How to Spin Yarn Like a Master Dyer
Felicia Lo, Founder and Creative Director of SweetGeorgia Yarns and author of Dyeing to Spin & Knit, can dye yarn and fiber like no one else. But did you know that she’s also a beautiful spinner herself? We wondered how her work as a dyer affects the way she spins her own yarn.
Q: When you sit down to spin handdyed fiber, what’s the first thing you do?
A: The very first thing I do with hand-dyed spinning fibre is to open it up entirely and look at the colour distribution and dye style. Perhaps the fibre has been handpainted with distinct chunks of colour. Or perhaps it has been dyed with a random spatter technique producing small bits of confetti-like colour. The appearance of the colours within the spinning fibre along with other factors like fibre blend, preparation, and staple length help inform how I will spin the fibre!
Q: How is dyeing fiber different from dyeing yarn?
A: Dyeing fiber is sometimes a little bit more challenging simply because fibre is loose and doesn’t have a stable structure like yarn does. If the wool has been treated to be washable, it will make the fibre a lot more slippery and bits of fibre can easily migrate or float away as you are trying to dye it. And if the wool has not been treated, it can be susceptible to felting from overheating or overhandling. The trick is to be gentle with the fibre as you are dyeing it and minimize the water used in the dye vessel to encourage faster and easier dyeing.
Q: How did you become a spinner?
A: Years ago, I stumbled on a package of fibre and a spindle at a local fair and was intrigued. But then I pulled the instructions out of the package and read them and it seemed like waaaay too much work, so I reassembled the package and put it back. But the thought of making my own yarn just kept coming back to me, like an itch you can’t scratch. So I broke down and went to our local yarn and fibre shop and bought a huge wooden spindle and a bag of Corriedale fibre and set about teaching myself to spin from a photocopied handout. Finally, after spending a week of making maybe 10 yards of thick, lumpy yarn with the “park and draft” method, I was absolutely hooked. I returned to the shop and bought a spinning wheel and have never looked back!