An example of the dyeing process

The Dyeing Process

As soon as Laura sends me, Kim, an inspiration picture, my mind starts to envision what the warp will look like. Sometimes, the client will have a very specific plan in mind and we we can discuss what is possible and what isn’t and build from there. Sometimes, there is no plan and that’s when Laura and I get to plot and decide what to do. That might entail several phone calls (over coffee of course) or drawings back and forth. We may or may not have even used crayon drawings on occasion to illustrate a point.

Once we know our plan and fiber, the winding happens. Depending on length desired and fiber, that can take from several hours to a day to wind. Then the washing/scouring happens. Again depending on the fiber, the amount of time it takes varies. For instance, rayon only takes small amount of time to wash and have the fibers open up, whereas is can take 2 days to scour and open the fibers on a cotton. The main goal here is to wash out machine spinning oils and get the fibers opened up and ready to receive the dyes.

Dyeing is the fun part. Depending on the look we are going for, the fiber used, the length, etc., the approach to dyeing is different. But this process can take hours to days to complete. I much prefer to dye outside when it’s sunny and warm but have also been known to dye warps in a freezing garage in the middle of winter with hand warmers in my dye gloves and in my boots. Some jobs require precision dyeing with thickened dyes and some I like to just let the color take over and do what it wants. Having headphones in and music (80s rock typically) is a must so I can tune out the world and just connect with what I’m doing. Out of all the methods and plans up my sleeve, I have to admit that rain dyeing was the most fun (and messiest) experience I’ve had.

After the dye is applied, protein fibers get a steam bath in an industrial sized steam table, while cellulose fibers like to chill out and batch for about 48 hours wrapped up at room temperature. Rinsing comes next, and that can be a chore. Protein fibers exhaust their dye so there is little to no dye run off. Cellulose fibers do not exhaust their dye so there are many washes, rinses, and soaks to get the dye out. Then on to drying and getting it ready for the loom.