I just got back from the Dickson Tennessee fiber festival. My friends and I had a ton of fun shopping and getting new fiber ideas. I shared some of my own. My newest way to spend my fiber time is crock pot dyeing. Crock pot dyeing is definitely for the multitasker. You just put the stuff in the crock pot and go about your business stopping by occasionally to do a few things to the wool. Below, I will try to walk you through the process.
First thing is to get your clean wool and soak it in some hot water with a dash of detergent. Here I have used a squirt of Dawn dish washing soap (original formula). Just soak it enough to get it wet. In the mean time, put a couple of inches of water in your crock pot and set the temp on high. It will be ready when water droplets appear on the lid. Do not ever use your crock pot for food after dyeing wool in it. Also, I have only used gaywool acid dyes in crock pot dyeing because they contain all the good stuff in the mix and are granular and easier to handle. I do not know how the other acid dyes will do using this process. I suppose you could add vinegar to your water and hope for the best if you wanted to experiment with the other dyes.
Take your now wet wool and wring out as much water as you can. Be careful not to do it in a way that will felt your wool. Arrange your wool in the crock pot with the tips of the wool locks up. The wool tops should be above the water level. If you are dyeing yarn or roving, try to twist it around so that various parts of the yarn or roving are above water level. You don't want to end up with one side dyed and the other not dyed or lighter. The picture below shows how to arrange wool locks. You may have to add more water to the pot so that the water level will be about 1/2 inch under the tops of the locks.
Decide on the colors you will be using. I always use the gaywool powdered acid dyes with all of the stuff included in the mix. You need at least 5 complimentary colors with only one being really dark. At least 2 have to be really light. In this example I have used honeycomb, sandstone, stringybark, oak, and cranberry. You will use very little dye. In fact, you will be surprised at how little you will be using. Below is an example of how much of one color I would use. You can use slightly more for the lighter colors and less for darker colors.
Carefully sprinkle very small amounts of dye granules on the tips of your wool. Start with the lightest color and move to the darkest. leave spaces between your color areas and make lighter areas bigger while making very small areas with the darkest dyes. It will look as if you hardly have anything in the pot. Pictured below is what mine looked like. Believe me, that little bit of dye is going to go a long way. Now put the lid on the pot and go do something else for an hour.
Now, when you come back, the granules will have melted on the top of your wool. Very carefully take your tongs ( for wool dyeing only) and carefully mash the wool down into the water. Start in the light areas and move to the dark areas. Do not stir or over mash. Just push down. You will see the color just bleed right into the wool. When you have the wool colored all over the top as you see it below, place the lid back on the pot and go somewhere else for an hour.
Now you can come back and with your tongs, gently turn the whole batch of wool over and gently push down into the fluid any white wool you might see. Let the wool set for another 30 minutes or so. It is OK if you have some white wool showing.
Now take your tongs and lift your wool from the pot. Let the hot water run out of the wool. Be very careful not to scald yourself. The wool is very hot at this point. I placed my wool in a rubber tub to cool. After the wool cools, you may soak the wool in a few hot (from the tap) baths until no more color leaches out of the wool. Wring the excess water out of your wool and hang to dry in a net bag.
Below is the dye bath that has played out. I am really lazy, so sometimes I just put more wet wool in and start all over with the color. You would be surprised at how many times I can do this.
Here is an example of fleece that I crock pot dyed. I got a little wild with the colors.
Thanks for viewing my little tutorial about crock pot dyeing. If you have any questions. Please be sure to e-mail me and I will try to help you out.