I’m starting to dye the reeled silk I bought from John Marshall, and am running into the problems I more or less expected. I’m hand-painting the skeins, batching, and then rinsing very carefully to avoid tangling the skein. The skeins unwind in an orderly fashion (it helps that I tied each skein in 12 places before dyeing), but the thread is fragile, and difficult to wind off without breaking it in lots of places. Patient as I am, it’s driving me nuts.
I have been experimenting with different dyeing and unreeling techniques in an effort to reduce tangling. I want to use fiber-reactive dyes because Cibacron F fiber-reactive dyes has a much brighter color range than Lanaset acid dyes. The trouble is that soda ash damages silk. I had (being impatient) been painting the skeins with fiber-reactive dyes and then “batching” in the oven for an hour or two at 180F, but I think that may have made the thread more fragile. I’m now painting the skeins and letting them “batch” at room temperature for a day, in hopes that this will reduce damage to the silk. The final step would be to switch to acid dyes – probably Jacquard since I can’t get the colors I want in Lanaset – but I’m putting that off as long as possible, because non-Lanaset acid dyes just don’t have the washfastness I’m looking for.
I am also thinking of trying an immersion dyebath instead of painted skeins – I may try that later today.
I have also switched from my heavy wooden swift to a cheap plastic swift. The plastic swift is of relatively shoddy manufacture, definitely not as high-quality as the wooden swift – but is much, much lighter and so less inclined to break the yarn. I have switched from my electric bobbin winder to a (yikes!) hand-cranked cone winder, which goes slower and gives me more time to react to a tangle instead of simply breaking the thread.
All that and it still took me 3 hours to wind on 18.5 grams of thread yesterday, with lots of broken threads and knots. (Unacceptably many, I think.) I’m really hoping that the soda ash + high temperature had damaged the thread in these skeins – because if the skeins really are that delicate, I’m not sure how I’m going to unwind successfully.
Fortunately I do have enough skeins to experiment: I bought 1400 grams from John Marshall, which is about 3 pounds, and it comes in 50-gram skeins, so I have 28 skeins to play with. And I can always buy more – he said he’d bought about 1600 pounds of fine silk yarn, and while it isn’t all the same, I’m sure he has at least a few more kg of the stuff.
But if anyone has tips for unreeling fine thread, let me know!