I spent a good part of the summer figuring out ways to dye wool in my crockpot. I know that the oven dyeing method that I have been using will allow me to dye more wool at once, so there is more efficiency in terms of scale, but it takes a great deal more space and it means that no one else can use the oven while I’m dyeing wool. Because I need to schedule my dyeing around when other people want to use the oven, I am able to do it less frequently. With the crockpot I can only do about 4 ounces of wool at a time, but the only space I’m using is the tiny footprint that the crockpot takes up on the counter. I can dye much more frequently, so the result is a higher level of production. It’s one of those “slower by the hour, but faster by the week” things, like spindle spinning versus wheel spinning.
I documented a lot of these experiments on my Facebook page this summer. I figured it was time to get some of them written up into a more sensible format as blog posts.
In essence this is a form of low water immersion dyeing. The unpredictable results are one of the features of this dyeing method. When I dye in trays I lay the tops out in neat rows and can apply the dye very precisely exactly where I want it. When I dye in the crockpot I need to be able to fit the wool in one layer at the bottom of the crockpot. To do this, I pack the top into the bottom of the crockpot by pleating it.
This acts as a natural resist and prevents the dye from reaching all the way down to the bottom or inside the folds in some places. I can control this effect to a degree by how much liquid is in the crockpot.
I choose colors that I know will create something reasonably attractive in the finished product, and instead of mixing all of the colors of dye together for one solid color I sprinkle them randomly over the surface of the wool so that individual colors stand out and combine in different ways. If I want more dye penetration and less white space, I add more water to the crockpot.
Yarn that is spun from tops dyed with this random crockpot dyeing method still have some variation in color, but the transitions between colors are much smoother and more gradual with little to no striping.
Individual spots of color that blend together as fibers in the yarn give the impression of a solid color due to optical blending while at the same time giving greater visual depth to the yarn.