Meet Noreen, our production manager. In the photo above, she’s skeining Chickadee in preparation for dyeing–(oh so soon, now). Most commercial yarns are package- dyed on the cone. The dye solution is forced through the wound yarn, a procedure that changes the nature of the goods. Not so at Saco River Dyehouse. We’ll be skein dyeing, a process especially suited for hand-knitting yarns. Dipping skeins in a dye bath opens and ‘blooms’ the yarn, the better to preserve its soft hand and loft. Skein dyeing is labor intensive, but the results are so worth it.
Note the skeining machine. Yarn from the spinning mill is shipped to the dyehouse on cones. The yarn ends from the cones on the left are threaded through the overhead frames, then directed down and then fastened to the revolving skeining machine on the right. The arms on the skeining machine are opened and set to a given diameter. The machine spins around a specific number of times, depending on the weight of the skein we’re making. For thinner yarns, it goes around more times than it does for thicker yarns–more yards per skein means more resolutions. Cool, no?
When the machine stops, Noreen ties off each skein in three places to hold the strands together through the dye process. One tie, even two, sometimes, and you have a tangled mess at the end. Noreen holds a pair of clippers (orange handles) to snip the ends of the ties.
Thus is the yarn readied for dyeing.