bamboo yarn crafts Hand painted yarn knitting merino yarn skeino tencel yarn yarn

Animal fibers vs. plant fibers

As you know at SKEINO we are all about hand painting yarns. Today I want to give you an insight into the difference there is when dyeing plant fibers and animal fibers. This is a subject that goes a little deeper than your usual blog posts but I thought it would be interesting for our present and future customers to know. Dyeing yarn is a science and if you ever tried it you will know that the process of hand painting yarn is both laborious and hard physical work. I guess that’s why they call it crafting! a large waterfall

But now let’s dive right into it:

Plant Fibers (cellulose fibers)

Fiber crops are field crops grown for their fibers, which are traditionally used to make paper, cloth, or rope. The fibers may be chemically modified, like in viscose (used to make rayon and tencel). To this group of fibers belong:

Cotton, Flax (to become Linen), Bamboo, Jute, Hemp, Sisal, Nettles, Ramie and other

SKEINO Tencel Yarn

Our Tencel yarn is based on plant fibers

The dye process is using water, dye powder, Soda Ash (as an activator), Soap and heat. The yarn is being processed in a pot while the liquid is boiling. The hand painting process is more complicated because the yarn has to cook for 60 minutes until you can apply another color.

Protein Fibers (animal fibers)

Animal fibers are natural fibers that consist largely of particular proteins. Instances are silkhair/fur (including wool) and feathers. The animal fibers used most commonly both in the manufacturing world as well as by the hand spinners are wool from domestic sheep and silk. Also very popular are alpaca fiber and mohair from Angora goats. Unusual fibers such as Angora wool from rabbits and Qiviut  (fine underwool of the muskox) also exist but are rarely used for mass production. Silk is also a protein fiber. To this group of fibers belong:

Merino, Alpaca, Mohair, Cashmere, Lama, Camel, Angora, Mink, Bison, Qiviut, and others.

Merino Superwash Yarn

Our Merino Superwash Yarn (Paola) is an animal fiber yarn

So as you can see the dye process for these two fiber groups is very different.

At SKEINO we specialize in Protein Fibers. We choose this group because of the popularity as well as the dye result. All colors appear more vibrant. The dye process is using water, dye powder, household vinegar, and heat. The color is being applied by hand and the variation to do so are endless. The heat setting process will make the colors wash and light fast. (Note: plant-based dyes are not colorfast over time.) Handpainting silk and superwash animal fibers (especially fine merinos), the results are very bright and vibrant.

However, SKEINO is not ignoring the plant fiber at all. We are offering great blends between plant and animal fibers, such as our Bamboo Yarn (30% Bamboo / 60% Superwash Merino / 10% Nylon) and our Tencel Yarn (50% Rayon / 50% superwash Merino). Both blends are being dyed the same way as 100% animal fibers. The results are astounding. The yarn has a silvery sheen and appears lighter on the pastel side.

I hope you found this insight interesting. Use it to show off at your next knitting group meeting! LOL Oh, and when I said that the dyeing job is hard work, well it’s also a refreshing creative process and the results we get make us really enjoy our work so no complaints here from us! Of course, you can find all the pictured fibers on our website:

Love and happy knitting,


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