Sunday, June 26, 2011

Make-do solar dyeing and other things.

I know, I've been absolutely terrible at keeping up my blog. My husband works, and I do everything else. Honestly, I'm not very good at keeping up with the everything else.

This spring was very busy. I had a booth at Stitches South, which was a lot of fun! I also went to the Carolina Fiber Fest in Raleigh, NC. We had a great time there too, and so many nice people said we should move to Raleigh.

I have to admit that Raleigh is a very lovely place, but if everyone moves there, it's going to end up like Atlanta - too much traffic and bad air. (Actually, there's a lot I like about living in the Atlanta area, but the traffic isn't one of them!)

Anyway, if you follow me on Facebook, you've read that I've been experimenting with solar dyeing. Down here in the swampy feeling South, it's been too darn hot to want to run the oven or stovetop to heat set fiber. In fact, I've been a little slack about dyeing, but I've got to get back into gear as I've got the Friends and Fiberworks Summer Retreat coming up, and I don't want to be there and run out of yarn!

I know some other indie dyers who do solar dyeing, and I thought I should give it a try. First of all, it's great for the environment. I'm not burning natural gas (stove top) or coal (oven) to get my heat. It doesn't heat up the house any extra. Finally, it's free!

Since I'm only experimenting, I've not gone out and bought or built a solar oven. We had a black bin that hadn't been used since our basement flooded in the Big Rain of September, 2009, so I cleaned out the inside to use for yarn.

Much of what I've read on solar dyeing is using black trash bags and immersion dyeing. I do mostly handpainting, so I rolled up my yarn or fiber like I usually do, and put it into the bin. My first try was some Valhalla and Silk & Merino yarn. The Valhalla, a blend of 75% wool and 25% nylon seemed to do better than the Silk & Merino did. The Silk & Merino has 51% silk. I think next time it needs longer in the sun. I've also tried some of the Alpaca Lace, and it seemed to do just fine.

What you see in the bin this time is my first fullsized (4 ounce) merino roving. (I have to check to see if it's top. I just plain can't remember.) I got a late start yesterday dyeing, so while one or two made it into the bin before 2 pm, the rest didn't. No one told me just how long it takes to paint a top, especially when you discover that your table is really too short to do it. I did a few as rainbow progressions and the rest were randomly painted, which was much quicker. I put them all back outside this morning.

The black bin absorbs the sunlight, and I move the bin throughout the day. I tried using it with the lid, but it doesn't get hot enough inside. What I discovered is that I need to keep the open top with the yarn or roving pointed at the sun to keep it hot enough. It will get hot enough that I can actually see the water bubbling inside the plastic.

This is only the third time I've tried it, but I think I'm going to love it. It won't work on everything. I certainly won't fill it up with silk hankies and aim them at the sun all day! But for some of the wools and blends, so far it seems to work well. I plan to do more research to see if I can improve my technique. Who knows, that solar oven may be in my future. Before you know it, I'll be making gluten-free bread in my second solar oven, the one dedicated to food only.

Have a great weekend!