Not long ago I posted about Gretchen’s Wool Mill. I left a fleece with her to be washed while down there learning to make cheese a few weeks back, and this week Darling and I drove down to pick it up. I didn’t have Gretchen process it, but she did wash it and then let it air dry so that it’s nice and clean and ready for me to card.
Bits of wool dyed using liquid soap colorants.
Depending on my mood, sometimes I color the wool first, or sometimes I’ll card it, then color it. Still other times I’ll card it, spin it, then color it once it’s yarn. All three methods work and you get different results and looks with each. No two batches are ever the same…at least not when I do it. I tend not to be overly scientific with the whole process, preferring to wait and see how each batch turns out.
No matter the stage I choose to dye my wool, I always dye using the same method. I fill a roaster or crock pot half full with luke warm water and add either vinegar or citric acid. These work as a mordant and help hold the color in the wool so that it won’t bleed out later. Vinegar tends to leave your house smelling like you’ve just dyed Easter Eggs, so I prefer putting a couple tablespoons of citric acid in the water instead.
Once my citric is dissolved, I add my wool, pushing it down into the water until it’s completely submerged. I then turn the heat up to approx 150-200 degrees. The reason I start with luke warm and not hot right away is because the slow rise will prevent the wool from felting. I also add my color at this point. When I color wool, it’s usually with a liquid soap colorant which gives me bright, vibrant colors. You can also use natural plant dyes or even koolaide! No mordant is required with the koolaide as it has citric acid already in the package.
Leave the wool in the dye water until it’s soaked up all the color…or if you’re like me and tend to put too much color in, an hour is more than enough time. Remove your wool and allow it to air dry.
The wool pictured here is from Brigget’s ewe, Hulda. It’s not been dyed and is called ‘naturally colored’.
Locks of wool are fed into my drum carder. The drum carder is actually two drums; the smaller one has big, nasty teeth that pulls the fiber (in this case, wool) in towards the larger drum. The large drum has finer teeth and moves much quicker than the small drum. As the fiber transfers onto the larger drum, it does so in thin layers which then make it easier to begin the spinning process. When the large drum is full of wool, I pull it off and have a wool batt.
Wool batt like the one Darling wore as a wig at the market last month.
Spinning wheel bobbin
Once in batting, the wool can be used for quilting, felting or spinning. To spin, I pull narrow strips off, called roving, and feed it into my spinning wheel where it’s spun not into gold, but yarn. I wish I could spin it into gold…
Lime green skein of yarn
Needle felted hand bag
The wool I picked up from Gretchen was black, so no coloring. However, that lovely silver of Hulda’s colors nicely and was used in the handbag pictured above.
You don’t need to have your own sheep to enjoy coloring and working with wool. Wool is available direct from farms or on ebay. Or you can find your local yarn shop, many of which also carry spinning and other wool craft supplies. My favorite yarn shop is Northwest Handspun Yarns, where you’ll find everything you’ll ever need to keep your habit happy!
Yarns from Northwest Handspun
Hope you enjoyed processing wool with me today. If you’d like to learn more about Gretchen’s services, visit her website at http://www.gretchenswoolmill.com/
Read Full Post »