Dyeing alpaca fiber


Sal the alpaca

Sal the alpaca


This week I tried dyeing fiber for the first time. Until now, I’ve been using undyed fiber from Read’s mom’s alpacas, Sal and Pepe. True to their names, their fiber makes a salt-and-pepper yarn. I decided it would make a nice pair of mittens (maybe lined with fleece, for winter bike commuting).

Sal and Pepe: undyed

Sal and Pepe: undyed


With a few spools of salt-and-pepper under my belt, I decided I was ready for some COLOR. The saleswoman at the Eugene Textile Center suggested I buy just the primary colors and then custom mix. She kindly warned that red is a much more potent color than yellow (i.e. if you mix equal parts of red and yellow – you’ll get something oddly similar to red). Don’t worry saleswoman, I wasted enough muffin tins of tempera paint in art class learning that rule the hard way. 

fiber dye

yellow sun, fire red, sapphire blue


I washed the fiber in the sink with a little dish detergent. This got out most of the dirt, but some of the straw bits are very persistent. Has anyone else found a good way to remove them?

Washing the alpaca fiber

Washing the alpaca fiber


I filled a pot with enough water to let the fiber swirl freely, and added to it this previously-mixed solution: 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon yellow, 1/4 teaspoon blue, and a pinch of red. My thinking was that only yellow and blue would make a kool-aid kind of bright green, and maybe I could create something more sophisticated. I cooked it at near-boiling for 30 minutes, stirring often.

Heating the dye bath

Heating the dye bath


In my effort to avoid a child-like green color, I created a color still familiar to children: Oscar the Grouch. Now, my upstairs neighbor assures me that the color is olive and retro, but she can’t fool me. For better or worse I definitely made a pile of muppet replacement fur. Sam said that if I don’t use it, he has some costume ideas.

They both love trashcans

They share a thing for trashcans...


For the next batch I used less yellow,  more blue, and no red, which resulted in a more pleasant deep teal. Last night I carded them both together and spun some yarn. I will post more about that later. ..

Oscar the Grouch replacement fur?

First attempts at color-mixing




  1. Pingback: West coast knitting « Foxflat's Blog
  2. Pingback: Spinning alpaca fiber « Foxflat's Blog
  3. Kim · July 21, 2009

    I will totally have Cliff read this. I’m sure the mittens will look fabulous. Also p.s. I like Sam’s toupee.

  4. foxflat · July 18, 2009

    or is that carding? im not up on correct terminology …

  5. foxflat · July 18, 2009

    my mom said carting the wool should get all the hay out?

  6. Read · July 16, 2009

    Katie, this really is pretty darn cool! A good read for sure.

    • foxflat · July 17, 2009

      Thanks! It’s been a lot of fun (doing the project AND playing on the blog)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s