Naturally Dyed Yarn

Natural Colors

Saxon Merino Sheep
Yarn and Farm

What's New In The Yarn Store, June 2014

All yarn is from our Saxon Merino sheep that we hand-dye on the farm in earth friendly colors.

Playful: Red & Blue


Red And Blue, Citric Dyes

A Sport weight 2 ply yarn (2 Oz = 175 Yd) Available in the Playful Yarn Store


Citric Dyes, Close Up


Sherwood Green, A Citric Dye

We will talk about what we don't see—this citric-dyed Sherwood Green yarn, available from the Sport Yarn Store, and most other hand-dyed yarn, is not level in dyer's parlance, which means it doesn't have an evenness of color. We like what we don't see.

Notice the color variation along the length of the yarn: there are several colors of green depending on how the blue or the yellow (blue + yellow = green) took. A lime green color evidences more yellow dye while a sea green color evidences a predominance of blue dye. And there is a red-brownishness to certain portions of the yarn where the red dye overwhelmed the blue and the yellow dyes tending toward brown. (green + red = brown).

We usually mix three colors to get a hue; the two primaries or a secondary give us the basic shade and the third color is a complement (the red here) to the first two that tones them down. We try to make a color story that is keyed to the lovely muteness and harmony of natural colors.

And we aim for an absence of levelness. How we do that is to add the weighed dyes and the citric acid to the cool water, along with the yarn to be dyed, in the pot and take the temperature slowly up to about 175F and beyond. The dyes strike (more dyer's parlance: realize the color) at different temperatures, each color should have its own temperature. 

Dye houses are formulaic; they have a simple recipe for the levelness of color of yarn and that would be to heat the water and when it reaches 175F, add the dye, add the citric acid, add the yarn then check it with at pH meter.

This unevenness gives a rich texture to the knitted garment in the play of colors along the strand of the yarn. 


True Cochineal

 2 oz (50 g), 140 yd, 5 stitches per inch on US 8

There are many ways to get a type of Cochineal color; you can mordant the yarn with Alum or you can mordant the yarn with Alum and Cream of Tarter or you can sadden the yarn of either of them with an Iron after bath. All shades of Cochineal.

But what amazes me with all natural dyes, Cochineal included, is that you are lucky. You dye in Winter and you get one color and you can dye the same recipe in Summer but get a different shade of that same color such that you'd have to call it a different dye lot. What happened?

We use well water and the mineral composition differs during the season depending on rainfall. Not only is the color local it is temporal. Plus natural dyes are crops and they differ from year to year due to growing conditions.

This is what is so exciting about natural dyes and colors—because they have all these variables—they rarely dye the same colors twice. I am lucky because surprised at the color difference and you will be too.

There is a plus to dying for other people—it's educational—I may not care for a color but that color might be the apple of another's eye. I've learned so much by selling colors chosen by other people; they amaze—they are so different than what I like.

This Cochineal is a full color and it is pure as the day is long—that's why it's so rare.

Available in the Worsted Yarn Store and there are only 24 2 ounce skeins. 1 skein to make a hat, 2-3 to make a scarf, 8-10 to make a sweater. 2 to make socks.

2 oz (50 g), 140 yd, 5 stitches per inch on US 8


Van Gogh Rose Lace

2 ounces measure 350 yards

Pink is pink is pink, like a rose, and this is a very lovely pink; we dyed it in a Fingering weight and it was popular. Rarely do we dye the same color in two different weights of yarn but we did it for this color as it is to be knit fine.

Available in the Lace Yarn Store


Sprout Lace

2 ounces measure 350 yards

Available in the Lace Yarn Store


Indigo Over Weld

A teal color from Weld and a 2 minute dip in Indigo

This Worsted weight yarn, 2 oz = 140 yd, is custom spun at Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont from wool produced by our superfine Saxon Merino sheep. We hand dyed it outside, under the watchful gaze of the sheep, at the farm in Goshen, New York with natural colors.

First we dye a pound, 8 skeins, with Weld or a plant called by its Latin name Reseda Luteola.

The plant produces a bright yellow dye. The yellow could be mixed with the blue from Indigo from a plant formally called Indigofera Tinctoria to produce greens. Weld was in use by the first millennium BC.


The Reseda Luteola plant or Weld

Then we quickly dip the yellow Weld skeins in a blue Indigo dye bath that gives us these lovely variegated greens.

