Indigo dyed sock spinning

Friends, I have not been keeping up with my blogging. I apologise. Life in my day job has been challenging this last year, but change is coming and perhaps we will see more of each other in the not-too-distant. This not keeping up means I have crafting projects that happened some time ago that you have never seen.  Here is one of those projects.


This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.


I am still working with Suffolk fleece, and I have been really keen to dye some with indigo.  I finally gathered up my nerve and tried refreshing my indigo vat over a long weekend.  And, success!!! In order to conserve dye and because the Suffolk is robust, full of vegetable matter, dirty even after washing, and hard to felt, I decided to flick card the locks prior to dyeing. That is what you can see in the top image. When I was able to achieve that deep blue in the picture above (the photo colour is not perfect–but this is NOT pastel blue), I felt no regrets.


Then, to the drum carder.  No felting at all despite the challenging-to-wool alkaline environment of the vat followed by a lot of rinsing. Now the image below shows the colour most accurately. Colour me extremely happy about this yarn.


My previous sock spinning efforts had persuaded me that I was not getting enough ply twist to create a robust sock yarn.  When I bought my spinning wheel, I decided to invest in a high speed head as well as two interchangeable whorls.  I was experiencing confidence that I would be spinning well into my future and want to use the wheel to its maximum capacity.  Since then, the place I bought that wheel, then the only spinning wheel seller in the city outside my Guild (which sells second hand) has closed. I’ve used everything that came with the wheel with only one exception, so that was a good call. Now to use the last accessory: the high speed head that would make it easier to get serious amounts of twist into my yarn even on evenings of weary spinning and distracted plying.


Well, here is that yarn all wound up and ready to knit, waiting its turn in the knitting queue!  Just between me and you… as I write it has made it onto the needles and I’ve had the all-important conversation with a recipient who feels no reservation about this not-Merino-soft, local, plant dyed, single breed yarn.  Over a hot chocolate and chat tonight she took one look, squeezed the sock-in-progress and said YES!


Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

7 responses to “Indigo dyed sock spinning

  1. Fabulous yarn and colour! Well done!!
    Lucky recipient 🙂
    Thanks for sharing photos and story

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rebecca

    Well crikey bananas, if this is you in a blog lull, I am frightened to see you at full speed! Again, your work is wonderful. I’ve not yet had the courage to boot up the indigo vat again and dye sock fibre but your results are encouraging. Is this the result of one dip or many. Did you need a lot of rinsing till you got to the fast colour? I have found that the cold chemical dyes i was experimenting with only dyed the tips of my ryeland fibre but a natural heated dye bath of onion skins dyed the whole shaft. The indigo looks equally whole.
    How much twist is the high speed head able to add? Do you still end up with a balanced yarn or does it retain some energy from the extra twist? Sorry about all the questions but you will keep being interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I’ve been faffing about as usual and knitting through meetings aplenty but I haven’t posted as much as I once did! Several dips in quite a strong vat as I added an indigo/henna mother to get things rolling and because I had concluded levels of actual dye were low when I stopped dyeing. Rinsing–I think indigo always leads to lots of rinsing, but I can’t remember in all honesty and there is (ahem) some dye rubbing off. I think that dyeing fleece helped get nice deep colour: more exposed surfaces for indigo to bond to.

      I’ve had that experience of only tips dyeing too. The colour here was quite even. In greasier fleeces, the tips are often weathered and if you haven’t removed all the grease, they are also the least greasy–I think that’s often part of it but these are my speculations only. the Suffolk is low grease and clean, hoorah.

      Ah, numbers. The internet says 28:1 with the wheel I have. I err on the side of overplied and don’t see any problem in knitting. But after washing and such, often a skein that seemed a bit overplied and did not hang in an open loop, is at or close to balance. In the beginning of my spinning career a friend put me on to Abby Franquemont’s blog, and it made me feel as though it was OK to use more ply twist than other people seem to because I like it better and it wears better. And that being balanced might not be the only consideration in making plying decisions. In fact, I found a post where she discusses ply in detail and sock yarn specifically…

      Hooray for people who find one another interesting!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rebecca

        Thank you… excellent answers to all my questions. Great link…i read that avidly. I always try and get my yarn to twist a little more than balanced prior to washing so it comes out balanced after. But what I’ve been doing with the socks is increasing singles twist AND ply twist so i end up with a higher twist yarn but still balanced. Particularly in the Ryeland i thought it lacked elasticity and I note that Abby talks about a low twist single and ramping up the ply twist to inc elasticity. I must plot this out on paper i think and give it a go. 28:1 has really pushed the envelope for me! More experiments needed.

        Liked by 2 people

      • My latest skein (commercial roving, Suffolk and tussah silk) I spun singles at a lower ratio and plied at maximum. Nothing like as springy as local Suffolk! There is just so much to learn and try. A friend gave me some raw Shropshire yesterday….

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Tuffsock Knitting: Indigo dyed Suffolk | Local & Bespoke

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