In which Katie dyes fiber.

Fiber is a funny animal and requires special handling. Don’t treat it like yarn or it will come back to haunt you.

 1.) Measure out 4 ounces of roving. I do this by gently pulling fiber off the large bump, and wrapping it from hand to elbow 5-7 times. Then I gently twist and tuck this “skein” onto itself and weigh it. Adjust as necessary and pull apart. Don’t use a death grip when you pull or you’ll break the individual fibers.

2.) Wind a ridiculously small skein. There should be at least 4 “strands” of roving around the entire skein. I find that anything less than 3 strands causes to roving to fall apart under the weight of water when you remove it from it’s pre-soak. The skein pictured has 6 strands, and was hand skeined on my swift. You can see the small swift setting here:

3.) Secure the ends. Snip a longish piece of yarn for your tie. Wrap it a couple inches from one end and figure eight tie it. Secure the second end. Tie your figure 8 wraps fairly tightly – much more tightly than for yarn. The roving compressed dramatically when wet and loose ties won’t contain it. It will allow too much movement and your roving will shred during processing even if you’re careful.

 4.) Pre-wet. Fill your sink or bucket. Use your hand to swirl in a generous amount of soap, but don’t create bubbles. Roving is not as processed as yarn, so be prepared to see a bit more dirt and lanolin in your water.

Place the roving on top of the water, and using both hands press the mass entirely to the bottom and hold for 5-10 seconds or until air bubbles stop rising from the surface. Repeat until the roving is wet, try to do this as little as possible.

After the roving is completely wet, drain the water from the bottom. This is the gentlest way to remove the bulk of the water.

5.) Pick up an individual skein by a tie and hang it until the excess water has drained. I park mine over my sink faucet while I mix colors.


6.) Dye. There are several ways you can dye the fiber. You’ll use more dye liquor with roving than with yarn. The super-wash makes it very sticky and the dye tends to take unevenly. I get around this in two ways:

 1.) I mix acid into the dye solution, but apply the dye while the skein is in a roasting pan. Don’t bunch the skein up too much or dye won’t penetrate the layers. Flip and continue dyeing. If you see a large amount of watery dye build up, drain the pan. The more  fiber you have in the pan the less draining you will do. Be aware that draining can cause color mixing and use caution. Stick the roasting pan into a warm oven and exhaust for 30 minutes.

2.) Do not mix acid into your dye liquor. Apply the dye like you would for a normal skein of yarn to the top side of the roving. Flip. Pour a mixture of acid and water over the undyed part of the skein and press through. Continue applying dye to this side of the skein. Press out excess water, wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to a warm oven.

7.) Hang to dry and only use a gentle fan. My box fans set to high will shred the roving as it dries. I hang my skeins on folding drying rack with opened paperclips and the figure 8 ties. This works the best of anything I’ve tried and reduces drying time. I do rotate the skeins to help even out the water accumulation.

 General things to keep in mind:

* Leave space between colors. Dye wicks considerably more on roving than yarn. Also, colors mix a lot while spinning. I leave a 1″ space between the colors when dyeing. A lot of this space will be eliminated by the time the roving finished exhausting.

* Handle the roving as little as possible. When you pull it from it’s water bath, use your hands and not gloves. Rubber gloves tend to shred the roving.


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