We are a small dye house and will custom dye natural colored yarn for you: dark, light, variegated of less so; what ever your heart desires within the color possibilities of natural dyes. There are several examples of Indigo Over Weld available in the Worsted Yarn Store. Tell us what color you're looking for and make it unique like your knitting project.

This is a natural dye and is prone to Crocking but don't worry as you will see.


Madder Dipped Indigo

This is a Worsted Weight Singles, 2 oz = 140 yd, and we only dye this weight in Natural Colors using dyes from vegetable or natural substances that grow on the earth.

The reddish color is from the root of a Madder plant which we dye first, then we dip 8 skeins half-way into a blue Indigo dye-bath, made from the leaves of the Indigofera Tinctoria plant, giving us rich complementary blue-browns in the Indigo overdye of Madder.  

Skeins can be of different colors so make sure you order enough from the same dye lot for your project: 1 skein knits a hat, 3 skeins knit a scarf. One should remember that natural dyes and the colors they produce are from crops that may differ from year to year due to growing conditions.

And this is a natural dye so it is prone to Crocking.

Available in the Dipped Yarn Store.


Blue-Violet Super Bulky

Our Super Bulky, 4 oz (100 g) = 110 yd, 4 stitches per inch on US 15, is a big singles yarn (6 custom spun strands twisted together at the Green Mountain Spinnery) and the Blue-Violet color is a purposely variegated dark flame blue with hints of warmer violet.

I've seen people spellbound before this Blue-Violet yarn when they walk into the stand in Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday—that unusual and lovely it is.

Available in the Super Bulky Yarn Store


Cochineal dipped in Indigo

Worsted: 1 ply, 2 oz (50 g) 140 yd, 5 stitches per inch on US 8

Natural colors: a worsted weight. Skeins of natural Pink Cochineal were hand dipped in a natural Blue Indigo dye bath to produce the lovely mauve colors.

We have had this yarn color before but each and every dye lot is so different that we must think of it as a new yarn color every time we dye it.

This yarn is not a corporate product, not anonymous, not imported from off-shore, not dyed with heavy metals, not chemically treated to superwash, but is yarn from our small farm upstate, from our Saxon Merino sheep, hand dyed with earth friendly colors in the barn yard to be hand washed with care. That's who we are and that's what we do.

See this yarn and other colors in the Dipped Yarn Store


Quebracho Red

Worsted: 1 ply, 2 oz (50 g) 140 yd, 5 stitches per inch on US 8

Our Worsted 1 ply is 3 spun strands that are twisted together to make a worsted weight yarn; it looks hand-spun but the yarn is from the Green Mountain Spinnery.

Available in the Worsted Yarn Store

Quebracho is a hardwood tree—quebrar-hacha means axe-breaker—it is found in the the Gran Chaco region of South America.


A Quebracho bush in Argentina


Quebracho Colorado

Quebracho is a powdered extract from the sawdust of the wood and it produces a pink color with a slight tint of orange when dyed on Saxon Merino yarn.


Playful—Black and Brown

Sport: 2 ply, 2 oz (50 g), 175 yd, 6.5 stitiches per inch on US 5

We dye part of a skein one color and then the other part of the skein we dye a second color. We play. We have more colors that will be in the Newsletter but they will appear sooner on Twitter @CatskillMerino.

$18.00 for a 2oz skein

Available from Special Orders.


Hopscotch, Fingering


Pupcorn, Fingering


2 Ply, 2 oz (50 g), 225 yd, 7.5 stitches per inch on US 3

Both new colors are available in the Fingering Yarn Store.


MOMA, Lace
Downtown Brown, Lace
Both of these colors are either new or kind of new: MOMA is the color you feel walking across 53rd Street to enter the Museum of Modern Art; Downtown Brown debuted on a Sport weight and because of its popularity we dyed a Lace weight with the same color.

2 oz (50 g), 350 yd, 8 stitches per inch on US 2

Both available in the Lace Yarn Store.


Berry Sorbet

Fingering: 2 oz (50 g), 225 yd, 7.5 stitches per inch on US 3 
Sport: 2 oz (50 g), 175 yd, 6.5 stitches per inch on US 5
To order the yarn, see other colors and read more about the yarn go to the Fingering or Sport Yarn Store.

Rust Red

2 oz (50 g), 350 yd, 8 stitches per inch on US 2
To order the yarn, see other colors and read more about the yarn go to the Lace Yarn Store.