Fiber DOES Matter!

OK, the pictures here aren't the best because the yarn & fiber involved are still soaking wet & the light wasn't right--but I had to write this blog post now, because I was blown away by what happened with my dyes this afternoon!

I am working with some new dyes (I found a source of Canadian-made dyes, which allows me to support a local business AND save on shipping & customs charges!), so I am still feeling out the right concentrations, etc. I'm sure that's part of what happened today. But what I want to show you is the huge difference that the type of fiber makes to the dyeing process.

Today I did several batches of oven dyeing. I often put several different yarns or fibers in one pan, and do them all in the same colourway, pouring on the same dyes. I don't necessarily get the exact same amount of each dye on each fiber base, but they all have the same colours on them. However, because different fibers take dye differently, the resulting yarns aren't identical. Normally, they're closely related--but today I had some that weren't!

First, the less dramatic illustration:

The top fiber is superwash merino/silk, the middle yarn is superwash merino laceweight (Wasaga), and the bottom fiber is Grey Swalesdale. In general, superwash fibers take more dye, and take it more rapidly, so I expected the colours to be more intense on the superwash bases. I was surprised at how dark the yarn got in this case, though!

The other thing that shows up a bit in this picture is that the colours on the Swalesdale are actually different than the colours on the superwash bases. But if you really want to see different, you should see what came out of the other pan:


I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it myself! Those three fibers/yarns were all in the SAME pan with the SAME colours poured on them! The top fiber is Shetland wool, the middle yarn is a Soy/Alpaca blend, and the bottom yarn is superwash merino/cashmere/nylon.

In this set of dyeing, I was creating colours by blending turquoise with other colours (yellow, scarlet, etc.). What seems to have happened is that the reds, yellows, etc. bonded with the fiber faster than the blues. The Shetland, being untreated, wasn't able to take too much dye, so by the time the blue was ready to strike, it was fully saturated and couldn't take more colour--resulting in those pinks & yellows. The alpaca/soy blend is more subdued because both of those fibers take dye differently than wool (originally I was under the impression that soy didn't take acid dye at all, but someone recently pointed out to me that soy IS a protein fiber as well as a plant fiber!). And that superwash blend--well, remember what I said before about superwash? Supersaturated!

I promise to return with better pictures of these yarns & fibers when they're dry, so you can really see them all side-by-side and compare them. And of coure, most or all of them will be available in the shop soon! (the Swalesdale will be part of a new long wool sampler!)