I used a 3/16-inch holed diz for the undyed slivers. Fat slivers. Still airy as is typical of non-commercial combed top, but I do put an ever-so-slight twist in them when I wind them into bird's nests. These happen to end up about the same or a little larger diameter as a quart size mason jar. (If using 2-3 little piles of dye in the mason jar, use small-mouth jars). I just stuck one in on top of the other and pushed them down. In this case, I packed a little too tight because I do have some white areas, but I'll take it. It's okay for a first try.
One thing I'm discovering TODAY (after the fact) and it surprises me I didn't notice this before. Hand-dizzed slivers are so airy that they look extremely delicate. Well, they ARE. However, that's in their airy virgin, untouched state, right off the diz. Once you start bird-nest wrapping one, however, if you stay within the staple length with your wrapping hand (the wrap-OR, not the wrap-EE) you can put a fair bit of pulling pressure on that sliver and make it a LOT more dense!
Yes, I did get some extremely minor "felting" action, but very minor. I'm now thinking that if I bird-nest these little suckers with that pulling pressure on them I discovered this morning, then the sliver itself will be way more dense and a lot tougher under the stress of dye-handling. In fact, I'm going to experiment with this pulling more. It was almost feeling as though if I were to pull a little more, it wouldn't drift apart (the big fear) but it would smooth out and just be a whole lot more like commercial top. Or let's just say a worthy step, at least, in that direction.
Whoa! This photo picked up a whole lot more saturated color appearance than I got. The real top is actually more caramel color base, then take it from there. Nothing in it is this INTENSE.
This is the relative size of my slivers. These happened to have been dyed in the fleece state, then combed, but size is the same.
The perspective is off. These look smaller than they are. Some of them actually are smaller. The big one is more like my typical size. This is in its fluffy wrap state, I hadn't discovered the pulling and smoothing capability yet when I wrapped that one.
By the way, these colors were under-saturated hues of Teal Blue, China Jade, Blue Spruce and Avocado (Country Classics by ProChem) in the order of intensity down to lightest color, with only one small bird's nest of the Avocado combed so far. All done in mason jars, then steamed in a canner. I'm thinking these alternated in the spinning, then the single plyed on itself however it lands (not Navajo only because I don't know how to do that yet) will make for some pretty yarn.
***** SECOND TRY ******
1. Full Intensity Saturation - same blues and greens (one color each jar)
2. Tried again for target rust/caramel/yellow colorway
3. This time I unwound my bird's nests from their fluffy wound state and re-wound them, pulling the fiber MUCH tighter and smoother so it would be more condensed. (This is a matter of starting out with fat slivers to begin with, dizzed as densely as I dared without causing a bottleneck bunch-up, then holding hands close enough together not to violate staple length, pulling the fiber tight and smooth, and re-winding into far more tightly condensed bird's nests.
Wet "blobs" - VERRRRRY little handling at this stage. All I did was plop them into the salad spinner, then took the picture.
After salad spinner -- It just naturally separated into sliver form. Still want to handle this very carefully. But it does stay together in sliver form! Yeeehaw.
It lets you carefully pick it up, drape it on a hanger to dry, and stays together. This whole trial WITH the bird's nests re-wrapped so the fibers were pulled tighter really seems to be a whole lot better. The fibers within the sliver were definitely less disturbed. Note even the parts where you can see the white hanger showing through. Those were likely thinner to begin with, but yet there's still integrity there.
Here was my setup (only workable in good weather obviously). What I didn't move off the forward bench were a container of inside/outside ant spray and another like container of weed killer. (Those are not dye equipment.)