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Using Soap As a Dye Resist

As the wool arrives this spring to be processed, I find myself a bit rushed to get everything ready to go to the mill for blending and carding. The weather is heating up quickly, and camelid shearing season will be early this year. Sometimes being in a hurry leads to careless mistakes, while other times it leads to some pretty great discoveries.

While washing a Shetland lamb fleece, I found myself a bit more distracted than normal and washed it twice, which is normal, but instead of rinsing it, I put it right into the dye-pot. I always try to save the drying for the very end of the process. I know some people wash - dry - dye - dry, but if I can save time, I do. Considering how much soap was in the fiber, imagine my horror when I realized that it wasn’t rinsed. This realization, of course, occurred at the moment it hit the dye-bath! Well, this is going to be interesting, I thought.

As the fiber sank into the dye pot, I noticed that the soap was acting as a resist in a different way than other resist media. It was very random in where it permitted the dye to contact the fiber. Also, because I was using a blended color, it separated the dye color into a number of very different shades. My Pro-Chem Juniper green had suddenly split into hues of blue, yellow, and green. There were even a few specks of lavender!

The areas where the soap was in the most contact with the fiber, which seemed to be primarily the shorn ends took very little dye. While the tips, which were still closed tightly when they entered the dye bath, took up the bulk of the color.

The wool did require a very thorough rinse after it left the dye-bath. The soap suds did fizzle during the heating process, but I did not want to have it staying on the fiber and potentially damaging it, or causing the wool to become sticky. Now that the process it complete, I will take it to the mill to be blended with a rose grey alpaca fleece that I have been saving. I am looking forward to seeing the finished roving when it gets home from the mill!

Just a note, I wash my wool using Dawn dish soap. I do not know how this process would work with any other brand, but I believe it would still work.

The pictures below show the difference between the resist dyed locks (left) and those that are dyed traditionally (right).

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