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Cherry bomb

I wanted to make something for myself as the first project from the solar yarn cooker. So, time to experiment with painted roving. My goal has always been to get solid, even color, so this multicolored thing is a bit foreign to me, but I like the way other people’s rovings and yarn look.

First, though, I needed to investigate why it is that I had so much trouble with the previous dyeing experiment. I picked up an aquarium pH test kit. It doesn’t go quite as low as I’d like, but it’s a cheap way to get a quick and moderately accurate test. I filled my dyepot two-thirds of the way with water, then added the amount of acid that I’d used in the dyebath.

pH test

Adding that much citric acid reduced the pH… to neutral. Ooops! I live in central Pennsylvania, and the bedrock is all limestone. The water then is hard and heavily buffered. I didn’t think much about this, and just followed the recipe that suggested a tablespoon of citric acid per pound of wool. Nope. It turns out I need about 4 times that per dyepot (or 180 mL of 1% citric acid stock solution) to get the pH below 6. I put the roving from before into an acid bath with no dye and simmered them for a while. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to do a whole lot to set the dye. I rinsed many more times, and I think I might finally have gotten them to behave.

Back to the painted roving…

I soaked the roving in hot water and a smidge of Synthrapol for a few hours to wet it thoroughly, then I soaked it for half an hour or so in acid. My mental image was sort of “black cherry”, with red shading through dark red into black. I thought I could achieve this by painting some parts red, then mixing in progressively more black dye.

I spread the roving out on a sheet of plastic wrap. I used the really good expensive kind, which of course stuck to itself when caught by the wind, but I eventually got it all spread out.

Painted roving 1

After putting on the straight red and the mixed black and red, it, er, looked just like dried blood. Not the color I was going for, and most unattractive. (Do vampires knit? A knitting vampire might like it.) I’m not sure you can tell in the photo, but trust me, it was ugly.

Painted roving 2

I dumped some more red on to compensate. I also wasn’t sure how much the dye would spread, never having tried this before, so I wanted to make sure to have enough. It sure didn’t look promising by the time I was done! Speckly, and still kind of bloody-colored, but at least with less white showing.

Painted roving 3

I rolled it up in the super-sticky plastic wrap, a definite challenge to someone wearing rubber gloves and working outdoors on a breezy day.

Painted roving 4

I put the packaged roving into another plastic bag to cut down on leaking, and put the whole thing in the handy-dandy solar yarn cooker. I left it in there for two afternoons, since I had plenty of time and was hoping to get something to come out right after the never-ending rinsing of the previous yarn.

I don’t have any dry pictures yet, but as you can see from the still-wet roving it came out very red, and not very dark. There’s very little white showing, and very little dark red. And no blood-color at all! It’s more of a cherry bomb than a black cherry, but I suppose that fits the fireworks season. The dye took very well, and little rinsing was needed before the water ran clear. I think I got the acid figured out, and the solar thingie apparently got hot enough.

Painted roving 5

The finished roving is not as variegated as I’d hoped, but there will be an interesting somewhat variegated yarn with occasional flecks of white. I should have trusted my first plan and kept the ugly-looking dyebath. I think the black dye looks wonky when mixed, but turns into a very nice black once it’s set. I don’t have a photo yet of the dry wool as I had company all evening and never got a chance to photograph it.

I did spend more time spinning while I entertained, though. I plied up the first batch of the Gotland wool. It’s hanging to dry now, and looks very good so far. I spun a bit of the next bobbin, but still have quite a ways to go. With the very nice weather, it’s been a pleasure to be able to sit outside and spin. I get fidgetty if I don’t have anything to do with my hands, so spinning and knitting and all those sorts of things keep me out of a great deal of trouble, I think.

1 Comment on “Cherry bomb”

  1. #1 Laura
    on Jul 3rd, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Spinning helps much more with fidgeting than embroidery does. It also has more tangible results.

    On a completely different note, last night I got my first real look at Woven into the Earth. :)