words and photos by Carole Bournias
Let me begin by saying I am not a patient person. Once I set my mind on something, it’s full steam ahead and I want to see results as quickly as possible! Unfortunately, I have found impatience does not work well in some projects, such as dyeing experiments. However, I’ve found a few ways to use my oops fibers instead of throwing them away in disgust.
My first foray into dyeing wool seemed simple enough. I procured the needed supplies and dyes and watched a few YouTube videos. Then I couldn’t decide between low immersion, the crockpot, or steaming methods, so I decided to do all 3 at once because, hey, everything was out and the kitchen was already wrapped in plastic to prevent any possible spills. I happily prepared my dye stocks, squirted a bunch of different colors onto my soaked rovings, and set them all to cook different ways. What I wasn’t prepared for was the time it took for them to cool to room temperature, which where my impatience reared its ugly head. After about an hour, I dumped them all into a big colander. After another hour, they were still hot, so I started rearranging and fluffing a bit so they’d cool off faster. After another hour, I thought, “Well, I’ll just gently rinse them off with water a little cooler than the fiber.” Big mistake. I rinsed and then squeezed to get most of the water out, and then I set them in the sun to dry. After drying, although the colors were brilliant, I could not for the life of me pull off a staple length! Nor any length! Hmmm. I rolled them up and decided I would worry about that later.
About that time I was getting ready to make mitts for Christmas gifts. I had made thrummed mitts in the past, but people had advised me they were so bulky that they were unable to keep hold of a snow shovel or steering wheel. And personally, making all those individual thrums drove me crazy. I decided to try using roving and stranding it on the inside of the mittens to keep the warmth but not the bulk. Ah ha! Using that felted fiber would be perfect as it would not drift apart as easily as normal roving or top but would still provide protection from the cold and wind.
I set to work stripping (scratch that, I mean ripping) apart thin strips from my felted roving, and I used a basic mitten pattern I’ve had for ages. This was a slow process because it was definitely a rip instead of a normal strip! I just did a few inches at a time, trying to keep my strips as even as possible, about a quarter inch wide. Since my roving was multi-colored, I spun some white Cheviot to use as the main color and started knitting, using the roving to knit every 3rd stitch on every other row and taking care not to pull the stranded roving too tight. They came out wonderfully! I even used the roving in the ribbing, which created more beauty in the finished item.
Since then, I’ve been looking for different ways to use my oops and have even purchased more oops fiber from a popular indie dyer that was offered at a discount. (I had asked her if she had any extra, but she replied she hoped she would not have any more!) I know I am not the first person to think of stranding roving instead of using thrums for mitts, but let me tell you this technique is perfect for using up the occasional mistake. I can’t wait to try it for hats and slippers, or perhaps a cozy sweater or wrap for these cold winter months!
I’ve had great luck adding bits to dryer balls. I roll white wool into balls and then take a small piece of felted roving and really stretch it out, gently pulling it in all directions to cover part or most of the ball as desired but still letting the base color show through. I use the nylon stocking method of stuffing them into knee highs, tying a knot in between each one, and throwing them in with a hot load in the washing machine and dryer to felt them. I have not had any color transfer, but I made sure the dye had been fully absorbed and the water was perfectly clear when I rinsed. If you experience any color leakage after you dye, I wouldn’t recommend using your felted fiber for dryer balls.
Tapestry weaving is another area to dabble in with your oops. Felted roving holds up fabulously with the abrasion of back and forth weaving across the warp. It’s interesting to see the color variations in the woven product, and it’s a very soft organic color shifting. How about needle felting? I bet it would be simple to needlefelt to a background.
There are so many ways to use up unintended oops fiber. I’m sure there are many more applications that I have not discovered yet!
Carole Bournias is a Buyer for a large food ingredient company. Residing in a small town on the banks of the St. Clair River in Michigan, her main focus is spinning, knitting, and creating. She is currently dabbling in dyeing and weaving; next on her bucket list is designing and commissioning.
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