As I explained in my earlier post, I was lucky enough to receive two books on spinning and dyeing your own yarn to review. These books have given me a glimpse into the world of the hand spinner and hand dyer. It’s a very interesting world and it’s hard work! I have a lot of respect for indie dyers and spinners and can totally understand why their yarns are more expensive than yarns produced in a factory.
This post is my review of Yarn Works by W J Johnson (a spinner and dyer for more than 30 years). The book is available in soft cover on Amazon for £20.
Yarn Works takes you from fibre source, to dying, to spinning and even on to knitted projects using your truly individual yarn. Through a series of workshops: Fibre Workshop, Spin Workshop, Dye Workshop and Knit Workshop W. J. Johnson brings you full circle. She shows you how to spin and dye the yarn and then provides knitting patterns that use that particular spun and dyed fibre. Even if you don’t want to spin or dye your own yarn, you will enjoy learning about fibres and yarn types with the interesting “history behind” sections.
The book is written in a relaxed style that makes you feel the writer is right there with you in the room, giving you handy tips and guiding you through all the steps. With little side notes like “Don’t sweat the details. Now that you know the different spin methods, I’ll tell you the honest truth. Spinners do their own thing sometimes.” She makes you feel at ease and makes reading the book very enjoyable.
But don’t think the whole book is informal and chatty. No way. It’s very, very, precise, even scientific in its instructions. Whereas I felt that Spinning & Dyeing Yarn was not giving me enough specifics, this one sometimes intimidated me with all the measurements and maths involved. Each of the Workshops have Appendices with even more information. For example, the Dye Workshop Appendices include guides for mixing custom dye colours, and mathematical formulas to calculate dye quantity from stock solutions. It’s full on and intense. To give you an idea of how thorough the instructions are, in Spinning & Dyeing Yarn there were five steps to dye cotton yarn. In Yarn Works there are 11 and some of those steps refer you to the Appendices as well.
For my review of Yarn Works I followed the Dyeing by Osmosis technique on page 109.
I bought a 100g ball of undyed cotton from Texere Yarns, 25g powered dye called Procion MX in Lime Chartreuse from Woolwing on eBay , 100g soda ash from Intralabs on eBay and Dylon salt from Robert Dyas.
Step 1 says to wet the fibre. Nowhere does the instructions say to wet with Soda Ash, but I knew this had to be done from reading the instructions on the Proxion MX packet. For my 100 g of cotton, I filled a bowl with 2 liters of water and added 10g of soda ash. I soaked it for 10 minutes and squeezed out the excess.
Mixing soda ash into water
Cotton going in
Squeezing the water out
Step 2 is to mix the dye solution. Again I followed the instructions on the Proxion MX packet.
Getting ready to mix dye powder into warm water
Adding dye liquid to water and salt mixture
To get two different shades, I added 5 g of dye powder to the dye stock which I had decanted into a glass jar, thereby creating two different shades of green. Just for luck, I added a bit of water to the dye stock in the bowl to water it down a bit more.
Step 3 tell you to place one end of the wet fibre into one jar and drape the rest of the undyed fibre in the other. It says to let the fibre soak up the dye until it’s 2.5 cm apart.
Dyeing by osmosis
Step 3 continues to say to lay the fibre on cling film and allow the colours to move closer together. I actually like the big section of undyed yarn so I left it as it. If I had used two different shades, for instances red and yellow, I would have liked to get them to “meet” so that it would create orange, but for me, the two shades of green with undyed cotton in the middle looked really good.
Step 4 is to “finish the fibre accruing to dye cooking method”. I wasn’t applying heat to mine so I assumed that would mean just leaving it over night like the instructions in Spinning and Dyeing Yarn said. I also wrapped it in cling film to keep it from drying out.
Cotton wrapped in cling film
Sunday morning it was time for the big reveal. I rinsed off the excess dye under cold water and let the yarn dry on a drying rack.
I’m very happy with the result. The yarn has obviously absorbed a lot more of the dye than it did for the tie dye technique and created a true lime chartreuse colour that I love.
Sections of undyed yarn
The lighter lime chartreuse
Two shades of lime chartreuse
I enjoyed using the osmosis technique from the Dye Workshop in Yarn Works. I think this book is so incredibly detailed and scientific in its approach to dyeing, that it would be of great help to anyone trying to set up a yarn dyeing business – you don’t have to rely on luck to get the perfect shade. With Yarn Works there’s a proven scientific method of getting the same shade every time. If that home dyer is a knitter as well, you would have struck gold with this book.
The focus on this books seems to me to be on dyeing, whereas Spinning & Dyeing Yarn was more focused on spinning.
I found the book very interesting and easy to read, except for the Appendices – but that’s probably why they are done as Appendices. If you need to know formulas and the science bit, you will look at the Appendices, if not, just enjoy the book for what it is: a good guide taking you through the whole process from choosing fibre, to knitted item.