preperation for a felted hat making workshop

Today I dyed merino wool tops in preparation for the workshop with the Weavers, Spinners and Dyers tomorrow.
I want to have some space dyed tops to offer them. I love the often muted and subtle variations space dying gives to felted pieces. It adds depth to hand made felt. I like to combine it with solid coloured tops to accentuate the crisp solid colour.
The W,S&D have such an acute sense of colour. It makes both tutoring and learning with them inspiring. They know their own minds and never need any help with building a palette for there work, they just think, drink tea, gather what they need and get started.
But back to the dying.
I enjoy dying. Any kind. I can vividly remember the first time I was aware you could dye stuff yourself I remember my mind racing with possibilities and feeling impatient to try it myself. Then not caring if the results were accurate as long as they were visible. I still get that excited rush every time. Even when I am just dying something one colour. I think I like it because I feel in control, that I have the power to permanently change something tangible.
Oops – back to the dying.
I prefer the steam method using milled acid dyes.
I use a £4.97 3 tier electric steamer as they have a timer and you can stack loads of different colours in at the same time. I need the timer, which switches it off, as I am incredibly forgetful and have MELTED a pan before steaming silk tops.
I whet my tops for ½ an hour. I have heard and read that people leave it over night. I find it gets a bit slimey and is hard to keep the roving intact that way. I am also pretty impatient (that is why felt is ideal for me) so don’t want to wait a day. I have never had an issue at ½ hour.

I had alot to dye. 12 x 100g so whetted it in a huge tub. It was so, so hot on today. I heard on the radio that Inverness was hotter than Barcelona and Italy @ 25 degrees. There was no breeze even with the studio window open and the studio was humid with all the steaming. But I was dying and so I didn’t care.


I wanted some softer, more muted lengths and so i used a shallow wok with a tight lid. I don,t push the fleece under the dye bath, just let it simmer and then when the time is up it is a lovely surprise.


I pour the dyed tops into a basin to cool and let any dye left in the water exhaust into the fibre. The water should be quite clear by this stage.

Once dry they look a little patchy, but felted its subtle and deep . I was dying until 10pm. My hair had frizzed up with the humidity and my face bright red. The studio is above a bar, people stand at the door of the bar smoking and I got some pretty funny looks as I left.

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