Dyeing warp chains in the garage requires several days, preferably with nice weather. Trusting what the weather man was telling me, I recently began the process by mixing the dyes. I buy my fiber reactive dyes in a powder form from Dharma Trading Company. The dye powder is mixed with water, urea and table salt. Here I’m adding the urea pellets.
When I add the dye powder, I wear a mask because the dye powder particles are extremely fine and I don’t want to breathe them into my lungs.
Because most colors are a combination of red, yellow & blue, I like to know what the underlying color is when deciding which dye to use. I find that paper coffee filters are a good way to let the color separate out into its different components. This way I know if a green has a stronger underlying blue or yellow hue. This works for many different color combinations.
Early in the morning on a bright sunny day, I began by setting out the dye bottles.
The cotton warp is soaked in a solution of water and soda ash to get the fiber ready to accept the dye. Then the warp threads are carefully laid out on a strip of plastic wrap on the table. Next comes the fun part: squirting the dye colors wherever the mood strikes me. After each warp is dyed, it is rolled up in the plastic wrap and allowed to sit over night.
The next day proved the weather man wrong. The day dawned cold and overcast. I decided to do the rinsing in the (unfinished) kitchen. On the counter in the dish pan are the rolled up chains wrapped in plastic. I’m removing the plastic from one of the chains. After being rinsed several times, the warp goes into the bucket on the floor to the right which holds a solution of Synthopol and water. After a few more rinses, the warp chain goes into the bucket to my left.
In the garage is another sink and a portable wringer. After a few more rinses, followed by several runs through the wringer, the last step is to put the warps gently into the washing machine on spin cycle. By now,very little dye will come out of the fiber. This is a warp of 8/2 unmercerized cotton for towels. Weaving these towels one after the other is so much fun! These colored warp threads will be set up in a stripe pattern along with white threads in a Fibonacci sequence. I use different solid color weft yarns and each towel is unique. The fun part is watching what happens when the solid color crosses the hand dyed portion which changes as the warp progresses. Where the weft crosses the warp, a new color appears.
My favorite part is usually seeing the newly dyed warps drying in the sun. This day was too cold and overcast for that so the warps were hung in the new kitchen on a makeshift clothesline. Still a pretty sight. In addition to the 8/2 unmercerized cotton for towels, this batch contains 5/2 perle for shawls and rayon chenille for scarves. I can’t wait to start weaving!