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by ysoldateague May 03, 2010


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A long time ago, almost exactly a year ago now, I found myself in Chicago where I visited the lovely people at Lorna’s Laces. They let me play with their colours and I came home with several skeins of totally unique yarn. The last year has been busy for both of us, but I finally settled on my favourite colour “recipe” and started working on a design using it. Once again, I’m in Chicago, and they invited me to visit again. When I got there, I felt like I’d taken over their workspace – my favourite colour was everywhere.

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I got to see the whole process that goes into making their vibrant colourways and even help a little (although I think they had to re-do the skein I twisted up!) Although the colour red and subtle semi-solid hand dyes are two of the things I love the best I’m usually disappointed in them. Most semi-solid red yarns use just one shade of red dye and the variation comes from the yarn absorbing more or less dye. I wanted a semi-solid red that didn’t have pale patches, that actually had different shades of red – and I am so pleased with the results.

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Each skein has several different dyes poured on in short sections (less chance of pooling) and massaged in.

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This was fun, and the gory appearance was entertaining but the part Beth did was perfectly neat – the part I did probably had the pale patches I wanted to avoid. Somehow I think I’ll be leaving the dyeing to the experts, fortunately their happy to let me do the fun part of choosing the colour while they do all the work.

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And of course, applying the colour is only a small part of the work involved. The skeins are hung to dry, carefully labeled with batch numbers, there will always be some variation between individual hand dyed skeins but keeping track of which skeins were dyed together from the time the dye goes on to when it’s sitting on the shelf in your yarn store helps avoid bad surprises when you’re knitting. If you are working with a hand dyed yarn on a large project it can be helpful to alternate between two skeins every two rows.

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Once the skeins are dry, Amanda and the other staff deftly form them into pretty little twists. Sometimes people ask why the yarn isn’t sold ready wound in balls, leaving you to do that work for yourself. There are a few reasons. Balling the yarn in a way that doesn’t fall apart while you’re knitting means doing it tightly which puts stress on the yarn, if you knit with it right away it will happily bounce back, but if it’s going to sit on a shelf for a while it won’t. I prefer to buy hand dyed yarns in skeins because it’s easier to see the colours, in the skein you can tell that there are different shades, in the ball you really have to squint to see that because they’re all jumbled up. Visiting the workshop of a hand dyed yarn company also made me realise that selling the yarn in balls would also create more work for the people making it, which would obviously increase the price.

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I’m having a wonderful time knitting up my perfect Ysolda Red into a design for the new book. If you’d like to try knitting with it ask your store about ordering it, the colour is part of the Colour Commentary series and it’s really gorgeous in all of their base yarns. I’m so excited to for you to complete this collaboration and use it in your projects.

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