Our hand-dyeing process

We aim to be as transparent as possible about our business and processes. If you would like information on anything not covered below, feel free to get in touch!

In this section:

Colour techniques

Information about how to reproduce our different colour effects at home can be found in our publication Little Book of Yarn Dyeing.

Our hand-dyed yarns can be loosely grouped into four different types of colour effect:

Semi-solid shades

Our semi-solid shades are created by layering as many as five different dye mixes to give subtle tonal variation and intensity of colour.

Semi-solids range from single colours with understated darker and lighter tints, to more varied shades within a single colour family. We don’t do true solid colours, instead we encourage the effects unique to hand-dyed yarn and let the dye pigments ‘split’.

Speckled shades

Our speckled colours are created by applying dry powder pigment directly to the yarn, sometimes over a semi-solid or dip-dyed colour base. Speckle-dyed yarns knit up to produce a fabric with no pooling, and are increasingly popular in contemporary knitwear. Every skein is a unique creation and there can be noticeable variation between skeins.

Mottled shades

To create our mottled shades, we apply liquid dye solution to the yarn in a random way, and normally over-dye with a single colour. The effect is more subtle than speckled dyeing, but mottled yarns will knit up to produce similarly random, dappled colour effects.

Variegated shades

Variegated shades are created either by dipping skeins in several different coloured dye baths, or by pouring dye solution onto yarn immersed in trays of water. Skeins give regular repeats of colour blocks or gradients. In knitted fabric, the effects range from tonal variation to striking colour patterns and ‘pooling’.

Dye lots

We don’t produce numbered dye lots. We dye in small batches (5 or 10 skeins). There can be variation between batches, and to a lesser extent, variation within a batch (particularly for speckled shades).

We always make sure that skeins ordered together are a good match, so please order enough for your project. If you need more than we have available then feel free to place a custom order. We can’t guarantee that skeins ordered at different times will be a match.

Dyes

We use Procion MX pigments, which are synthetic pigments and part of a family of dye chemicals called Reactive Dyes. Our dyes are completely colour fast and produce almost no chemical effluent. For more information about the chemical process, please see this detailed explanation of dye chemistry.

Fixing

Heat is required to fix the dye to wool and other protein-based fibres. We use different methods of fixing depending on the fibre and colour technique, and we try to minimise our energy usage.

  • Steaming: We use an electric steamer for most of our fixing, steaming is energy and water efficient.
  • Boiling: Boiling uses more water and energy than steaming so we only use this method to achieve dark/deep colours, and also for Alpaca, which requires heat to maximise dye absorption.

Rinsing and drying

Yarn is rinsed twice in cold water to remove citric acid and any residual traces of dye.

The yarn then goes on a gentle spin-cycle in an A+++ energy rated machine to remove the majority of the water. Yarn is then air-dried naturally, minimising its carbon footprint.

Consumables

We try our best to minimise waste and energy usage in our dyeing process. All our equipment is reused or recycled, with the exception of the wooden stirrers we use to mix dye into a paste and test colour. These are made in the UK and come from an FSC approved source.

Other chemicals

  • Citric acid: We use food-grade citric acid to create the acidic environment necessary to fix reactive pigments to protein fibres.
  • Common salt (sodium chloride): Salt is a ‘levelling agent’ or ‘retarding agent’, slowing the absorption of dye, we sometimes use salt in the dye bath if we want to create flat, even colour.
  • Fibre lubricant: A bit like fabric conditioner, we use fibre lubricant to soften delicate fibres (like baby alpaca) at the rinsing stage.
  • Urea: Used in small amounts to help dissolve certain pigments, especially yellows, which are not as soluble as other colours.