Special tour of a local yarn manufacturer.
On what turned into a loud and inspiring Monday, most of the team at True North took a visit to Spincycle Yarns. A local spinnery in Bellingham, Washington, Spincycyle was founded by Rachel Price and Kate Burge in 2004. Originally, all their yarn was spun by hand!
Rachel, Kate and their staff dye and spin their own original yarn lines. Their super soft wool is a blend of Corriedale, Rambouillet, and Columbia sheep raised in Colorado and Wyoming.
They order processed wool fiber, which means it’s been scoured and carded. One bale of wool is 800 pounds and made of numerous “bumps.” These bumps are what the dyers bring down to the dyeing room. The bumps are undyed, pure white and wonderfully soft. The wool is ready to be dyed in Spincyle’s original colorways.
The dying room is in the back of the studio with a large roll up door that allows plenty of ventilation. On the day we visited, Kate was dyeing. To dye the wool, the pile lengths from the bump in large stock pots. The color is poured onto the wet wool. And the more wool is piled on and the process repeated until the pot is full.
To keep things even, Kate and Rachel each have about 20 color ways. Surprisingly, they cannot mix each other’s colors. But it becomes less surprising when you learn more about mixing each particular color and the balance of colors in each combination. It is very artistic and the dyer’s eye is a large part of what makes a color way sing. After dyeing is complete, the wool is left to drip dry in a gentle process. To complete the drying, they have a drying room with a heater and a humidifier.
Back at the front of the studio where we originally entered is the dizzyingly loud spinning room. Spincycle master machine operator Anna was carding, spinning, and plying simultaneously on the day we visited. Before sending the wool through the carding machine, the roving must be split in half. The carding machine then straightens out all the fibers so they are aligned and extends one foot of the roving into four feet of “pencil” roving! The pencil roving, which is collected into bins, is thin enough to start the yarn spinning process. The pencil roving is spun into singles and another machine plies these singles into multi ply yarn. Spincycle Yarns makes 2- and 3-ply yarns in sport, DK, aran, worsted, and bulky.
Finally, after the yarn has been plied, the twist needs to be set. So they soak the skeins in water, which also allows them to test the color fastness. It also allows the yarn to open up into the best texture. If the color bleeds too much in the soak, they will process it with citric acid and wash it again. It is dried in the drying room with the roving. The yarn is finished and ready to send to shops and homes!
Knitwear Designers across the country create patterns using Spincycle yarn. When these new patterns are released, Rachel and Kate see a large bump in orders of specific color ways. When we visited, a new pattern called Nightshift by Andrea Mowry had just come out on Ravelry and the yarn orders were through the roof! Nightshift is a worsted-weigh take on her previous The Shift Cowl.
In addition to the amazing collection of beautiful yarn at their online shop, keep an eye out for mill ends at a discount. Mill ends are leftover lengths of finished yarn that don’t add up to a full skein. They also occasionally sell kits, including adorable hat kits. Perfect amounts of complementary colorways—enough to make one hat—and a unique pompom!
Visiting Spincycle yarns was a great learning experience for the True North Team. It’s exciting to see other artisan fiber businesses taking off right in our town of Bellingham, WA. We were truly inspired not only by all the beautiful colors and textures but also by the amount of care they put into everything they do.