Live to Dye Another Day!

#50 Shades of Colour - No.6


I like to buy my fleece as fresh from shearing as possible and so it all needs to be completely processed and made ready afterwards for further use in my studio. This involves skirting (sorting through it to pull out any unusable, soiled or damaged fibre), washing/dyeing, carding and spinning.  You can see some of this in my latest YouTube video, just click here.

I thoroughly enjoy all of these processes and if I had the opportunity, I would even get involved with actually shearing the alpaca!!! However, one of the processes that always fills me with childlike excitement is when I am able to set aside a whole day in my studio for dyeing the fleece!

White alpaca fibre Washing Alpaca Fibre/Fleece 

I can only liken it to feeling that I used to get when I walked in to a newly discovered shoe shop, full of brightly coloured, high-heeled 'gorgeousness', each inviting me to try them on and to indulge in girly pleasure! I say, 'used to' because my love of yarn has since superseded those more basic and instinctive urges to own a wide assortment of shoe boxes!

So...... last week I set aside not one, but two whole days to dye two full fleeces and needless to say I had a lot of fun doing it!

 Natural fleece / fibre / fiber in slow cooker Fleece with Turmeric

Using a slow cooker, (that I bought specifically for the purpose of using it only for dyes), as well as lots of food colouring, culinary spices  and some acid dyes, I produced an array of rainbow shades that had my mouth watering at the mere thought of their spinning and felting potential.

I also experimented with a selection of dried herbs and spices from my pantry, the most successful of which was Turmeric and a mixed selection of Jamaican curry spices that I had purchased in a bustling market place on a previous trip over there.

 Shades of turmeric

I loved the variety of yellows and orange shades produced by the herbs and spices on the beautifully soft alpaca and assortment of other fibres. It is so fascinating to see which dyes are more suited to and absorb more fully with which fibres.


Another lovely bit of 'alchemy' occurred when I used black and violet food colourings and watched them 'split' into their base components within the dye pot. Who would have thought that a seemingly jet black dye contained such a lively mix of shades of turquoise, pinks and purples! 'Splitting' is one of the many joys of working with food colouring and paste-dyes as you often get some unexpected, but still very pleasant results.

'One Pot Dying' is another technique that works particularly well in a crock-pot, where complimentary shades of dry dye powder are sprinkled on to different areas of the fibres whilst soaking in the pot. This technique is always fun and produces some amazing results.  The above image shows the end results of this method using yellow, red and turquoise dye powders on Texel fleece. I love it!!!

I am really looking forward to spinning up this varied selection of vibrant hues. I will keep you posted of what becomes of it all.


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