Natural dyeing is a process of coloring textiles with dyes from plants, insects, fungi, lichen, shellfish and rock minerals. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, all textiles were dyed with natural colorants, since there was no other source of color. The first synthetic dyes were developed in 1856, but the use of natural dyes continued in industry for another 50 years. (The Art and Science of Natural Dyes; Boutrup and Ellis, 2018).
There is an almost infinite number of natural dyes sources but many are not light or wash fast. Flora Adora Fibers utilizes natural dyes that are known to be light and wash fast. We use food grade mordants to bind the dyes to the fibers, to help the dye become permanently fixed to the fibers. That being said, there are also dyes that do not need a mordant to bind to the fiber. These include tannin rich dyes and indigo.
All the yarns are thoroughly washed and rinsed after dyeing, but like many hand dyed yarns, you may notice some dyes will rinse out slightly with washing-this is normal. Indigo dyed yarns may "crock" a bit, Because indigo is not attached to the fibers with a chemical bond, any sort of repeated pressure can cause the indigo to be pushed out of the fiber, resulting in crocking. Crocking is the release of excess indigo that was not removed during the washing process and occurs with goods that are freshly dyed. After you apply pressure to the yarn, such as during knitting or crocheting, the excess indigo will wear off and stop transferring. (Journeys in Natural Dyeing, Vejar and Rodriguez, 2020).
Where does Flora Adora Fibers source their yarns?
The original goal had been to source yarns from Ohio and nearby areas. However, the Covid-19 pandemic made it very difficult to connect with local suppliers when all the usual fiber festivals were cancelled. Currently, yarn bases are purchased from 2 small US suppliers, with the actual yarns being processed in Canada and Peru. The yarn from these mills is made from wool supplied by small farmers in Canada, the US and the Peruvian Highlands. As the pandemic receeds, and fiber festivals reopen, so will the hunt for locally produced yarns resume.
Caring for your finished projects
Yarns dyed by Flora Adora Fibers are non superwash, so please, do not wash in the washing machine like you might do with superwash yarns! Non superwash yarns will likely felt with that much agitation.
To wash, fill a sink or basin with lukewarm water and add a mild soap. Flora Adora Fibers uses unscented Eucalan, which is specifically formulated for woolens and is pH neutral. Drop your item into the water, gently squish it a few times to get it wet then let it soak 5-15 min. Drain the water from the sink or basin, refill with water the same temperature as the wash, gently add your item back into the water as before.
Gently squeeze out excess water, lay the item on a towel, roll up and gently press to remove excess water. Lay flat to dry, reshaping as needed.
Knitting with hand dyed yarns
Because hand dyed yarns can vary greatly from batch to batch, and skein to skein depending on dyeing technique, for any project requiring multiple skeins, you should alternate skeins every few rows, to get the best results. The next best technique is to alternate skeins for the last 1-3 inches of knitting or crocheting before completely switching to the new skein to make the transition a little less obvious.
Why non superwash yarns?
Superwash wool yarn takes color beautifully. This is because superwash wool has been chemically treated to remove the scales that cause wool to felt. This treatment alters the fiber's ability to take dye as well as giving it a denser hand and more lustrous appearance.. It also contributes to stretching. Since the fibers lack the scales that normally hold everything together, some superwash yarns stretch dramatically with washing and wearing.
Flora Adora Fibers offers non superwash yarns. Because the scales haven't been removed, these fibers have an increased ability to trap air and tend to be warmer than superwash yarns. They can also be lighter, especially if woolen spun, due to the fibers being less aligned and combed than worsted spun yarns. The scales are the reason a wool sweater, when machine washed in hot, soapy water, ends up a shrunken mess. (The Knitters Book of Yarn, Parkes, 2007). For this reason, hand washing as described above is strongly recommended. Handwashing helps keep the colors bright as well.