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I am working on Immersion dyeing right now and was having trouble getting even dyeing with my colors. So I spoke with Jesse Cushing at Cushing Dyes. He looked at some samples of my dyeing that I sent him. We decided that I might try adding more water to my pot (and therefore more vinegar) and to proke and probe more to get the dye to all the fibers. My colors are coming out much better and now the next problem. I am starting out with lukewarm water (on the cool side of lukewarm) and room temperature dyestock. I had soaked my Polwarth fiber overnite (Ivory dish soap and fairly warm water) Took the fiber out of the presoak, laid it carefully in my colander,did not squeeze it, then put it in my dyepot. I gently pressed it down and moved it around carefully to get the dye to all the fiber. Then I turned on the heat to about 315 degrees. As the temp of the water reached about 170, I turned the heat down to 200. Ilet it there for 45 minutes and pulled the plug. The dye was totally exhausted.  It was noon time. I let the lid on and came back at 11 that night. Gave it a rinse and laid it out to dry pretty dripping wet. The first batch was very compressed almost felted. The second batch is not as bad. Still very cobwebby in appearance. Should you stretch the roving out a tiny bit before putting it in the presoak? How do you get nice fluffy easier to draft roving out of the dyepot? According to the Book Of Wool, Polwarth is 75% Merino and 25% Lincoln. I have read Merino felts very easily. How does Merino perform when hand painting and wraping in plastic, then steaming? Has anyone had prolems with that? Christina have you ever had problems with Merino felting? How do you get that beautiful soft looking fiber? Thanks everyone.

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Elaine, It sounds like your process is pretty good.  I would recommend having your dye pot/water hot before putting in the wool... I think allowing it to go through the heating process causes more felting than adding it to an already.  I also use very hot tap water to soak my fiber before dyeing... Also, be sure that your dye solution is fairly constant through the dye pot before adding the fiber.  This method causes a more kettle dyed effect, I think. Also, I gently squeeze out excess water from the fiber before adding it to the dye pot.

I've always had a little bit of felting, but not too much.

Elaine,  I have to agree with Susan, I soak my wools in very hot tap water while I prepare the dye bath.  I have done acid dyes using several different methodology.  I always prewash my wools and then leave in hot tap water while preparing the dyebath or dye batches.  If needed, I will add hot water to the wool to keep it up to temperature.

My different methods have been:

1) I have put my wool into a dye bath of thoroughly stirred dye, water and vinegar and gently stirred the wool to ensure a good color saturation

2) I have placed my wool into a dye bath of not so thoroughly stirred dye, water and vinegar and very little stirring once submerged to achieve a more "hand dyed" look.  (the acid dye was first thoroughly stirred with a small amount of hot water and the correct amount of vinegar, and on one occasion, I just poured the left over dye solutions from two different colors and added them to my pecan shell dye, after adding the wool to the pecan shell dye.  this really turned out something very unique.  I plan on using this lace for a nice curtain in my kitchen.  It may just be a long valance as I am pretty sure I can never duplicate THAT color.

3) I have sprayed or directly applied a strong solution of water, dye and vinegar in a painting method.  I use the new Press 'N Seal plastic wrap, it achieves a wonderful almost water proof package, and I make a "cinnamon roll" after rolling the wool into the plastic.  Then I steam the different batches of wool for 1/2 hour or longer at a good bubbly simmer.

4) I have used my solar cooker and canning jars (now clearly marked and kept seperate from anything in my kitchen) in smaller batches of dyeing.  some I wrapped in the above mentioned plastic wrap, some I place directly into the jars.


By keeping my wools, some blended with nylon, some with silk, some 100% wool and 100% merino in very warm/hot tap water; and with one exception on some very "dense" unidentified bulky wool I have not had any felting.  These are all spun by someone other than myself, so I am unsure whether this will help you or not.  I've got more KP sock blanks and KP Peruvian Highland Bulky I hope to be able to dye some later, possibly around Easter.  Good luck and just keep experimenting. 

One dyer I have been exchanging PM on Ravelry has done her batches in a very scientific manner, using precise measurements and mini skeins.  Perhaps that methodology would benefit you even using smaller amounts of roving until you perfect your technique.  I have never achieved the exact color I was hoping for, but I have so far just been having fun.  I think now that I have played for a couple of years and several different methods, I will try to keep notes and use mini skeins when trying to achieve a specific color.  (BTW, I actually did achieve a near match this summer when I ran out of some of my own hand dyed merino.  The 2nd batch was such a close match that my DH could not tell the difference between the two wools once I knit with them.  He was impressed, and as a photographer with an excellent eye for detail and color, that is saying something.)


