This is a yarn story I have been wanting to tell you since I started the series! It's a bit of a different kettle of fish, as it's mostly about (a) dyeing and (b) enjoying unexpected results.
The yarn you see here started out as natural white Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) Wool and Alpaca Top -- undyed, as supplied by Ashland Bay Trading (a wholesale supplier to wool shops). It is lovely and yummy, with the nice soft BFL wool and dreamy smooth alpaca fiber.
I took a hank of the undyed top to a dye workshop to play with. I stepped up to this dye workshop with a series of expectations -- I know, that meant it was bound to work out as a surprise from the get-go! We were hand-painting roving using acid dyes -- Cushings and Jacquards.
I didn't want my colors to bleed into each other too closely, and I wanted fairly quick color changes. My colors were black, mahogany, and gold. I wet my roving with synthrapol-laced warm water, but squeezed it out as dry as I could, to more closely control the bleeding of colors into one another.
That worked out okay.
Because I wanted quick color changes, I put two inch bands of color along my roving -- two inches of black, two of gold, two of mahogany. Fairly randomly, but none longer.
We steam set the color into our roving, and I let it cook further on my dashboard on the trip home (this was a summer spinning retreat...though I am writing this during the long, cold winter of '09).
Before I came to spinning this skein, I spun up some of the undyed BFL/Alpaca top. That was an exercise in long-draw spinning, which was quite exciting. The yarn turned out nicely, not as close to machine-perfect as my default supported-draw spinning, but a fairly regular yarn with a nice amount of twist for knitting, crochet, or weaving. The yarn has a gorgeous shine to it. I call it Pure Snow though it would look lovely dyed, be the color solid, semi-solid, or hand-painted.
Given how well Pure Snow turned out, I developed a supported long draw spinning style to return to my regular consistency while maintaining airiness in the yarn. Night Deer was spun with that in mind, with a moderate twist to show off the sheen of the fibers well.
But as I spun it ... the black disappeared! And the colors melded into new combinations ... not the clear gold and mahogany at all. Green was showing up -- where did that come from? It was a.total.surprise!
In reviewing what I did, I realized something. I painted two inch lengths of color. But the staple length of this luscious blend was actually 5 to 6 inches. Oooooh! light bulb moment! I succeeded in painting each fiber several different colors -- creating a palette that couldn't help but blend colors into new combinations as I spun.
Being me, I then promptly scoured the online dye forums -- dyehappy on Yahoo, Love to Dye and Colour By Hand on Ravelry to see if anyone considered staple length when dyeing fibers. Zilch. I even posted an inquiry -- there wasn't much interest (no responder said they knew this already, and no-one said "wow! what a revelation!")
I've no idea if this is a really clever observation, or if I was a very foolish dyer originally. It's definitely something to consider -- no matter how you plan your dye lengths, when space-dyeing wool top, you will be putting two colors on at least some of the fibers. So a clean color break isn't entirely possibly, no matter how much control you have over the drafting.
Color is a fascinating topic. You may also be interested in these related posts:
How do you use Cushings dyes?
How can I match up color blocks when spinning space-dyed roving?
Do you ply space-dyed roving?
How can I preserve color in a 2-ply?
How can I preserve color in my space-dyed roving?
I am teaching several yarn dyeing classes this summer at Heels Over Toes, the CSMSA 2009 Conference in June in Tacoma -- you needn't knit on a sock machine to attend!
posted 5 March 2009 at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/