Friday, April 15, 2011

Dyeing Workshop

Hi there ! This week I have a story to tell about a workshop I attended.

I met Jan O'Donnell last year when a friend and I visited her studio about twenty five miles away. During that visit, we saw some very striking chenille scarves she had woven and then dyed and had asked how she did them.  Jan contacted us a few weeks ago and asked if we would like to spend two afternoons with her learning to dye. We both agreed and so Tuesday and Thursday afternoons this week were spent with Jan in her studio on the Solway Coast in a village called Auchencairn. Her web site is oddesigns.

When we arrived we found that Jan had woven undyed chenille scarves for us to work on. Plain weave sett at 12 ends per inch. The fringe spaces were woven with scrap yarn. First job was to make up a mixture of soda ash and water and to soak the scarves for twenty minutes. This was to soften the chenille and would make the woven material ready to accept the dye.

While the scarves were soaking we started to sort out the dye colours. The dyes were Procion MX.
On the left in this picture is Jan O'Donnell and on the right my friend Charlotte, Doonhamer on Ravelry.

We made up a solution of urea to mix with the dye powder. This would help to increase the solubility of the dye powder and fix the colour.

Charlotte had chosen pinks, orange and scarlet with some yellow thrown in. I had gone for my usual turquoise, blue, green and yellow.
We had a chance to practise on an extra scarf before we tackled our own. Polythene was laid out on the worktop and the scarf wrung out from the soda ash solution and laid out on top of the polythene. Then we used foam brushes to paint on the dye, varying the colours as we went. Adding water to dilute the bright colours and using mountains of kitchen paper to press and merge the dye into the fabric.
Our practise scarf looked a bit like this.................................

We had to be careful to cover the fringe area carefully and I will show you why later. My colours were very similar to these but Charlotte's looked like this..................

The scarves were painted on both sides and wrapped in polythene and left for about an hour. Next step was to rinse each scarf in warm water before putting in the washing machine on wool wash.

That was the end of Tuesday afternoon. the scarves were to be dried slowly and be ready for us when we arrived on Thursday.

First job on Thursday was to unpick the scrap yarn from the fringe areas and knot the ends at the first row of weaving. The fringes were very nicely 'crimped' as a result of the scrap yarn................

Once the fringing was completed the scarves went into the dryer for fifteen minutes. When the scarves came out what a transformation !! They had suddenly become very soft and drapey having felt quite stiff beforehand.
My scarf looked like this when it was finished and stretched out.......................

The colours did seem a bit bright for me but after washing they had calmed down a bit but I wished I had watered them down a bit more ! However, once I had tried it on it didn't seem quite so bright.......

So, both Charlotte and I went home with carefully dyed scarves. I knew nothing about dyeing so I learnt a lot in the two afternoons. Charlotte thought she might now feel confident enough to tackle some of her handspun yarn.  It was very enjoyable having the chance to do something a bit different and all the mess was in someone else's utility room !!


  1. Looks like a lot of fun, Dorothy! (and you're right, more fun to have the mess at someone else's place!). But what a new world of ideas now must be working through your head with what you could do with dyeing your own warps. It will be fun to see where you take it. The scarf is lovely, particularly against the black.
    Good for you!!!

  2. Hi!
    What a very different experience! I would have found it difficult too, playing with colour not being my strong side at all! But you made a beautiful job of it. The final picture really shows how the colours you chose suit each other, and the scarf looks very soft and comfortable. Well done!

  3. Great job, what an adventure! I can see you will try anything. I would love to do some dying, might give it a try later on this summer when we can work outside! I like the colors of your scarf, nice and bright. Thanks for sharing
    your experiences with us. Weaverly yours .. Barbara