Again, have fun and good luck!

Just a couple of tidbits that might help you out.

1)  For 4oz of loose fiber (not roving or yarn) I use 2 gallons of water.

2)  When moving the wool around I do not stir, as that type of agitation can assist the felting process.  Instead, I use a tool (wooden spoon) to lift the wool and flip it over, then gently push it down in the water.

3) Moving wool between waters of extremely different temperatures assists felting.

And, I agree with Ramona.  The best thing for you to do may just be to make mini experiments to find out what works best for you! =)

Hi Elaine -

I am so sorry you've been having trouble! I'm sure we've all gone through it once or twice. I do agree the methods the gals have already listed and I haven't had problems with merino felting but it does get compressed after dyeing. If you're going to try handpainting, definitely wrap it up in saran wrap then into a cinnamon bun. I then drop it into a ziploc bag for extra protection against the heat (use some waste yarn to lightly tie the top of the baggie). After about 30 mins of steaming, remove from the steam pot and let it cool completely in the baggie.

For rinsing the yarn, I fill a sink with hot hot water (about 120 degrees F) and slowly place the wool in. I don't handle the wool too much - just enough to move the water through it. Then I take the wool out, drain the sink, fill the sink back up for a final rinse. Now, you can squeeze the excess water out OR - if it's in roving form - hang the roving soaking wet on a hanger (loop it a few times in an S-shape so the weight isn't all in one spot) and let it drip dry. Once you've got it mostly dry, fluff it out a bit sideways, then let it dry completely. After it's all dry continue fluffing it out sideways and draft it out a bit to loosen up the parts that get compacted.

I hope this helps you a little bit. I'm not well versed in immersion dyeing (even loose fibers I steam in a baggie with the dye in it!) so I'm learning too.  Good luck and let me know if you need further clarification! :)

Thank you ladies for all the helpful tips that you have shared. I'll be dyeing another batch over the next few days and I'll let you know how it goes. I'm sure it's just a matter of learning just how much movement the fiber will tolerate. I got another call from Jesse Cushing. He said to also try just heating the pot to 170 degrees for Merino. It's just so reassuring to have you gals helping me out like this. Sharing your experiences is certainly priceless, thanks so much.

Elaine, Here is a picture of when I was mordanting and natural dyeing with Queen Anne's Lace this past summer.  I too was afraid of felting my combed top, so after I tied the top in at least 4 places with figure 8 ties, I use some old shower curtain rings to loop them together, making lifting them out of the mordant and then dye pot much easier. 

Wow, Wendy, thanks for the pic. That sure looks like it would make things easier. How much fiber was each ring holding? Did everything stay in tact that way? What a super idea.

I had two 100grams of fiber here.  I wrapped each one individually, so two rings for one top.  And yes, it all stayed in a nice neat order.  I cannot take credit for the idea though, I read it somewhere this summer - maybe ravelry.  I did a great deal of reading this summer on fibers, tons of it there.  Here is one of them in the QAL's dyebath.

And here is the 2nd one being handpainted by my DD.  I was going to write a blog on this whole big project, but got caught up in other all fibery things. I hope to do one sometime in the near future. 

Great pics... thanks for all the good ideas. I have a bunch of forsythia blooming now... I'm tempted to cut some it and have a dye day. Maybe next week.

Thanks Susan.  If you do decide to dye with the Forsythia, and you have more than one kind of mordant, mordant your wool first in the various types of mordants you want to use (alum & C-o-T, chrome, tin, iron, copper) rinse and dry them, then you can stick all these differently mordanted fibers into one dyepot and get varied results.  I'm curious to see what you'll get. 

The only mordant I have on hand is alum... so not sure what I'll do... where can I get the other mordants?

If you're using alum, (not the cooking kind of alum either) are you using Cream of Tartar with it as well?  I say not the cooking kind of alum because the alum that is used in the garden is better. 

You can get other mordants here. I know there are other places, I thought Dharma was one, but I'm not finding the sites I thought I had faved over the summer.  Wild colours has some helpful info, Wildly, wonderful, wearables also has some info, and then there is Village Spinning & Weaving.  If I can find what I was really looking for, I'll post it later. 


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