Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dye first, ply second.

My neighbors had a short-lived fancy in alpaca breeding with no use for the fiber. They gifted me with several bags of outstanding fleeces. At one point, I had over 10 pounds of black alpaca and wasn't sure what to do with it all. Lucky for me, a good friend of mine is a fiber processor. She created an unusual spinning cloud of black alpaca, silk, and wool (Jacob's sheep).

The combination of fibers were a little unusual and the cloud was chunkier than I normally like, so I wasn't sure what I was getting into, but once I started spinning...WHOA! It turned into a soft, silky, tweedy, gorgeous yarn.

Although the blend was primarily composed of black alpaca, I wondered about overdying it. I'm not a big fan of painted yarns, because they can sometimes be too "stripey." Handspun yarn from painted roving provides a softer look; batts disperse the color throughout the yarn even more. However, I like to dye using a technique I call "ply dye." First, you spin singles and skein them.

Then you dye the singles. I dyed these skeins each a single color (one purple and the other green), but you can use multiple colors or paint the skeins.

After dyeing and drying, ply the singles.
And viola! Soft, highlights of color throughout the skein of handspun yarn. Compare the swatches below. The dyed swatch on the left and the undyed, natural yarn on the right.

I have three skeins of "ply dye" ready to go so, I'm knitting up a scarf using an easy, peasy dropped stitch pattern.
I'm sure I didn't invent this technique, but I don't know anyone else that uses it. Perhaps because it is time-consuming as you have to skein, dye, and then wind the singles into balls for plying. I think it's worth it!

And, I have over five pounds of this cloud to spin up, so I will probably be blogging about it again and again and again...

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