Friday, January 13, 2006


Industrial Accident

Or How Not to Dye Wool.

So I put some water in the crock pot on Wednesday. After it got good and hot, I added soap and vinegar and a whack of wool (Dorset). I waited an hour or so (maybe) and then emptied one and a half containers of blue food colouring into the pot, made sure that most of the wool had some sort of colour on it, then dumped most (or perhaps all) of one of the small bulbs of red food colouring on top, didn't stir it, slapped on the lid and crashed for oh, seven hours.

I forgot that when it's on "high" for long enough, it'll boil. Oops.

After an unusually long sleep I awoke to the smell of overcooked wool pervading the entire house. I poked gingerly at the wool and it didnt look like it had felted, even though it was actually bubbling. So I turned the heat off and went to work and let it slowly cool all night.

When I got home, I checked, and almost all of the dye had exhausted. I rinsed it a bit and put it to hang in the deep-fryer basket (what, doesn't everyone? It's not like we deep-fry food.) The other purple/blue is hanging in the "space alien" basket in the bathroom. I think it's dry, so I'll transfer this up there before I go to work tonight and it should be dry by Sunday.

I love this totally haphazard woolery. I have to say that this is just about the nicest batch I've dyed, and it was done with the least care. I'm sick right now (stupid cold) but tomorrow is my weekend. This occurs, for the first time in years, at the same time as everyone else's weekend. Bizarre. Anyhow, I'm home with The Girl all weekend and I think I'm going to see if I can repeat this experiment, with her enthusiastic assistance.

Um, shouldn't it have felted? Or does that only happen when there's also agitation? Someone with some kind of experience want to fill me in on this?

I have all sorts of exciting projects coming up, time willing, and will of course post about them all in annoyingly tedious detail.

For now, I'm going to take my snotty beak off to bed for another hour (hopefully) of rest before work.


I'm pretty sure felting needs heat, soap and agitation.

This is probably a stupid question, but can one use the crock pot for regular crocking with food after using dye in it, or must it be forever devoted to dying after that? I was given a crock pot and I never use it.
Aggitation+temperature change=felt.

Slowly bringing to a boil and overcooking/=felt (which you now know).

Ta da!

Aggitation alone can create felt (see "needle felting")

You're welcome.
To quote my son's favourite sea turtle," You So Totally Rock, Dude!"
Ok, I was hoping for severed limbs or a chemical spill or something... :) Glad you got great yarn out of it!

Nomad - Rabbitch is using food coloring and such, so she will still be able to use her crockpot and other pans again. If you're using more specific fabric dyes (the toxic stuff), you do not want to use pans or utensils that you ever intend to use for food again.
It will only felt if you are trying to duplicate your previous success. It is one of Murphy's axioms or some such thang.
Another factor that contributes to felting is a sudden temperature change. If you had dumped the wool into cold water right after boiling it it would have felted.
Dorset is considered a 'down' breed and isn't really known for it's great felting capabilities. If you can get your hands on 'In Sheep's Clothing' by Jane and Nola Fournier, I'd definitely recommend it. Lots of good information in there.
Felting is a water/agitation thing with hot/cold water. Mostly agitation with temperature shocks!
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