Monday, March 3, 2008

Green Line Update

Dear Yarn Friends:

I have some news for you that, while not a life threatening occurrence, has completely broken my heart. We have spent the past several weeks diligently working to make natural dyes a part of our new Green Line of organic yarns. I have finally come to the conclusion that we’re going to have to admit defeat.

They had performed wonderfully for us on a small scale, but when it came time to start working in earnest to provide you with yarn, we kept running into more and more complex issues. After one particularly difficult day, we came to the realization that insisting on natural dyes was expending more natural resources than made sense for a product claiming to reduce our environmental footprint. At the risk of getting technical, let me explain.

To dye the Purple Line, we use a single part process that takes about 7 gallons of water to dye 10 pounds of yarn and 2 rinse cycles in a standard washer to get all the dye out. We don’t need an extra step to mordant, in fact we don’t mordant our Shepherd line at all. From start to finish, a dye lot takes about 90 minutes. Forty minutes of that time involves the use of electricity to boil water.

With the Green line, the natural dyes create a three-part process. First we scour, then we mordant and then we dye. Each part takes about 12 gallons of water for a total of 36 gallons. That seemed pretty skewed, but what really shook me up was that we need to rinse once or twice after each of the first two steps and another 5-6 times after the last step! We also were heating water for 8 hours! Things just weren’t adding up environmentally or fiscally.

I had several heart to heart talks with both the conventional and the natural dye companies, and we have had many more discussions in house about what to do. In the end, I came away feeling that it was better for Lorna’s Laces to move away from the natural dyes and return to the conventional dyes and lower impact processes we’ve been using all along. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it seems like the only one that makes sense at this point in time.

We aren’t walking away from the possibility of natural dyes. Our dialog with natural dye companies is open and we’ll continue to work to find a dye process that works for us and the environment. It means a lot to me, personally.

So, where does that leave the Green Line? I believe it is still a good choice. It is beautiful merino spun from IMO certified wool. It’s dyed in the most environmentally friendly process we can find. Is it perfect? Goodness no! But it’s a conscious step in the right direction.

If you have any questions, please feel free drop a line or to call. I am happy to answer questions personally.

Beth Casey
Lorna's Laces Yarn
4229 N Honore St
Chicago, IL 60613
773.935.3803 phone
773.935.3804 fax


Anonymous said...

One of the most attractive aspects of the Green Line (at least to me) was the palette of colors - rich, natural and hearty. I'm certain those colors can be reproduced with your standard dyeing protocols - any chance you'll sell the organic merino in that kind of palette?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear that the Green Line will not be viable at this point in time... hopefully something will come up soon to change that. I do commend you on at least trying to find a more environmentally friendly product to offer and am glad that the door to that path is not completely shut closed. Good luck!

Mag said...
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Lorna's Laces said...

I am delighted to report that we have successfully recreated the Green Line colorways with the conventional dyes using the lower impact processes we've used all along. Whew!!

So, the Green Line is still available and viable. It's a beautiful merino spun from IMO certified wool. The only thing that has changed is the dye process and we think we're doing that better than before.

Iris said...

Intriguing post. Thank you for sharing your comparisons and reasoning.
As someone who has done a lot of natural dyeing, I can imagine that doing so on the scale that you do would be prohibitively expensive, timewise, in particular.

Renee said...

Thanks for posting the dilemma. Now we know why a lot of yarn was never dyed -- it was expensive!

I can totally see what you are doing what you are doing, and it is a bit sad, but that is the real world we live in.

Now, is the yarn also fair trade -- maybe that's another path to a fair and sustainable world!

Stefanie said...

I had a chance to experience the Green Line at TNNA, and it is just beautiful. It's soft, it holds its shape when worked in both cables AND lace, and the colors are just stunning.

The fact that it is IMO certified wool makes a huge difference. Even if you didn't achieve the goal of using natural dyes, you have made (and continue to make) the effort. That says a LOT.