Let's Talk Dye Lots

  • Many of us have baked cookies or cakes.  What does this have to do with dye lots you say!!! Actually they can be compared pretty closely.  When you bake a cake or bread, often the measurments may vary due to the humidity or elevation (are you in Denver, or Death Valley...) one may be humid/dry, the other may be snowy, high elevation etc.  These can cause the flour or yeast especially to change dramically in terms of how it rises.  Now I am not a master baker by any means, but I do know that there can be some extreme variations with some of these variables.
  • The same thing can happen with dyes and yarns.  Different threads, silks or wools will take dyes differently at different times, depending on a variety of different variables.  Wool for example has lanolin automatically from the sheep.  That is generally removed in the initial processing but not 100%.  So any remaining lanolin will affect the dye adherance to the wool. (Have you felt some wools that feel sooo soft and others that feel really scratchy -that is the lanolin talking).  Also different dyes will adhere better than others in general. Both wool from sheep, silk from silk worms, and any other fiber from a living thing contain protiens and those protiens work to adhere to the dyes.  It is those protiens, that change with each animal that will in the long run affect the dye lot.  Each dye run will result in each lot being different whether it is wool, silk , camel hair, alpaca etc.
  •  An article that begins to explain in detail the dyeing process of both wool and silk is discussed at textiletuts.com .  They also discuss the importance of "ph" and how it works with dyes.  
  • The point to this level of detail is this, when looking at, or ordering many fibers or threads, the dye lot can be very important to your stitching.  As threads or fibers are dyed, the manufacturer will dye in batches which are basically recipes of dye, some large and some small.  The goal of the manufacturer will be to always match that "original" color.  
  • This affects you because as you are purchasing that fiber, you will need to ensure that you choose enough to cover the area in question, with the dye lot that you choose.  
  • For example, say you purchase a canvas with a light blue background, (sky) area.  You might be able to show some variation in the sky intentionally and it will look beautiful and the different dye lots placed in certain areas willl show the differences where you want them.  
  • But in another case, say you do not order enough of the blue, and 8 months later, you run out of the blue, and you contact the vendor, and the only dye lot available is vastly different.  You search the world, and no one has any of the dye lot you need.  You do not wamt to rip-rip (you know that frogy stitch...) so another dye lot same color.....really not a good option???? so what are your choices, you are kicking yourself for not getting another skein, when you purchased.  
  • As a store owner, this happens a lot, and there is very little I can do to help.  I can offer dye lots that are close, colors close, even other vendors that have colors close, but this is a huge dilemma for stitchers.  
  • The bottom line here is to understand dye lots and that they can not be re-made.  Once that dye lot is sold it is not made and/or matched again.  The circumstances of the wool or silk matching exactly to that first lot # will not happen again.  This goes back to the beginning in that the source of these are both living things, and as their protiens will constantly be changing, so will the end result of their dyeing process, therefore, lot numbers will change as well.  
  • I hope this helps to explain how this can work, and as always questions are always welcome, 
  • Dawn

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