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Monday, 7 July 2014

Tour de Fleece is Here Again

Can you believe it's a year since the Tours de France/Fleece?  This year we started pedaling on Saturday the 5th and have some interesting challenges in the Team I'm involved with - Team DIY and Dye on Ravelry.

The first week we are trying different dye methods, i.e. something we haven't done before.  I've been wanting to try fermented lichen dyeing so in April I started off some jars with an ammonia and water mix.  These have been sitting on the kitchen windowsill ever since and  have been stirred/shaken every day (more or less).

On Thursday I carefully (or so I thought!) washed some alpaca provided by Hope who lives with my neighbours Rob and Tammy.  The female alpacas were sheared recently (the day after we did the boys) - they must have known something was happening because the day before they found an old bonfire pit and all had a good roll in the ashes! So, as I said, I carefully washed 100g of the fleece, which I placed in a mesh laundry bag.  The water was warm not hot, there was no excessive handling, just placed in the bowl of water and left to soak then lifted out into the sink to drain, repeated to rinse.  So why did I manage to felt it?  I put it in the dye anyway, hoping I'd still be able to do something with it.

The next day, after soaking for 24 hours, I gently heated the jars in the microwave and then let them rest and cool.  Here's the result of the first one, Xanthoria Parientina, which looked the most promising dye :-


This came out of the dye bath pink but changed to blue when I put it in the sun to dry. Didn't think to take a photo of the fibre when it came out of the dye bath, but this will give you an idea of the original colour :-


This was the side facing down on the table which hadn't been exposed to the sun.  I hoped it would stay pink if I didn't turn it over, but the sun must have got through anyway as it all changed to blue.  Next time I'll keep some separate to dry inside so I get both colours.

The second dye bath was Stags Horn lichen which looked very promising until about a week ago when it changed from reddish-pink to brown.  I have no idea why.  Anyway, in went the fleece and out came . . . yes, you've guessed - beige!  I haven't even bothered to take a photo of this as it's been set aside to be over-dyed with something else.

The good news is that the blue fleece is only lightly felted and I should be able to pull it apart and spin it.  However, I didn't have time to do that before the TdF started, so I'm spinning another 100g of Hope's fleece straight from the bag - unwashed, and uncarded. So far, it's going well.


This shows how fluffy the fleece is, even the blue which was a bit felted.


By the end of the second day, the bobbin is filling nicely considering I haven't had a lot of time to spin :-


You wouldn't believe the colour of my hands after spinning this, it's absolutely filthy!  I'll dye this when I've finished the spinning and plying - this time with some packets of Kool Aid my friend Victoria brought back from the U.S. for me.  Then I'll spin the blue lichen dyed fleece separately.  I'll be back in a day or two to report on progress, but won't bore you with endless photos of a gradually filling bobbin of dirty fawn fleece.  Have fun!

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