I love my fiber mill but I also enjoy processing my own Suri fiber. Usually a fiber mill will have a 3-5lb minimum for processing, so there are always odd lots around the house here.
Here’s one fun value added fiber product you can create without any tools or equipment: Dyed locks (or loose fiber) for spinning, needle felting or fiber crafts.
I use Greener Shades natural dye since it creates beautiful stable colors and is safe enough to be used in the kitchen. But you can use other brands or Kool Aid for craft fiber. Instructions below use Greener Shades. For reference- https://greenershades.stillrivermill.com/
Here are the Steps
- Skirt your fleece- assuming you did your pre-shear prep and a nice shearing job, this shouldn’t be more than removing hay bits and second cuts.
- Wash your fleece- you can use dawn dish soap, shampoo, Unicorn fiber wash, or experiment with something of your own. Do not agitate the fiber too much or change the temperature of your water suddenly or your fleece will felt. Prepare a tub of lukewarm water with soap, gently soak the fiber into the water, drain the water, and repeat until clean. Squeeze water out.
- If you are ready to dye- soak your fiber in a gallon of water mixed with 1 tablespoon citric acid for about 30 minutes. Squeeze excess water but keep it slightly moist.
- Premix 1 gram of dye to 100 cc water in plastic squirt bottles. For lighter colors, dilute further with water. Depending on what dye you use, follow their instructions.
- Put your fiber on plastic wrap on a tray, squirt some colors on. You can press the colors in with your hands (gloves recommended) to spread it out the dye. You can also add some water to lighten colors. You can mix a few colors side by side.
- Once you’re happy with the colors, wrap it up in plastic wrap, put it in a plastic bag and microwave. Start with 30 seconds and keep going until the little bit of water in the bag is clear. Since I do my colors in smaller batches, I rarely microwave for more than 2 minutes total. Be careful not to cook your fiber. It will be steaming hot, so let it cool before you handle.
- Once water in the bag is clear indicating fiber took up all the dye, prepare a small plastic tub with cool water. Put the fiber in there to cool and rinse. There should be minimal to no color leak if the color was set in the microwave properly.
- Squeeze excess water out and dry on screen/wire.
If you are thinking of hand processing further, you can purchase a drum carder to create batts for spinning or felting. To use the drum carder, once your fiber is dry, you’ll need to tease open the locks to make it as fluffy as possible (you can also purchase a picker). Then you can take small amounts of fiber at a time and run it through the drum carder. It can take a few passes on the drum carder before it is smooth. Art batts are very popular and you can add sparkly Angelina fiber, silk, bamboo, variety of colors for your own unique creation. Drum carders and pickers are very easy to use but expensive.
If you want to make your own yarn, you’ll need a drop spindle or a spinning wheel. Once you have your yarn, you can weave, knit, or crochet a final product.
Nice article on dyed locks!