Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where moths trouble leads to a creative solution

I tried my hand at dyeing fleece a little while ago.

I was given some free fleece left over from clearing an estate. It was wool of unknown kind, and as it had sat unused for several years, I worried that there was potentially moths hiding within. Especially when there were two fluttering around the home where it was stored.

I'm not one to give up on free fleece, especially not these days when I am completely skint and spinning is the only way I can acquire new yarn. So, I thought to myself, how does one get rid of potential nastys? One can freeze the wool for a few days. I'm told this is very efficient; however, it requires the use of one's freezer and since mine is currently filled with food, there's no room in there for wool. I've read that chemicals do no good for getting rid of moths unless you set up a complicated air-tight system and get your hands on some dry ice. Not really my cuppa tea.

As I stood on my balcony (aka. new wool quarantine), I thought to myself, if was a moth, what would I hate? The solution was, being boiled. If I was a moth, baby moth or moth egg, I would really hate to be boiled for half an hour to forty five minutes. I would especially hate it if I was boiled in a tea created from rhubarb leaves. If I was a moth, I would hate it if my home with me in it was dyed.

So, that's what I did. I gathered some rhubarb leaves (containing oxalic acid, a natural mordant, not to mention free if you have a garden), about half again the weight of the wool. Put it in a HUGE pot with boiling water and put it on the camp stove on the deck to boil for forty minutes.

I strained and composted the leaves, then very gently put the, pre-soaked in hot water, wool into the rhubarb tea or dye vat. Simmered it for forty five minutes, then turned off the heat and left it to cool over night., I did something wrong. It made a brilliant shade of green. It also made one giant mass of felt. I don't know what I did wrong. Perhaps it had something to do with my first dye attempt being with locks of wool and not with a more forgiving substance like yarn.

Any hints on how not to make felt next time?


marydotmusic said...

I was totally thinking boiling too. I remember the Yarn Harlot had a great demonstration on cleaning fleece. Perhaps you can use her same technique?

Josiane said...

Oh, that's too bad it felted! Was the water boiling while the wool was in the pot? I've not yet tried dyeing, so I'm not talking from experience, but I've heard said that the bubbles from the boiling water may be enough agitation for the wool to be at risk of felting. I'm not sure if it's true or not, though, but I think I'll try to avoid it when I'll do some dyeing.
I'm curious to see the lovely shade of green you got, though!

TinkingBell said...

Love to see the green too - and I remembered the yarn harlot thing - but someone else got there first

The other method is black plastic garbage bags in the sun for a few days will kill most nasties!

sarsbar said...

Oh no!
Boiling is bad... simmering is good. You don't want the fibres to move around much, or they'll felt together. So keeping the water _just_ at the boiling point tends to work best...

Miss Scarlett said...

I think the boiling was where it went wrong. I am pretty sure once wool gets to a certain temp (in water) that felting begins to occur. I know there are plenty of warnings about rapid heating or rapid cooling of wool - that both/either should be avoided or else...felting.

Does the felt look good? Can you use it for some other crafty bidness?

I would really like to see the green it became...I have rhubarb in my garden too...

sarsbar said...

And don't despair... it may still card out just fine. I was talking with Kitten last night and she said she'd done that before with no horrible lasting effects.
I'd love to see the resulting colour too!