Saturday, December 4, 2010

Size matters...

If you've done any custom processing of your own fleeces and sold them to others you surely have experienced having to create your own yarn labels.  But what do you put on the label?  Are there any laws that require certain information being stated?  What size yarn do I have?  This is a problem that has really been a struggle for us as a mill.  Processing fiber for producers to sell to consumers who have two different concerns (DENSITY vs. DIAMETER) has proved to be a tricky and feisty little issue.

The Craft Yarn Council site states that it is "the yarn industry's one stop resource".  And while it is a deep well of information all very useful and well organized, it doesn't deal with the tension of density vs. diameter.  They do however offer several things you'll find very useful.  They have a place where you can download symbols to put on your own yarn labels.  They also have a page that helps determine what name it should be called and the recommend hook or needle sizes for working on a project.  The have concluded and I would agree that we want to create "consumer-friendly products" and for the consumers to be able to "select the right materials for a project and complete it successfully".  To that end the CYC has set up this series of guidelines and symbols.

But what this site doesn't help you determine is what size of yarn you actually have.  What most mills will do is spin your fiber into a certain number of yards per pound.  Spinning yarn to a certain thickness is problematic for several reasons.  First, it's under tension and there's no easy way to know how much it will "bloom" when that tension is released in the fulling process.  Two, yarns with little crimp will require sometimes twice as much roving to create the same thickness of yarn desired.  Third, the producer wants to know that they are going to get a consistent number of sellable units based on the incoming weight that they deliver to the mill.  And finally, using the yards per pound measurement is just easier for the miller to do and it keeps them accountable to producer.  However, all that being said, one man's sport weight isn't another man's sport weight - BUT WHY!?

Well in short the answer is that every fleece is different... and if the fleece is different you can bet that the yarn is going to be different. 

But you know me, I don't typically give short answers (c:

So what do you do when your sport weight looks like a bulky but it's really still 1200 yards per pound?  or your sport weight looks like a fingering but it's still 1200 yards per pound?  The problem is that the market (your customer) isn't really concerned about yards per pound as much as they are concerned about how it's going to knit/crochet, what size needle they should use, how many stitches they will get over a certain number of inches... that kind of stuff.  And so we're caught in the middle of this tension of the producer whose concerned about the density and the consumer whose concerned about the diameter.

That's why the "Wraps Per Inch" measurement was created... but that's for another post!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Turn Around Time, Year of the Icelandic Fleece, & Rugs...

Wanted to write a quick post to let you know that we've cut our turn around time down to 7 weeks and it's shrinking!  We now employee two other people at the mill - Patrick Leitch (carding and opening) and David Artrip (shipping, receiving and wash).  These two new people have helped tremendously in cutting our turn around time down from 16 weeks out just 2 months ago.

2011 is being declared "Year of the Icelandic Fleece" by MSF.  After working with this amazing fiber for the last 4 years we're now ready to drop our prices and ramp up our production speeds.  We would like to begin processing 200 pounds of raw Icelandic fleece each week during the months of December through March.  Icelandic sheep are a primitive breed that have a dual coated fleece.  The outer coat is called Tog and is a 30 micron fiber that is 6-9 inches long.  The under coat is called Thel and is a 18-24 micron fiber that is 2-3 inches long and very crimpy.  Icelandic fleeces are great for felting and thel yarns are amazingly soft.  Lamb fleeces make an incredibly soft yarn even without being dehaired as their first fleece is almost identical between the thel and the tog.  Historically the Icelandic breed has been known for their ability to make an amazingly soft Lopi yarn.  Lopi is a super bulky yarn - lightly twisted single that is 300 yards per pound.  This yarn is great for quick knitting & felt projects and for sweaters, hats or mittens.

Also in the last 12 months we have been exploring the production of rugs in a number of different patterns.  We'll upload examples of the types of rugs we have made here soon.  The cost to weave rugs is $.75/linear inch.

Hope you're having a great start to the winter.  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and we hope that you have a very merry Christmas.

Your friends at MSF