Hand-painting Roving - Gathering supplies and prepping roving
Hand-painting Roving - Steaming, Drying, Braiding

Hand-Painting Roving - Ready, Set, Paint...

This was originally published in 2010, when Brianna ran The Yarn Side. (Wow, I took awful photos compared to now. Nice to see ways in which we grow, I guess. Ha!)

We left off with the fiber all prepped and our supplies all gathered. We're readying ourselves for part two, where the real fun begins! And, no, I'm not being sarcastic. I really enjoy this next part. It may make me do a dance, not unlike the one that Tom Cruise does at the end of Tropic Thunder. Now that I've given away a trade secret of my own, let's get into what's next...

Check your supplies--are you forgetting something? Since I forgot to mention it in the previous post, you probably are. Saran wrap, or plastic cling wrap. Have you heard of the "facepalm"? Well, you'll want to acquire some cling wrap and lay it out on your work surface. Me, I like to lay out a 13 gallon trash bag that I've split down the side and bottom. This has a bit of static that makes it stick to the work surface, and helps the cling wrap to stay in place when I'm trying to roll it out. Overlap 2 sheets of cling wrap by 2 inches. Now we can begin. No, really. Nothing else has been forgotten...I think.

The hardware can be put aside for the time being, because it's time to gently lift the tied up roving from its bath. Wring it gently to get as much water as you can out, or if you're adventurous like me, gently lay it in your top-loading washer and run it through one spin cycle. We want the fiber damp, but not drenched. Once it's ready, lay it out in a pattern that you're interested in playing with--wind it into a lollipop shape, lay it out in one piece, or lay it in 12"-24" long sections like seen below:

Dyeing_step_4
What's that? Wow, you are a very keen observer. There IS liquid in the squeeze bottles. I made a mixture of 3-cups hot water (doesn't have to be boiling, just hot), then added 2 tablespoons of citric acid. Some people get fancy with precise measurements per cup/liter/gallon of water. That's too much math for me some nights, and I mean "nights" since I dye after work most times. So, 3 cups hot water, 2 tablespoons citric acid crystals, and stir like made to dissolve the crystals. I then use that very blue funnel to pour 1 cup acidic solution into each of the bottles.

The dye jars in front of each bottle isn't just to be neat-ish; they're sitting in front of the bottles I'm going to dump the dye powder into. Now, these particular dyes I'm not familiar with. They're new to me and I figured why not be unpredictable--both me, their dye crystals/powder, and the result. Live and learn. Speaking of living...

Before you open the dye jars, make sure you're in a well-ventilated area or that a dust-mask is secured over your nose/mouth. I failed at photographing that bit of necessity, but dye powder crystals are small and can be harmful in their dry state if taken in too often.


With my measuring spoons I measure out 1/2 tsp of dye powder into each bottle. I used 1/2 a tsp because I was hoping for a deep saturation of color. I swirl the liquid around until I can't see any powder sitting on top of the liquid any longer, and none is stuck to the insides of the bottle. I then fill the bottles with about 3-4 cups of water, or until it reaches the top of the widest section (see below). Twist the top on, make sure the red cap is on to keep the liquid inside and then shake it up a bit to make sure everything is distributed and any remaining powder is dissolved.

Dyeing_step_5
From left to right I had brown, a wine-ish red, and very dang blue. I was pretty much winging this and playing with colors I don't normally throw together. Sometimes magic can happen this way, you never know!

Dyeing_step_6a
Look! Perhaps not quite magic, but it's pretty neat. At this point I had about 3/5th's of the roving dyed. I wanted shorter sections of color, but ones that would repeat back onto themselves.

There really isn't a trick with applying the dye. You squeeze, dab, smoosh, as you can see below:

Dyeing_step_6b
Above I was squeezing the bottle that held the wine-ish red color. I like the squeeze bottle for achieving straighter, cleaner breaks of color. Add just a bit more and you can blend where the colors meet. It's pretty fabulous.

Dyeing_step_6c
Ahh, the squirt-and-smoosh method. Difficulty? I give it a 4.7. Out of 10, of course. It comes down to knowing your fiber. Is it superwash? If not, then you may not want to smoosh too much and some light dabbing is best. The fiber I was dyeing was a superwash-merino/nylon blend, so I smooshed that sucker good, trying to get the dye to penetrate and move around a bit.

Repeat until you run out of fiber. If you have a bit of water sitting around, you can use some paper towels or, my preference, microfiber cloths, to sop it up and get it away from your fiber.

Once you're done with one side, you're going to need to carefully flip it over to make sure the other side isn't showing any bare spots. Unless you want to work with white/cream as a color, you'll need to put in some effort to get as much covered as possible.

Me? I'm okay with some white peeking here and there as it softens the color some in drafting. You can't add white as a dye, unlike black, but in fiber you can sure leave some in to help blend into a lighter color.

Once your fiber is all covered, sop up any extra water puddling about and wrap the fiber with the saran wrap that you laid it out on, lengthwise, making certain to create a tight seal. Tap down the ends, of which there should be extra, From one end, start rolling or coiling the wrapped fiber. It will be your Burrito of Awesome! Your Burrito El Sheep-O! Your Burrito of Merino! Your--you get the picture.

The picture should look like this, or maybe a better version of this:

Dyeing_step_7
Next up, the heat setting and drying of the roving! It's almost as fun as the dyeing. Okay, that may be stretching things a bit.

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