Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dyeing Experiment: BFL Ultra & Tencel/Merino

Top Picture: Tencel/Merino on the left and BFL Ultra! on right after curing, washing, drying. Since the Tencel/Merino is a blend of a cellulose fiber (which dyes up with fiber reactive dyes) and a protein fiber (which dyes up with acid dyes), I did an experiment using both types of dyes. The two yarns on the right side are the BFL Ultra! which is a protein fiber and were dyed with acid wash dyes. (If you click on this picture to enlarge it, you will see the silky sheen in the Tencel/Merino."

The multi colored yarn on the far left (Tencel/Merino) was dyed with fiber reactive dyes, using urea as the mordant. The Tencel/Merino two-color skein, which is second from the left, was dyed with acid wash dye, using white vinegar as the mordant.
In an experiment like this, I tried to come up with dye solutions of equal intensity so that if there were a difference in dye absorption, it would show up easily. In the middle picture, the two-toned skeins are shown: BFL Ultra! in the inside curve, and Tencel/Merino in the outside curve. The turquoise did not absorb as well on the Tencel/Merino; the purple/rose absorbed about equally.

This is a picture of the BFL Ultra! before being steamed. It shows a rawness to the color absorption which disappears entirely once the skein is wrapped and steamed. BFL Ultra! takes color beautifully, blooms just a bit to make a nice, round yarn, too.

It is the Tencel/Merino blend which will require some decisions when you are ready to dye it. Looking at the top picture, you'll notice that the result for this yarn, on the far left, is a muted and lovely color combo. This skein cured for about 6 hours before being rinsed out. The fiber reactive dyes released quite a bit of color, the reds especially, but the end result was so muted and beautiful, that I might forgive the additional work required to get to the result.

The turquoise and purple skein of Tencel/Merino did not release much of the acid dye at all, and the colors were not as vibrant as with the wool yarn.

Conclusion: BFL Ultra! takes acid dye beautifully. No problem, beautiful results.
Tencel/Merino can be dyed with either acid or fiber reactive dyes. In either case, one of the fibers will not absorb the dye and the rinsing bath will show a release of dye. This yarn yields muted blends of color, very beautiful and almost shimmery in appearance.

Both yarns are available, but just not yet posted on the website. They're coming, I promise. In the meantime, email me to order:
BFL Ultra! $ 23.20 for 8 oz skein, $ 46.40 for l-lb cone (1900 yards/lb)
Tencel/Merino $10 for 400 yard skein (1650 yards/lb)

... Meanwhile, Tencel ...

... A small shipment of Tencel/merino sock weight yarn has arrived, and I am trying to get it posted on the SPECIALS page of the website. Unfortunately, there is a glitch that has prevented me from posting SPECIALS for the past three weeks (since the website migrated to a new server).

This is a trial for this yarn to see if there is a demand: $ 10.00 / skein of 400 yds. It dyes up with either acid wash or fiber reactive dyes, and there will be a release of dye into the rinse bath because 50% of the yarn will reject one of those dyes. I will post pictures of my experiment.

Until it is posted, please email me to order: info@wool2dye4.com.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dyeing my first batch of BFL Ultra!

At last it is my turn to play, and I've rolled up my sleeves and am dyeing a skein of the new British Blue Faced Leicester, BFL Ultra! This skein soaked for an hour or so, and I am sprinkling good ole red-blue-yellow around in tiny dots. I am using slightly 'off'' shade of fuchia, colonial blue, and Italian yellow which is one of my favorite combinations (or to use a turquoise based blue for slightly more vibrant results).

The yarn is taking the dye beautifully. As I write, it is resting, but I did dye up the small sample that my British supplier sent me and it bloomed every so slightly. Remember, this is a three-ply yarn at a fingering weight, so it is already a nice round yarn, but after the dyeing/steaming/drying process the yarn comes into its own -- firm enough, yet still a luxuriously soft yarn which feels so nice against the skin.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

BFL Ultra! All weighed and counted

I almost deleted the entry made yesterday afternoon, because I realize that I was showing some panic. Ah, well. Here's the weight issue, in brief:

The skeins all weigh exactly 8 oz or 8.2 oz, a difference of 25 free yards.
The cones, though, range from one pound exactly to 1 lb-6 oz, a hefty difference of 750 yards. What I have decided to do is to come up with three categories and charge a median price so that everyone will get some free yardage, and some will get even more. That is the only way I can figure out how to even out the differences. This was my webmaster's idea and I need to give him credit. So! Here are the categories for the cones:

