I've been sampling for my proposed ballet wrap.
First I dyed fiber. I looked through books of color samples and decided on a pastel pink with a little bit of black to tone it down. Unfortunately I didn't check my calculations carefully enough, so I dyed it at 1% DOS when I had intended to dye at .1%. Just a simple decimal point, but oh, the difference! You can see the oh-so-vibrant results here:
This was all in the same dyepot. Clockwise from upper right: Superwash merino wool, tussah silk that was interleaved with superwash, merino wool (not superwash), angora, tussah silk that was interleaved with the regular merino. You can see that the superwash merino took the dye more readily than the regular merino -- that's to be expected, since the superwash process removes the little scales protecting the outside of the wool fibers. I thought it was interesting to see the difference in the silk as well, since they are both the same fiber from the same coil of top.
This was my first attempt at dyeing silk interleaved with wool as described by Deb Menz in Color in Spinning. (Why, yes, I've had the book for 12 years. I'm slow.) I'm not sure I like the final results -- it was pesky to do, and the silk is in a thousand bits right now -- but I need to try it a few more times before deciding if it works for me.
Even though this is not the depth of shade I wanted, the basic color is what I had in mind. So I decided to concentrate on developing a blend of fibers before worrying about the color. So I carded up a batt of each fiber and went to work.
I decided not to use the superwash since it was so much darker. I made blends of merino / angora and two different proportions of merino / angora / silk.
Then I spun them up and knitted them, and showed them around to friends.
The merino / angora (center nest) had the highest percentage of angora, and we liked that. But it has a matt surface; I liked the shine that the silk gave to the other two samples.
So I decided to try another blend of equal parts of merino / silk / angora, and to start fiddling with the color. I'm very happy with the fiber blend, but not so much with the color change. I thought that if half the angora were gray, the whole thing would get a sort of silvery sheen. Instead it just looked dirty. It is starting to match Charlotte's ballet leotard, but that's not necessarily a good thing. I hate that color!
(Swatches start at the bottom with merino / angora. Then two merino / angora / silk blends, with a lower percentage of angora. The light swatch in the middle has the gray angora.)
Then I made two more blends. I blended the pink superwash with black wool from a local fleece -- considered medium by the breeder, who specializes in Merino, but which feels pretty soft to me. I then blended the pink/black wool with white superwash merino, and blended that whole mixture with the silk & angora. I made a second version of this blend in which half the angora was pink and half was white.
I fully expected to love these last two yarns, and especially the lighter one. Unfortunately, the black wool makes the whole thing look dirty again, although for a different reason than the angora. With the angora, I think the grubby effect comes from the gray haze over the clearer color of the base knitting. With the black wool, I think it's just uneven blending. Because the black wool is so much darker than the pink, even three passes through the supercard wasn't enough to thoroughly blend it and eliminate streaking.
So today I'm going to make another couple of blends. First will be pink wool / white wool / silk / pink angora / white angora, with the proportions of both whites upped, to make a pale pink. Second will have some camel blended in, to brown it up a little. I don't think there will be as much trouble blending this because the values are similar.
I know this is a lot of trouble for the yarn for one little cardigan. But I'm finding it very educational, and fun if also frustrating. And I'm planning a nifty scarf out of all the little balls of leftover yarn -- I've knit up less than half of each sample.
To the wool room! It's carding time!