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Thanks everyone. We are soooo excited to see what happens with this idea!
This is so weird. There's so many different types of processing that fiber goes through, I wonder if there's some kind of processing that makes some silk resistant to acid dyes. It's good to know this is happening to someone else... although my "silk" didn't take even the remotest amount of dye so I still think my supplier is lying. :-)
Weddy, are there links to tutorials in your post? For some reason I couldn't click on them.
To respond to the original question: dyeing the yarn is soooo much fun and in my opinion, way more fun than dyeing the finished object. But it's true that you only need to dye the yarn if you want variegated. If you're planning on all one color, I'd agree that you should dye the finished object. As for the tangling issue, you can easily keep yarn in its place with loose figure-8 ties in 4 places around the skein.
I'd recommend Dharma Trading Company's acid dyes http://www.dharmatrading.com/ad.html (they have info about using them on their website as well). If you aren't going to do a lot of dyeing, the small 1/2 ounce size will work fine. Sun Yellow, Golden Yellow, Pink, Crimson, Brilliant Blue, Turquoise, and Jet Black will give you a nice mix of cool primaries and warm primaries from which you can mix any color you want.
Thanks for the replies. I agree that this must be some kind of cellulose fiber. I finished dyeing it, let it dry, and the "silk" is BRIGHT WHITE. This vendor is bad news and I'm glad I don't buy from him anymore. It's kinda funny that although I decided that long ago, I keep finding new reasons every time I pull his stuff out of my stash to work with it. I keep having to spin it and give it away to my friends cause I don't want to sell mystery fiber handspun on my website! :-) Oh well, my friends will be happy for more mystery handspun.
I have some fiber that I got awhile back from a supplier who I don't purchase from anymore and who I don't really trust. It's supposed to be 70%wool/30% silk, but when I dye it, the "silk" isn't taking any dye at all. I've done quite a lot of dyeing so I know my method is fine (don't mean that to sound snotty, I just wanted to clarify that I know what I'm doing). Has anyone had silk that simply won't take acid dyes? I'm wondering if it's because it's been heavily bleached... but it seeems like heavy bleaching should prepare it for dye and not the other way around. So I don't know... this has never happened to me before. I'm just wondering if anyone else has experienced it. If not, I'm going to assume the supplier is lying and this is some type of celulose fiber!
Basically, I start with 7 primaries: a warm red, a cool red, a warm yellow, a cool yellow, a warm blue, a cool blue, and jet black, all mixed up in stock solution. Then let's say you want to get that light, muted yellow as an example. You get a bunch of hot water in a plastic cup and pour just a little tiny bit of warm yellow stock solution in. Then just a little drop of black. If it's too bright, you can get another cup of hot water and pour some of what you just made into it. Then let's say for example that you want that red-orange. It's just a matter of mixing red and yellow, but you can use your warm and cool colors to produce different results. One other thing I do when I'm trying to color-match is that I add colors you wouldn't expect. For example, when you're mixing that orange, you can tone it down with black, but you can also tone it down by pouring in a little drop of blue. You really have to play with that to get toned-down colors and not change the color entirely. I did all those skeins with the book right in front of me, so as I poured in a drop of this and that, I could compare it to the picture.
I know that's probably way more info than anyone wanted, but it's too much fun!
Spin about 10" then fold it back on itself and let it "ply." Your resulting yarn will look kinda like that. You can start to count how many times you spun the spindle (or how many times you treadle on a wheel) to get to the ply that you like, then keep it consistent.
When I was learning on a spindle, the best bit of advice I got was to predraft. Pull the fibers out down the length of the entire roving (or split the roving) to the thickness you want before you even start spinning. Then concentrate your effort only on the spinning and not at all on drafting. Once you have that down, you can draft while spinning. But also, I think it doesn't feel right because you're training your brain and your hands to do something totally new! My spindle went flying across the room more than once when I was learning! So you'll get the hang of it once your brain builds some new spinning synapses. :-)