Recently I was showing my handspun yarn to some friends, and one of them mentioned that they thought I dyed all the colors. And I realized that a many end users (you yarnies know who you are) don’t realize the numerous techniques used to achieve colored yarn. So here comes the mini-lesson:
Animal (wool, alpaca, cashmere, angora, mohair, etc), plant (linen, cotton, hemp, etc) and manmade fibers (rayon, nylon) can have the dye applied either before the spinning process or afterwards. The phrase “dyed in the wool” comes from the act of dyeing the fiber before it’s spun into yarn; there are a lot of everyday terms and phrases that were birthed by the textile industry.
When I make my batts and handspun yarns, I use fibers that are already dyed and blend them to achieve my colorways. It would take a good deal of my time to dye the 55+ colors that I use, not to mention waiting until the weather cooperates so I could dry all that fiber in the outdoors. And since I’m my only employee, I have to pay myself for the time it takes to create my batts and yarns. Purchasing ready-dyed fibers in bulk saves me time and saves my customers money—actually I doubt that I’d be able to sell anything if I had to add dyeing time to the equation, it would be prohibitively expensive! And there’s always that color that just isn’t quite right, that red that isn’t blue enough or orange enough. Having 55 colors to play with means I can throw some blue or orange fiber into the red to achieve the exact tone that I want. My Buttermoon and Geranium batts were made that way and some of the others have a bit of blending in them before I make a striped or marbled batt for spinning.
I DO play with the dyes a little, though. There are times when I want a handpainted roving RIGHT NOW or I can’t find just the right roving in any of the online shops I visit. That’s when the dye pots come out and I end up with dyed roving dripping all over my basement or porch. It’s all tied in with my pursuit of the right colors that will match the pretty picture in my mind. I usually hit it right on the nose (but I will admit to having a decent number of “closet pieces” that will become cat beds or never see the light of day!).
It’s all just my little Box of Crayons, where I can blend and match and play to my hearts content. I grew out of using coloring books (Mom could never keep me supplied with enough of them), and I decided that I didn’t like cleaning out the brushes after a painting session, but I never lost my love of color and the joy of blending and playing with it.