounces of combed merino top, as it comes from my supplier. Sometimes I subdivide into 4 oz. lots to dye separately, but usually I dye 8 oz. at once.

My dye stocks. I use acid dyes (there are several different brands out there. Right now I'm using both Jacquard & Country Classics). I pre-mix the powder with water in those bottles, so it's ready to go when I am. Quantities depend on the dye and the colour you want--but 1 tsp of powder per bottle for the Jacquards, and maybe closer to 2 for the Country Classics. (their label recommends a higher concentration, but I don't find it necessary--in fact, I think that's too much.)

Next, the fiber prep. The wool soaks in my laundry sink with a few tablespoons of white vinegar and a lot of water. This picture has the 8 oz. plus a few skeins of yarn, too. Soaking time varies a lot--some fibers need longer than others to get thoroughly wet. One hour is good for most. After that, I pull what I want out, wring out most of the excess water (gently!), and place it in my crockpot. I douse it with a bit more white vinegar:

Now the fun part--color! So, I have premixed stocks in several shades of primary colours, plus a few more that I find hard to recreate by mixing. Sometimes I use these colours as they are, and sometimes I mix. Today's fiber was destined to be several shades of purple, so I mixed some of my different reds and blues in cups:

Sometimes I use that turkey baster to apply just a bit of dye, but most of the time I just pour it on. As I said, I'm very nonscientific. I keep track of what colours & blends I use to create a specific colourway, but not how much of each or where I paint them--so each time I dye, it's a one-of-a-kind creation. Today I poured my different purples on in splotches:
and then gently pressed the dye into the wool by hand (otherwise it puddles at the bottom of the pot). I do this in layers in the pot, until all the wool is in and covered:

Then the crockpot gets turned on to high, and it cooks for typically 1-3 hours. After that, I turn it off and let it cool completely in the pot before putting in back into that vinegar water for a rinse.

I'm sure you're curious about what this one looked like when it was done. So am I! It's in the cooling phase now, so I won't have photos for you until it's rinsed and dry--but I promise I'll put them up here!