As a hand dyer it is interesting to research and try out different blends. This can be to source new yarn bases for the shop or just to experience and experiment what is available.
I researched the origins and processes involved in bamboo & wool blends as well as yarns containing milk fibre. It was especially interesting to dye each of the blends alongside a wool nylon blend to compare the results.
First a little about these different fibres:
As the name suggests milk fibre comes from milk. It is created as a by-product of processing skim milk. A chemical process is used to extract, dry and then turn a powdered protein in to a fibre. It was first used during the 1930s and 40s to make wool and cotton go further. It is said to have anti-bacterial qualities and take colour very well (the protein in milk fibre was also known to be used in early outdoor paint).
Yes, the grass that Panda’s eat! The insides of the stems are processed down and made into a fibre, it has a shiny finish similar to silk. It gives strength when combined with wool, while keeping a drape and breath ability.
In order to test out the new blends I put all three in to the same dye bath (labelled with brightly coloured yarn that would not change colour) and did two different dyeing methods.
First batch I dyed up in Strawberry Shortcake (a repeatable colour that I already have in the shop). This was so that I could compare how the colour takes between my current sock yarn (Gumboot Sock) and the three new bases. Look how differently it comes out across the yarns!
Next I chose to have a play. I tried some shallow immersion dyeing and squirted some dye onto different sections of the yarn, to see how the dyes would absorb and blend on each fibre. Again, some extremely varied results.
The milk fibre yarn took up the dye a lot more than the bamboo, it is quite vibrant and dark. Of the other two, the one with the lower bamboo content seemed to take the colour better, but the one with more bamboo is a lot shinier and has more drape (this could also be due to the spinning method of the yarn as well, the 50/50 blend is a crepe style yarn, which is a bit more dense). The sheen and drape of the bamboo yarn is really lovely.
Once my experimentation was done I kept the two milk fibre skeins as they were and overdyed the lighter bamboo skeins with a silver grey so i could use them in one large project and have them look pretty much the same.
For the past 2 months I have had the pleasure of having my yarn featured as a pop-up at the Unwind Craft Cafe in Keilor East, Melbourne.
The cafe is the perfect place to sit and knit or crochet, talk about projects with like minded people and enjoy amazing scones. The staff are so friendly, welcoming and open to chat.
The opportunity to work with these lovely people came about because a friend and I decided to meet there to sit and knit for the day. We got to talking, they liked the yarn I was knitting with (which happened to be my own hand dyed yarn) and before I had left the store that day I had all the information on their pop-up program.
As a small hand dyer, getting the opportunity to feature in a brick and mortar shop is a huge and exciting opportunity. Not only does it expose new customers to my business but it also gives me insights into what colours are popular and the potential projects that purchasers are interested in making.
It has been exciting to participate in their Sit & Stitch evenings and talk to crafters who are buying my yarn. I have helped to choose colours for projects, talk about things that I have made and encourage others try a new projects.