My friend Chandra generously gave me some sock yarn and natural dyeing ingredients to try. I have never used natural dyes so this nudge gave me a chance to play with lac.
Chandra had included some plastic to use if I wanted to wrap the yarn tightly in places that would resist the dye, a method known as ikat so I did that before starting. Then I premordanted the yarn with alum a couple of days before I dyed it, let it cool, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge. I followed Chandra's directions for dyeing but used the crock pot so I'd have better control over keeping it from boiling. (I have a dedicated crock pot for dyeing - I don't use any of the same tools for dyeing that I use for food.) After dyeing it, I put the yarn into a vinegar/water bath for an hour or so, then washed and rinsed it. And rinsed it, and rinsed it, and rinsed it. There was a lot of residual dye. Once the water was finally clear, I hung the skein to dry.
Here is the finished skein.
I like it a lot! I think the best description for the final color is faded raspberry with the undyed yarn giving it the same casual look as well-worn denim. Thanks, Chandra! I bought some pre-reduced indigo and will try it sometime in the near future as well. Honestly, I won't be abandoning my Jacquard dyes to switch over to natural ones. While I like the result very much, there was a lot more clean up from the lac than there is from acid dyes. Everything that the lac touched needed to be scrubbed. However the resultant soft color provides enough motivation to use natural dyes some of the time too.
I've also been very fortunate to get an amazingly beautiful alpaca fleece from my LYS owner (Golden Willow Natural Fiber - Rav link) and friend Sharon's own alpacas.
I knew that I wanted to spin some samples before deciding how to prepare it. I like sampling; it gives me so much information. First I used my cotton cards to prepare a sample for woolen spinning. I then combed some on my new Valkyrie Super Fine combs. They are so newly developed that they aren't on the website yet; I heard about them on Ravelry and contacted Chris that way. They have three rows of very closely set tines. I am a fan of all the different Valkyrie combs and these are perfect for super-soft alpaca!
I spun this bit worsted short forward draw.
Here are the two samples before wet finishing. It was dark already when I took the next pic so it's not wonderful.
I fulled the woolen skein with agitation and hot water/cold water baths then I whacked it against the counter. The worsted skein just had a warm bath before I hung both to dry from my kitchen cupboards. They are so light that they twisted in the plying direction when wet so that's kleenex on them to provide a slight bit of weight while drying.
Here they are after drying.
The verdict? I like them both depending on how they'll be used for knitting. The fleece is plenty big enough for more than one project so I'll prepare some each way.
I finally finished the first Watermelon Sock for Katie.
After having to restart this sock because it was turning out too small, I kind of lost enthusiasm for it. Hopefully sock number two will be finished a lot more quickly.