Yarn FAQs

Suzie Blackman
Saturday, 16 September 2017

We get asked a lot of questions about our yarn, which over time I’ll compile onto our yarn info pages. In the meantime, here are some that we get asked often. Keep them coming! We’re always happy to hear from you.

Do you offer a sock yarn with Nylon for extra wear?

We do not (apart from our , which we would LOVE to offer in 100% wool but haven’t been about to source them yet).

Why not?

Mainly environmental reasons. Nylon blend knitted socks are fantastically hard-wearing, I’m sure mine will outlive me, and therein lies the problem. Nylon is not a biodegradable material, and so it will be around long after the garment ends its useful life. Our 100% wool sock yarn is spun with a high twist that gives it extra strength. While a pure wool will never be able to withstand the wear of a Nylon blend, it’s really very durable, not to mention nicer to wear than Nylon blends).

Can you do jumper quantities of yarn (are your shades repeatable)?

Yes we can. Most shades are repeatable but sell out quickly. If you’d like more than we have available then click the “request custom order” button on the yarn page. If you don’t see a custom order link or button then unfortunately it’s probably a one-off batch or discontinued yarn or shade, but do stillĀ get in touch because we might be able to make something similar for you.

There are a number of reasons why a shade cannot be reproduced. These include: it is difficult to recreate uniformly; it can’t be dyed in large batches because requires a specific process; it was created with a different yarn or dye brand than what we use currently; it was a one-off created for our clubs; or we lost the recipe!

Can you reproduce this shade on a different yarn?

Sometimes. If the yarn is made from the same fibre blend then almost certainly, but while we can of course apply the same dye to other yarns, the results will differ a surprising mount with different fibre blend. This is in part because we use unbleached yarns, and them being different colours to start off with (silk and blends are the lightest, then alpaca, then merino, and Bluefaced Leicester being the darkest), but mostly because they absorb dye in very different ways.

The picture below shows our ‘La Vie En Rose’ shade on Dynamite DK Bluefaced Leicester (left) and Favourite Sock merino (right). The merino is brighter, the Bluefaced Leicester is deeper and slightly bluer in tone. The dye recipe and method are the same for both.

La Vie En Rose dye on two different yarns

The differences between the pure wool yarns and others are much more dramatic!

Can I come to your studio?

Sorry, not at the moment. My studio is also my home and I am neither insured not equipped for customers to visit. But one day, we hope to turn our dysfunctional garage into a purpose built studio space where we can offer studio visits and classes.

Are you doing any shows this year?

I would LOVE to but’s not likely I’m afraid. I have neither a car nor even a driving licence, so getting set up somewhere beyond taxi distance is difficult (but who knows, maybe a London show this year?). We also have the added challenge of a wee baby.

Don’t you use natural dyes if you’re interested in sustainability?

We do! However only particular dyes we gather ourselves so you won’t find us stocking large batches or repeatable colourways.

Why not?

  • Just because a dye is natural, doesn’t mean it’s ethical, sustainable or non-toxic. Brazilwood has been so over-harvested it was recently made a protected species. Cochineal is made from powdered insect bodies – not something I personally feel good about, and has become a pest in areas where it was introduced to be farmed commercially. Woad (used for indigo pigment) is caustic, and is classified as an invasive weed in some areas. Of course, many natural dyes are ethical (see our Dyeing with Onion Skins tutorial). We are looking at ways we can grow some of them so we can be sure they are ethically produced.
  • The natural dyeing process is not free of chemicals. The majority of natural dyes require a mordant – a chemical salt that prepares the yarn to be able to absorb the dye (though chemists disagree about the actual chemical process) and in some cases to modify the colour. The most inoffensive mordent is potassium aluminium sulphate, known as ‘alum’ (see our tutorial for more info about mordanting with alum). Another popular mordant is copper sulphate, which is an irritant and environmentally toxic.
  • Natural dyes are not normally completely wash or light fast, so not necessarily practical for knitwear. Sustainability includes the life of the garment.
  • A limited range of colours and colour effects can be created using natural dyes (no speckles!).

The synthetic dyes we use are from a family known as ‘reactive dyes’, they form strong, wash and light fast bonds with the fibres and don’t produce harmful byproducts or require problematic auxiliary chemicals. More about our dyeing process.

Can I go and squish your yarn in any shops?

Not right now but hopefully very soon! We’re working on it.

The author

Suzie Blackman

The dyer, designer, photographer, creative technologist and maker-of-things behind It's a Stitch Up. She lives in East London in a home filled with colour, fluff and house plants.

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