Here I’ll look at the different yarn bases that I’m using for dyeing and working with. I’ll be adding more along the way and seeing how they compare in the dyepot…
Superwash Merino 4ply (375m per 100g)
Usually if you tried to machine wash your precious hand knitted work of art, you would end up with a bit of a mess. This is down to the particular cuticle scales present on wool fibre. These scales catch on each other during the spinning process, holding the yarn together. When the yarn is machine washed, the heat and agitation causes the scales to tighten their hold on each other, resulting in felting and shrinkage.
The superwash process prevents this as the wool is either coated in a resin or polymer to join the scales together, or is treated with an acid bath to remove the scales.
For the purposes of dyeing this can mean that the dye will ‘strike’ superwash wool differently to normal wool. The removal of the scales mean that the superwash wool absorbs the dye very quickly and it can be hard to get a uniform solid colour. However, if you are aiming for a semi solid, you can get some interesting effects!
Blue Faced Leiceister Laceweight (800m per 100g)
Here’s a BFL:
This UK breed is newer to the game than the ever-popular merino breed and isn’t quite as fine as the latter. However, it has less memory and ‘springiness’ than merino so it has a good drape and is a great choice for lace or openwork.
I usually go for silks or silk blends when working on lace, so I’m looking forward to exploring this one further. Merino lace can be a bit frustrating to block, especially when you see it has started to spring back a few days later!
Tussah Silk Laceweight (900m per 100g)
Lovely Tussah silk has a beautiful, slightly ‘rustic’ texture but takes dye brilliantly well. It’s made from the silk cocoons of wild moths and it’s their varied diet that gives the undyed fibre a range of creamy honey colours. Looking for a dramatically open and finely draped lace knitting? Tussah is your best bet.
Mulberry Silk Laceweight (900m per 100g)
Mulberry silk is just so soft and satiny. Again, the sheen of the fibre makes dye colour simply glow on this base. This is silk from cultivated moths and the softness is due to the long unbroken filaments that obtained from the ‘farmed’ cocoons. Tussah filaments by contrast are shorter as the cocoons are already broken when they are used.
I love silk. Can you tell?!
Merino/Silk Laceweight (800m per 100g)
This laceweight blend consists of 75% superwash merino and 25% silk and I would say it definitely combines the best of both worlds. The merino content gives it a wonderful springy softness, while the silk imparts a sheen and gives it extra drape. I love this base as often with these merino-silk blends, the silk content can be pretty low, but here the fact that it’s a quarter silk really makes a difference.