Feb 5, 2009

Retro-Roving ~ A Christmas Card Inspired Dye Session

We are having a very nippy February up in the North woods of Wisconsin! It's a great time for cozy, indoor projects. Naturally, all of my indoor projects (and a great many of my outdoor ones for that matter) involve wool.

Dad gave out the best, old holiday cards this past Christmas. He found them in a box in the basement. Retro-cards are great fun and this one was especially beautiful because of that wonderful, glowing blue effect that was given to the snow. Illustrations with blue-tinted snow somehow always take me back to Winter childhood adventures of sledding, building snow houses and other assorted jubilant activities that accompany the sparkly white fluff of Winter. So, last weekend the sparkly white fluff of wool became my indoor Winter playground.

I greatly value Deb Menz's work with color/dying as it relates to fiber/hand spinning. Her book, Color in Spinning is incredibly inspiring and a super resource from which to embark on one's own dying adventures. I have mixed up all of her recommended 1% dye stock solutions and enjoy experimenting with formulas and recording them in my personal dye notebook.

I selected 4 colors on Dad's retro Christmas card and did my best to recreate them in the dye cups. Using stencil brushes I dabbed and dotted these dye solutions onto a long, 2 oz roving of soft, white wool.

Warning: Dying wool is an addiction in itself. It all starts innocently enough with koolaid, white vinegar, water and wool on the kitchen stove top. Voila, those first brilliantly bright, fruit-scented fibers lead you deeper into this new-found adventure. Soon you're totally "immersed" in the process. Time to get more "scientific"...wash and colorfast dyes, the metric system, beakers and gram scales...

The picture at the top of this post shows the roving, the Christmas card and my little microwave-safe steamer. I have a microwave in the studio just for wool dying. (I ran across it at a thrift store and it is an absolute luxury!) Before obtaining this ginormous, old microwave I did all the heat setting, steaming of the painted rovings and simmering of the immersion-dyed wools, outdoors on a camp stove. So there I'd be, out in the bitter cold, stirring a large cauldron of billowing steam while standing in the snow...that will get the neighbors talking. Now I can hide away in my secret dye lab any time of the day or night, rain or shine and mmmmmmmwwwwhhhaoahahahah! Is there no end to the madness? Other great thrift store finds for wool dying: electric rice steamers and old crock pots! Once they become tools of the fiber frenzied they can never be used for food again.


1 comment:

Sara said...

fabulous job on color matching! I agree with you- "vintage" stuff is such a wonderful example to follow from. I try to carry my camera when I'm out and about to snap pictures of cool color combinations for my scrapbooking.