Skein dyeing is one of the oldest
methods of coloring yarn. A skein, which is a length of yarn wound in a
loose coil, is dyed by being immersed in a receptacle containing
pigment. Skein dye pots were found in the remains of Pompeii and were
used by the Inca Indians of South America. Typically a fire was built
under the pot, and sticks were used to turn the skeins. Matter root,
various barks, berries, and indigo produced some of the natural dyes
Modern Skein Dyeing
Skein dyeing is still important for its
ability to dye small lots of yarn. Although the basic principles are the
same, the methods and materials involved have, of course, undergone
significant changes over the years.
Using a machine called a reel, a skein
is wound quickly and tied off in such a way that it can be unwound for
further processing without tangling. The yarn has been twisted and
heat-set prior to being reeled. Most of it comes from Shaw yarn mills, but occasionally
we use yarns from outside suppliers.
Types Of Yarn Used
The yarn we skein dye most often is nylon. We skein dye wool, too, but currently have
little demand for it. Manmade fibers other than nylon, such as polyester and polypropylene,
cannot be dyed by the skein but must be solution dyed.
The Dye Cycle
After the yarn is reeled in nine pound skeins, these skeins are hung on carriers which
are then lowered into large dye becks. Dye liquor is pumped through the becks, forcing
dyestuff into the fibers. The dye is circulated with enough power to
float the skeins off the carrier arms, eliminating undyed white areas
where the skeins were hung.
Dyeing takes place in normal atmospheric conditions (not under pressure) and generally
involves holding the dyeload at near-boiling temperatures for one hour. During
this dye cycle, the yarn is bulked, which gives skein dyed yarn products a full hand.
- Highly controlled color definition
- Ability to mix numerous colors in
- Relatively short lead time
- Ability to custom match colors
- Good side matching at seams
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