All About Everything
Who am I? I’m an engineer with a serious yarn addiction, who decided to leave a life of electronics and high-tech spy planes for hand-dyeing and knitting. Sounds crazy and it probably is, but I’m finally running my own business and couldn’t be happier. I’m Carrie Sundra in real life and I'm Alpenglow on Ravelry. Some of you may also know me as curlie. If you like what you see here, please join the Friends of Alpenglow Yarn group! I don't really run it, but I do check in and post. And you can also check out my blog, which tends to be more about stuff other than yarn.
I've provided a lot of information about my yarn so that you'll have a good idea of what to expect when your skeins arrive in the mail! If you receive something that was not what you expected and just won't work for you, I understand. Customer satisfaction is very important to me, and I will take yarn back that's in its original condition. Please see my return policy for more details.
About Naturally Dyed Yarn (What to Expect):
All my yarn is naturally dyed with plants or trees, or in the instance of cochineal, bugs that live on prickly pear cacti. I enjoy using raw materials as much as I can, and I use extracts only when the raw material isn't available. It's a fascinating process to create color from scratch and apply it to yarn. I use mordants to ensure light and colorfastness comparable to synthetic dyes.
Crocking: You may notice that when working with some green, blue, or purple yarn, that blue pigment rubs off on your hands and needles. This is called crocking and is normal, it means that the yarn was dyed with indigo. The blue will wash off with soap and water. If you would like to dork out and learn more about indigo, and how it's different from other dyes, click here.
Washing: I find that some naturally dyed yarn bleeds in the wash. This too is normal, and it won't affect the overall color of your skein. Just take care like you would with any load of laundry - use cold water, and wash reds or darks separately from whites or lights. Some natural dyes can also change color with pH (some are even used as laboratory indicators), so for best results, use very little of a mild, pH-buffered soap. Also, wash and rinse your garment briefly - do not soak it for a prolonged period of time. I recommend handwashing all handmade garments (even those made out of superwash wool), just because it's more gentle and controlled.
Light Exposure: I test all the dyestuffs I use for lightfastness, and I don't use anything that I consider inappropriate for the life of a typical piece of knitwear. That said, just like synthetic dyes, there is a range of degrees lightfastness amongst the dyes. Some will fade sooner than others, and everything (synthetic or not) will fade if exposed to direct sunlight 24/7. If you're considering making a wall-hanging or other piece that will continually be exposed to a lot of light, contact me and I can tell you which of my current colors will last the longest.
Color Consistency: The amount of dye within a plant or cochineal bug will change from plant to plant, bug to bug, batch to batch, and year to year. So I do not guarantee that the same colors from different batches will be exact matches. It will be more likely that skeins within a dyelot will match, but due to the nature of kettle-dyeing, it's not guaranteed. If you need more consistent color throughout your project, I recommend alternating skeins every few rows. If you would like to make a bigger project and don't see enough skeins of one color listed, please contact me and I'd be happy to dye a larger batch for you.
About Small Farm Yarn (What to Expect):
My Small Farm line of yarn and roving has been custom-made for me, from fleeces that I've bought, from farms that I've visited. The Corriedale is from Mendocino, and alpaca is from the Central Coast of California. Occasionally I'll have a special item - like ultra-fine 13-15 micron merino roving from a farm I visited in
The Dreaded VM: vegetable matter - what every knitter hates to have in their yarn and roving. I'm sorry, but you will find some vm in the Small Farm Yarn series. Why? First of all, because fleece comes from a dirty animal. Once the animal is shorn, the fleece is hand-skirted and mechanically separated and/or carded - so it hasn't undergone "carbonization" which means that the fleece had an enzyme-bath which dissolved all cellulose (hay, stickers, etc). All the fleece has been washed with soap, so dirt and oils and other unpleasantness is gone, but it is typical to have some clean pieces of hay, grass, or stickers remaining. Anything I feel to have excessive VM, I've noted on the item description and discounted.
The Even More Dreaded Knots: I know, I knit and I hate knots too. Unfortunately, they're unavoidable. I try to catch skeins that have an excessive number of knots (3 or more), but I may miss some. In some yarn, you may encounter air splices - some are hardly noticeable, but some can be just as bad as a knot. If you have a skein that you are unhappy with, please contact me and I'll do my best to remedy the situation. I want happy customers!
Slubs & Flubs: Large mills process fleece in huge batches, mixing several hundred or thousand fleeces together. Thick and thin fibers, short and long staples tend to average out, and each batch is very consistent. Mini-mills process yarn almost on a fleece-by-fleece basis. Since each fleece can vary from one to the next, the yarn tends to vary as well. You may see thicker and thinner spots, or places that are more tightly or loosely plied. This is normal, and you usually can't see the difference once the yarn is knit with. This is not necessarily true for crochet - differences in yarn thickness tend to be amplified in that medium. Keep in mind that this is a unique and boutique product, closer in appearance and feel to handspun than "normal" yarn.
Processing Oil: After a fleece is washed and picked (the locks are fluffed up), a small bit of oil is mixed back into it before further processing. This is to control static electricity build-up, and to prevent the fibers from sticking in the machinery. I wash all yarn (both dyed and undyed) before listing it on the website, but the undyed roving will still have oil in it. If you are spinning to a certain gauge, it is very important that you wash the yarn after spinning, and before knitting your swatch. This is especially true of wool, which can fluff up incredibly once the oil is removed.
More About Mordants:
A mordant is essentially a chemical glue that makes the dye stick to fiber. With a few exceptions, dye molecules and fiber molecules form very weak bonds on their own, ones that are easily broken when exposed to water, light, or abrasion. However, dye molecules form very strong bonds with mordants, and mordants form very strong bonds with fiber. When you put the 3 together, you get a dye molecule that is strongly bonded to the mordant which is strongly bonded to the fiber, and the result is a colorfast dye. Mordants are metal salts - I use mostly alum and also copper, iron, and tin. The mordant does affect the color of the dye - some colors are only possible with certain mordants. For natural dyes, dyeing is a 2-step process - first you mordant the yarn in one batch, then you dye it in another batch. With synthetic dyes, the mordant is already included in the dye powder, and dyeing is basically is a one-step process.
More About Indigo:
Indigo is a very unique dye. Unlike other dyes, it does not form a chemical bond with the fiber, rather, the dye molecule is physically trapped in the fiber molecules. When an indigo vat is prepared, it must be fermented or reduced to eliminate all oxygen. This reduced indigo is called indigo white, and is soluble in water. You enter the yarn very carefully, introducing as little oxygen as possible into the vat. The indigo white solution works its way into the yarn fibers. When the yarn is removed from the vat, the indigo white immediately oxidizes to indigo blue, which is insoluble. The indigo blue is trapped in the fiber molecules, effectively dyeing your fiber blue. What does it all mean? It means that when the fiber is physically worked, some of the blue indigo molecules become untrapped, and rub off (or crock). Jeans were originally dyed with indigo, and that's why the high-abrasion areas like the knees and butt would lighten first. Should you be worried about yarn dyed with indigo lightening too much? Jeans are a pretty extreme case, most knitwear wouldn't stand up to that kind of abuse anyway! A typical piece of knitwear won't be subject to enough abrasion to lighten significantly.