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Why is hand dyed yarn so expensive?

While at a trunk show this past weekend, a customer sheepishly asked "Why is your yarn so very expensive?" Sitting on a shelf nearby was a fairly comparable ball of big brand wool yarn, at 1/3 the price of my own hand-dye skeins.

So let’s dive into the uncomfortable topic of why hand-dyed yarns cost more than their commercially produced counterparts.

 

Short answer – these are small-batch spun and dyed yarns, most often of exceptionally high quality, and we small producers can’t take advantage of cost savings available to large, commercial yarn producers. Furthermore, hand dyeing is time-intensive and labor adds significantly to the cost of the final skein.

 

Since I’m not into short answers, let’s go deeper into what producing artisan dyed yarn entails, and how that will benefit your next project.

 

1.) Hand dyed yarns are superior quality.

When you purchase a skein of Yarn Love, you’re getting the crème de la crème of yarn. Before any yarn comes into the line, it’s been dyed, knitted, ripped, reknit, laundered and generally put through its paces to see how it will perform.

In addition to the testing process, most of the yarns in my line have been compared against other producer’s similar yarns and I choose the best of the bunch. You get the softest yarn, beautifully spun, and dyed in gorgeous colors.

My suppliers are also small businesses, and their pricing includes dedication to quality over quantity. They have expended a great amount of effort to craft unique yarns which will create a wonderful handmade garment. 

 

Undyed yarn on cones

Undyed yarn waiting to be skeined and dyed. 

 

2.) Ethical sourcing

I believe that we are custodians of our earth and each other. That means I place a high priority on responsibly produced wool and mills which pay their workers a living wage. Happily, my main mill is located in North America, which further reduces transportation costs and secondary environmental impacts.

Many of my yarns come RWS certified; so that from farm to spinnery, the environment, the sheep, and their wool are produced at the highest standard. Read more about the RWS here.

I also offer some very special breed-specific yarns, such as Audrey Hepburn. Audrey is a mix of Polwarth wool and silk – similar in softness to Merino wool – but this certified organic wool is sourced from 2 family farms in the Falkland Islands.

Happy sheep make for amazing wool; so they are never dipped in pesticides, they graze in fields free from chemical fertilizers, and their wool is scoured at an Enco certified facility, ensuring the highest environmental standards for wool scouring. So while this yarn isn’t RWS certified, the standards from sheep to yarn are top-notch.

Happy sheep grazing in a field

Happy sheep are the start of an amazing yarn.

 

3.) Sustainably Priced

Like many dyers, Yarn Love started out as a hobby and turned into a full-fledged business. As my business experience grew, so did my business practices. Yarn Love is an S corporation and my yarns are priced to provide a living wage to myself.

Yarn Love is also priced to support the larger yarn community. Wholesale is a large part of Yarn Love’s business and my pricing allows local yarn shop owners to purchase artisan dyed yarn and resell at a modest profit.

I believe independent artisans and yarn shops add greatly to the yarn community and my yarn is priced to allow a margin of profit for each skein sold.  That means I can pay my bills and your local yarn shop can keep their doors open.

Yarn love supports the wider yarn community

 

4.) Yarn Love is hand dyed

Hand dyeing yarn is time intensive. My least labor intensive dye process requires every skein to be handled a minimum of 21 times. Skeins with multiple colors and dye styles, add to that number.

The result of hand dyeing are lively skeins, vibrant colors, and a delightful knit / crochet experience. The vitality infused into the yarn here at the studio can been seen and felt every time you pick up your project.

Quality dyeing requires a high degree of experience and skill, and labor costs are included in the price of each skein.

Dyeing tools  and bottles

Every skein is crafted by hand.

 

5.) Fabulous Customer Experience

When you make a purchase from Yarn Love, it’s not a one and done experience. I stand behind my product and spend many hours to make your customer experience from shopping to finished object as delightful as possible.

My line is curated – so my solids exactly match my variegated yarns to make color pairing easy. I’m happy to make personalized pattern and color recommendations, too!

I stand behind every skein – so in the rare event something goes wrong, you can get in touch & I will help find a solution to the issue.

You get rewarded for buying yarn. Yep – I have a customer rewards program to give back to you for doing what you love: buying yarn.

Katie, the dyer at Yarn Love

Hi, I'm Katie & I dyed your yarn.


3 comments

  • Hi Zira – Some amount of pricing for what the market does occur. I know there are some dyers out there who may be in the category you describe. In my experience, most experienced dyers put as much care into their yarn as I do. Yarn dyeing is work and time intensive and it takes a lot of commitment and attention to keep a yarn business thriving.

    Perhaps spending a little time “getting to know” a new dyer might help you find companies that you’ll love doing business with. I find independent websites (Something other than or in addition to an Etsy presence), About pages, FAQs, and a list of retailers / stockists to be good indicators of quality dyers.

    There will always be exceptions in both directions – amazing dyers do sell on Etsy & not everyone with their own website is someone you want to do business with – but a little investigation will help a lot!

    Oh – and I believe all dye should be set just as a general principle 😉

    Katie at Yarn Love
  • I loved this article, and only one thing puzzles me. Your process clearly goes above and beyond for ethics, quality, customer service etc. I’m curious how you feel about the greater majority of other hand dyers who do not go through this very careful process, specifically regarding sourcing and testing the yarns for durability etc. Especially when they are all charging give or take, the same amount of money. I have a much easier time putting out that kind of money to a small business with your ethic where I know I’m getting a truly sustainable product, than I do for Suzy Dye Job who sources from wherever is cheapest and doesn’t bother setting the dye properly. LOL

    Zira
  • And worth every penny!

    Marilyn Hartley

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