1 lb. to 1 lb. 2 oz ........ $ 49 (1,900 yards per pounds)
1lb. 2 oz to 1 lb. 4 oz .... $55
1 lb. 4 oz to 1 lb. 6 oz ... $ 60

These undyed yarns are called 'gray goods' in the yarn world. They are spun and skeined or coned in one mill, and then they usually travel to a processor who dyes up large quantities, winds them into center pull balls or smaller skeins of 2 oz or 4 oz, and labels them with the yarn company's name. When the process is interrupted and the undyed yarns are sold as is, the weights are not exact from the mill.

Actually, this is one of the reasons that I decided to mark all of my prices at 20% off suggested retail price. I didn't want someone complaining that they were shorted half an ounce. Most of the skeins weigh in a little heavy, and I have never, ever, ever had a customer complain that they received too much yarn!

I want to keep the BFL Ultra! pricing fair and consistent, so having the three weight categories seems the best solution. This may be a problem which will work itself out in future orders from the British mill.

You may not know it, but I am from the South, and we don't like to complain a lot. Well, we do complain a lot but we apologize for doing it and then go ahead and complain in a sweet tone of voice, which is what we call 'talking Southern.' I am working with British folks who have been doing this for a couple of generations, and I want to seam myself into their operation well and get what my customers want at the same time. The trick to learning this new side of my business is doing all of this with a touch of the Southern tone of voice.

Let me know what you think of the BFL UltraI!

Monday, November 20, 2006

BFL Ultra! In stock now

It's here! BFL Ultra! is now in stock.
Just a quick reminder of the basic facts ...

BFL Ultra! is a 3-ply British Blue Faced Leicester in superwash. 1,900 yards per pound, prox. Medium twist on this yarn makes it slightly firm, yet it maintains the softness which BFL is known for, in a nice and round yarn. Great for cable work and detail. Excellent for socks. Also great for shawls, baby sweaters, fine sweaters. A strong yarn with an innate luster to it which comes through even when dyed. Designated as a rare breed by the British Wool Trade Board.

.............Prices: 8 oz skein, $23.20 .......... 1-lb cone, $46.40.
.............Email me for a sample. (info@wool2dye4.com)

It is at the end of the day of arrival, and I have just discovered that the skeins and cones are not uniformly measured. This means that a cone could weigh anywhere from 15.8 oz to lb.5 oz. Skeins are a little better, but I will have to invoice you individually for the yarn. Email me your order, I'll weigh out the yarn and invoice you through PayPal. If you are also placing an order for other yarns on the same day, I'll lump the two together when charging postage.I

Sorry for this inconvenience ... to you and to me!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

BFL Ultra! ... Due by November 20th

The wait is over for BFL Ultra! My new British Blue Faced Leicester sock yarn is due early next week. Over the weekend it will be added to the website.

BFL Ultra! is a 3-ply sock weight yarn in superwash Blue Faced Leicester, a nice round yarn that is compact but not too tightly twisted. It is packaged in one pound cones and 8-oz skeins. It is a soft yarn, yet very strong with a long staple length. 1,900 yards per pound.

One of the factors that sets the Blue Faced Leicester breed apart is that the fiber has a natural luster to it, and this is eveident both in the natural state as well as when it is dyed. BFL Ultra! will knit up into beautiful cables and detail work, fine sweaters and openwork. In Britain, BFL is preferred by manyfor Aran work.
BFL has been designated as a rare breed by the British Wool Trade Board. We have several American shepherds who are raising BFL here in the states, but this is a British Blue Faced Leicester, imported exclusively by Wool2Dye4.
For the past several years the yarn manufacturers have worked hard to establish the credibility and excellent qualities of merino wool. I believe that the American yarn market is ready for Blue Faced Leicester.

Price: $46.40 per pound cone ..............$23.20 per skein.

Tencel Yarn tryout

People are asking for some of the new fibers and I am looking for good sources all the time for bamboo, corn, and tencel. Some of them are produced as blends and I especially like merino used in the blend.

I have found a tencel/merino blend and have ordered a small amount to try out. It should arrive next week (around Thanksgiving), and will be posted on the SPECIALS page of the website. It only comes on 3-pound cones but I am going to skein up smaller amounts to try out. If enough serious dyers like it, then I will stock it fulltime.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Book: Dyeing to Knit

A new book, Dyeing To Knit, has caught my eye and I like it enough to offer it on the website. Elaine Eskesen has written a book this is a good combination of inspiration and scientific method, and the pictures are thought provoking.

