How to Spray-Paint Fiber

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For this technique, use spray bottles to apply either a heavy or light mist of contrasting colors on undyed yarn or roving. When done lightly, this gives the fiber an airbrushed look. When sprayed more liberally, colors really pop against a white background. To avoid creating muddy colors, stick with two or three analogous hues when first experimenting with this technique.

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To begin, gather these materials:

  • 8 ounces (227g) roving (wool and silk are used here)

  • 3 spray bottles with adjustable nozzles

  • 0.1% dye stock, 1 cup (250ml) of each of three colors (WashFast Reddish Brown, Slate Blue, and Plum)

  • Acid soak solution of citric acid crystals and Synthrapol

  • Canning pot with lid and rack

  • Pie plate

  • Plastic wrap

It’s very important to wear a safety mask when using this method, as you will be spraying liquid dye onto the fiber.

Spray bottles with adjustable nozzles tend to spray heavier amounts of liquid, even on their finest setting. If you want a very light veil of color, use a fine mist spray bottle, available from the dye supply companies listed in the appendix.

Prepare the roving for dyeing

  1. Prepare rovings in hanks and tie in bundles.

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    Handling wet roving can be tricky. Take the length of the roving and fold it in half. Then fold it in half twice more. Use two 6-inch lengths of shoestring to secure the roving at both ends.

  2. Place rovings in acid soak solution. Soak silk overnight in order for the acid solution to penetrate the roving.

    Use a 5-gallon plastic bucket with a lid. Add 6 tablespoons citric acid crystals and 2 teaspoons Synthrapol to 1 gallon room-temperature water (approximately 95°F/35°C).

  3. Place dye stock in spray bottles.

  4. Cover your work area with plastic sheets.

  5. Extract roving from acid soak solution and gently press to remove excess water. Untie the bundle and arrange the roving on the plastic wrap.

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    Carefully fan the roving out to create as much surface area as possible.

  6. Use spray bottles to apply dyes.

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    Beginning with the lightest color, lightly spray the roving. You can either spray a base layer over the entire surface or spray spots of color.

  7. Allow the sprayed area to sit for at least 5 minutes before flipping the roving to spray the other side.

  8. Flip the roving and repeat the process. Wipe any excess spray dye from the plastic wrap.

  9. Allow the roving to sit for another 5 minutes before wrapping in plastic to form a packet.

  10. Place the roving packets in the steaming pot and steam for 45 minutes.

    Monitor the temperature if you are dyeing silk or silk blends, maintaining a temperature of 185°F (85°C). Allow the fiber to cool completely before removing from the plastic.

  11. Rinse the roving in warm water and hang to dry.


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