Behind the scenes of our dye studio
I took some photos of our top floor dye studio on the first dye day of 2020 as I thought you might like a look around. This floor is closed to the public for various reasons, mostly health and safety as we're working with chemicals and a lot of steam and heat, so it's important we're not disturbed.
Dedicated deep stainless steel sinks (never for food use) and gastronorm pans. These pans can be bought from catering supply businesses quite easily. We use stainless steel, not aluminium, as steel does not react with the dyes we use.
Layer one of dye. We dye in multi-layers to build-up complexity in colour. These gastronorm racks are perfect for keeping the place tidy. We have quite a lot of pans and need to be able to see at a glance where we're up to. The racks can be quite pricey so I found ours on eBay secondhand and gave them a good scrub with stainless steel cleaner.
This is the first yarn of the year with all its layers, ready to be heat set. The dyes require two things: an acid - we use citric acid which is food safe and doesn't smell, and heat.
We keep our dyes in colour order and easy to reach. We do a lot of colour mixing rather than using the dye colours as is. We have stainless steel workbenches so we can keep them clean easily, plus hot pans can be put down without ruining the surface.
We have dedicated ovens for setting the dye (never used for food). These are catering ovens designed to fit gastronorm pans.
Ovens distribute the heat evenly and slowly whereas a microwave encourages heat spots. We don't use cling film when dyeing, just the pans.
It's important when dyeing yarn to sell that food stuffs are kept away. The dyes we use - acid dyes - are generally safe but you wouldn't want to be ingesting them. Not only from a safety point of view, but we have occasionally been asked if the yarn has been dyed in areas where gluten is handled, or meat, in particular, pork products. Given that many of us avoid certain types of food due to allergy, intolerance or religious observation, we make sure that food is not prepared or cooked in our dye studio kitchen.
Waiting for the oven to be heat set.
Also safety first! First aid kit and burns kit at the ready just in case. We're also trained first aiders because chemicals, heat, professionalism.
MegaShed is our custom-built drying rack that can hold up to 500 skeins of drying yarn at a time. It makes use of our high ceilings and warmth on the top floor. It can also be dismantled and used as a show booth. It measures 3 metres by 2.4 metres (the widest part at the top).
Spin dryer spins out all the excess water so the yarn can be hung up to dry without dripping. We only use this for yarn, never for clothes or towels.
If you would like to learn how to dye yarn, the best resources that I recommend are NICOLE FROST who believes in open source dyeing (which I do too) and has a range of free videos taking you from the basics to advanced, and a book by Felicia Lo of Sweet Georgia Yarns, 'Dyeing to Spin & Knit: Techniques & Tips to Make Hand-Dyed Yarns'
For full transparency, I get no kickback financial or otherwise by recommending these resources. I have found them to be of incredible value and use them when training my own staff, in conjunction with my own dye techniques.