Saturday, January 06, 2007

Undyed Yarn Bloom

Recently a couple of customers have hesitated when choosing yarns because they think a certain yarn might be too thin. I think we need to remind ourselves about the unique qualities of the yarns in the undyed market. Most are unscoured, which means they haven't been through a hot bath, such as what they get when going through the steaming process of dyeing. At some point in the yarn preparation process, the yarn is wound by machine onto a cone. It could be a very large cone of several pounds which serves as a sort of holding station for skeining, later. All of this handling stretches the fibers and squeezes the air from between the individual fiber strands, making it appear to be thinner than it will be when it fluffs up again.

I tried an experiment the other day with the new BFL Ultra! and soaked it in hot, hot water. That's when the bloom came upon it! What I discovered is that I was more willing to try my swatch with a larger needle than I would have if I had judged from the unscoured/undyed/un-soaked state.

Bloom is a natural process that yarn just does, well ... because that's how it is. Remember that the spinning and winding processes that undyed yarns go through will compact the fibers. What makes the fibers seek their natural space within the yarn is when we apply heat. When we dye protein fibers, one of the elements used is heat. If you're not going to dye these yarns, then be sure to give them a good soak in hot water to allow them to bloom and to permit you to judge the actual diameter. Yarns from commercial manufacturers have gone through these steps on their way to becoming perfectly formed little mounds on the shelves of the yarnshop. We have to put a little elbow grease into our yarns, all a part of the creative process. I love to observe the stages of the yarn as it soaks up water, absorbs dye, rests before steaming, begins to change tones in the dyepot, as it is unveiled when the dye process is finished, and -- best of all! -- as it slides through my fingers on the needles. The knitting just goes so much faster when you're knitting with your own handdyed yarn. The aniticipation of what that next row will look like up against this row drives us.

The BFL Ultra! which I dunked in hot water is destined to become a cable sweater for little Mia, newly adopted Chinese granddaughter. It will be knit in the natural white and will look so pretty against her skin.

Please don't hesitate to experiment, and expect yarn to expand. The customer in question wanted a worsted weight which would not pill, so I suggested that the Kona Superwash might be a good choice. It is a light worsted weight, a nice firm and round yarn, and it definitely does bloom when subjected to steaming or hot water.

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