Most of my dyeing these days has been in the graduated color dipping technique, where the yarn is held partially suspended over the dyepot until the dye is absorbed, then rotated, dyed again, etc. I find this very effective for subtle gradations in colors. You can't get much more subtle than this:
So I had a thought about applying the technique to roving. Roving is much more delicate than yarn, and most people handpaint it to minimize handling and subsequent felting. I've done it that way for years; however, this can leave a lot to be desired in the finished product. The limitations are that the dyes don't always penetrate the roving in a consistent manner, and that you end up with repeating colors. Okay, those are sometimes a plus, but I have a project in mind for a knitted shawl, where the color changes are going to be very subtle and very long, and I don't want flecks of lighter fiber, stripy changes where the colors change or any repeating colors.
So, here's the setup. I started with one pound of bluefaced leicester/silk roving, pre-soaked in a water/vinegar bath for a day.
The dye pot is set up with an "in-basket" and and "out-basket". As I move the fiber through the dye bath in a linear fashion, once the dye has "taken" on one part, it will be removed. Higher than normal levels of vinegar in the dye bath aid quick "striking" of the dyes.
You can see that the roving expands in the full immersion of the dyepot, allowing the colors to evenly penetrate.
The is the first end. I had originally in mind a "chocolate-cherries" type of colorway, but changed my mind to a more toned down scheme. Here is the first section coming out to be drained.
You can see the colorway starting to take shape now (note how "fluffy" the fiber is)—
About two hours later, most of the fiber has gone through the dyebath—
As it's come out of the pot, it is gently laid on a towel to absorb excess water and any dye left in the section. Absolutely no felting has occurred!
Once all the fiber was dyed, I blotted out the excess water, wrapped it up in plastic and steamed it for an hour. All the dye absorbed, and there was no dye migration.
What I end up with is an amazing piece of spinnable fiber with non-repeating colors ranging from warm grays to cinnamon browns to rosy-beiges and creams.