There are moments in our lives that shape and change us. Some are big, some are small, but they all build up who we are. One of my moments happened 3 years ago when I bought a Strauch drum carder. It shifted the direction of Crafty JAK’s from being a finished knitted object and knitwear design company to what it is today: A small, independent fibre studio, where we dye fibre and yarn and also card batts. We have expanded by supporting other small businesses by selling some of their amazing products, which makes me so happy. Some of those amazing makers are Kristan MacIntyre, Nerd Bird Makery, Succaplokki, and Strauch.
The last 3 years have been busy. They have been mixed with moments of huge self doubt and uncertainty. However, they’ve also been filled with so much joy and laughter. Being self employed isn’t always easy, but I do love it.
After every trade show, we have a company debrief. We talk about what went right, what went wrong and what is coming next. In March of 2019, after Fibres West, we made some decisions about which fibres we wanted to discontinue from our regular product line. Then we looked at the discontinued fibres to decide what to do with what we still had in stock. I suggested the idea of dyeing the fibre, and having it turned into yarn at a mill. We get a lot of questions about our handspun samples at shows and people wanting to buy that yarn. A yarn milled from dyed fibre would mimic handspun, but produced on a larger scale. We were very excited with this idea and decided they would be limited edition runs, where once the batch is gone, it’s gone.
And so the journey started…
Our first step was to reach out to Nicole, at That Darn Yarn Shop and Mill in Kamloops. We talked about what I wanted and if she thought she could produce it. She was so excited to be on board. We were going to be in Kamloops in April, so we agreed to meet at that time… and it couldn’t come soon enough! Judi and I started by going through our current inventory. We took out some of the 1 or 2 pound quantities that could be spun into some test yarn and put them aside to take to Nicole.
Here are a few of the yarns from the test run:
DK Weight on 60% SW Merino, 30% Bamboo and 10% Nylon. We will have 8 – 50 gram skeins with us at Knit City this weekend. They will be $38 each.
Worsted Weight on 85% SW Merino and 15% Nylon. I love the way this one turned out. Each ply is a different colourway, and I love how they play together. We will have 12 – 50 gram skeins with us at Knit City. They will be $38 each.
Lake at Dawn
DK Weight on 80% SW Merino, 10% Cashmere and 10% Nylon. This is a blend of three different colourways as well, but two of the colours are semi-solid, so there is a great steadiness to the yarn. We will have 11 – 50 gram skeins at $38 each, 5 – 35 gram skeins at $25 each and 14 – 15 gram skeins at $11 each.
We gained so much experience from our test run: It shaped our decision to do runs of about 12 pounds of the same fibre, that I would need to let go of some of my “perfectionism” when it came to colour management, and that the few “slubs” or bits of unspun fibre that made it through just added character to the yarn. It was also evident that working with Nicole was going to be a lot of fun. She was great about sending me photos throughout the process, and geeking out with me about fibre, twist and so much more! I love that we can support another small business in the creation of this yarn.
After we received the test run back, I set about dyeing the large batch run. 12 pounds of fibre is a lot of fibre to dye, but I loved every minute of it. Then it was time to ship it to Nicole to work her magic!
The very full box of fibre.
I love that it goes in one side like this…
And comes out the other side like big, fluffy, colourful clouds!
It was so exciting to see the process as it happened. Between the photos and texts that Nicole sent, I felt very involved. I kept texting that I just wanted to hop in my car and come see it myself! (Kamloops is about a 4 hour drive from my house, so not something to take on lightly!)
All of this fluff was slowly being twisted into singles!
As the bobbins filled up, I was getting more and more excited about seeing the finished yarn.
For those of you who aren’t spinners, plying is the act of taking the spun singles and twisting them together. This is what creates yarn of 2 or more plys. This yarn would be a 3 ply, which is one of my favourites to make when I’m spinning. I love that it creates a lovely round yarn to work with.
The colour mixing just makes my heart sing!
I asked Nicole to create me the largest skeins possible from the plyed yarn. She didn’t disappoint. Look at the size of this skein! It’s about 3000 yards of yarn, and with 5 big skeins like this, my sister and I had our work cut out for us. So much skeining, washing, banding and labeling lay ahead of us.
The beauty of washing
One of the things I love about wool is it’s resiliency. To reactivate the crimp, all you need to do is stick it in water. A skein of freshly spun yarn can “bloom” or puff up a lot, just by putting it in water. This is why it was so important for me to wash all the yarn before determining the yarn weight. The photo below is the unwashed yarn on the left and the washed yarn on the right. As you can see the washed yarn is 14 wraps per inch, which is considerably bigger than the 18 wraps per inch that arrived from the mill. This is the difference between a fingering weight and a DK weight yarn.
I think one of the hardest part of the process was trying to come up with a name for this line of yarn. As each batch was going to be here for such a short time, and that each batch would likely be a different fibre, it added another layer of complexity. In one of the brainstorming session, we talked about the yarn bloom. Bloom led to blossom, which led to the idea of the yarn being like a wild flower. Here for a short time and then gone. Hence the name Wild Blossom. The “wild” also encompasses the wide range in colour mixing from skein to skein, even from the same batch. They are a little untamed, a little unruly, but guaranteed to delight.
The finished yarn…
And here is a little peak at some of the skeins from all this work. This is “Lava Love” and it is the very first handpainted colourway that I created. It remains one of my all time favourites and I love how the colours mix and play together.
I decided that we would do four skein sizes. Often, you find specialty yarns like this are only available in the 50 gram size, which also serves to keep the price point down. However, my preference is to join skeins as little as possible. Especially when you are dealing with a yarn that is as varied as this one.
Here they are, from left to right, 4oz/114g skein (300 yards/274 meters), 2oz/57g skein (150 yards/137 meters) , 1.25oz/35g skein (90 yards/82 meters) and 0.50oz/15g skein (39 yards/35 meters). Final weight is DK and they are 80% SW Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon. Once these skeins are gone, I won’t be dyeing on this base again, however this colourway may be back.
Pricing was by far my biggest challenge. The fibre costs, plus the amount of time it takes to produce this yarn, both from Nicole at That Darn Yarn Shop & Mill and from us here at Crafty Jak’s, makes for an expensive product. To ensure that everyone could afford a little taste of Wild Blossom, I decided I would try creating 4 different skein sizes. The smaller skeins would be great as accents in a project and the larger skeins would be able to be used for a full project.
4 oz/ 114 g skeins – $84
2 oz/ 57 g skeins – $42
1.25 oz/ 35 g skeins – $25
0.50 oz/ 15 g skeins – $11
I will debuting this limited run yarn at my booth (#304) with coming weekend at Knit City. If you want to make sure to get your hands on it, I suggest stopping by early.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, your emails are always welcome. You can find it on our contact page here. I look forward to seeing many of you this weekend and if there is any yarn left, it will make its way into our online shop shortly after the show.
Till next time, Happy Crafting!