What attracted me to this book is a section on how to dye with a specific project in mind. Eskesen does a good job of differentiating between space dyeing and hand painting, something which I was glad to see since those two terms often seem to be used interchangeably. She talks about pooling of colors -- is it such a terrible thing, or could they be welcomed into our work and used to advantage? It makes no difference whether you dye with acid wash dyes, as does the author, natural dyes, Kool Aid, Easter Egg dyes, or food dyes. The bulk of the book is not about how to dye with acid wash dyes, but how to manipulate color, predict a color pattern in the fabric, how to combine some new techniques with your tried and true methods.

Her work features many examples of smooth and textured yarns used together to create new affects which color, alone, will not achieve. What I call 'visual texture,' or used to in my wallpaper shop when people would agonize over color choice and often leave with beige wallpaper. Visual interest is what gives the pop to a final knit piece!

Many of us have probably not taken advantage of incorporating more than one yarn in our final knitted pieces. I know that my own needles began to truly fly once I started knitting with my handdyes, and knitting socks out of my dyed yarn became so satisfying that I quickly became obsessed! Once I began to incorporate some Fair Isle work into the cuffs, my work stepped up a notch and became more interesting. Now, there are small handdyed yarn companies which are capitalizing on this very same concept of knitting with more than one of your handdyes at a time. They are reaching the people who don't do what you and I do, who do not invest the time and space and mess and creative juices into dyeing up a marvelous stockpile of colorful fibers.

One of the undyed yarn distributors once told me that they had received calls from several local yarn shops who were truly upset because their customers were beginning to buy handdyed yarns directly from the handdyers. Their market share was being eaten into and they didn't like it! It seems that handdyed yarns are beginning to find their own market -- on Etsy and eBay and through fiber artists' individual websites. And -- wonder of all wonders! -- many of my customers are begining to supply the local yarn shop with handdyes.

Actually, I have just taken on one LYS myself as a sort of experiment to see what my customers go through to get out a collection big and varied enough for a yarn shop owner to purchase. It is a lot of work, but the creative process suddenly shifts into another gear as I concentrate on the range of color and intensity and hue as the pile begins to grow.

Like Eskesen, the author of this new book, I look at color trends in clothing and home furnishing and, of course, yarn. At least one knitting magazine will have a color forecast each spring, you can count on it. In the wallpaper shop, I would tell people about color forecasting and how the home decorating fields follow the color trends of the clothing market by a year or so, and they always seemed amazed for some reason. I used to ask these customers to go home and open their closet doors and see if there was a majority of one color hanging there, or if there was a color pallette which they had not recognized before.

As long as I am rambling about color families, I did want to mention another color inspiration source which was sited in the latest Vogue Knitting magazine. It is the 3-in-1 Color Tool from C&T Publishing, a set of color cards similar to the paint store's swatches, but with 6 combinations for each color. I ordered one through the local quilt shop, another good source for color forecasting, by the way.

Dyeing to Knit by Elaine Eskesen is listed on my website for $22.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Feedback, please, on new trends in 'green' yarn...

I invite my customers and readers to give me their opinion and preferences on the new 'green' type of yarns that are now coming onto the market. These include bamboo, corn, and soy. Some of these are blended with other fibers which give or strengthen attributes which are desirable in yarns. I have seen bamboo/silk blends and bamboo/merino blends. Also, tencel/merino blends and soy/silk.

Have you got some insight into these yarns? I appreciate your input! This is one of the best ways I learn about new trends, fibers, yarns, methods, etc. , and I have said before that I love writing back and forth with my customers.

This time I invite you to post your comments on this subject here in the blog and perhaps we can begin a dialogue on a new subject.

Thanks so much,

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Glimakra Yarn Swift - new accessory

I am happy to announce that Wool2Dye4 now carries the Glimakra wooden umbrella yarn swift. This is the large version which expands to accommodate the typical wool skein of two yards. I use my swift almost every day, sometimes with the Royal Ball Winder, sometimes with one of my skein winders. This is one of those necessary yarn handling tools.

Glimakra is Sweden's premier manufacturer of looms and yarn accessories.
Cost: $65.
Just say 'Gleam-Oak-Rah.'