Sincere Sheep and Swans Island are two yarn companies we’re thrilled to support, and one of the many reasons is that they both use all natural dyes. This means that their colors are created with minerals, plants, and insects rather than synthetic, petroleum-derived dyes. The bold blue colors have been some of the most popular in both Sincere Sheep and Swans Island yarns, and they all come from natural indigo, a plant-based colorant. Indigo can also be used to create deep purples and steely grays.
Natural indigo has a tendency to rub off, one which you may have already experienced in a pair of blue jeans. A knitter working with an indigo-dyed yarn will likely have blue fingers after a while, but it washes off easily and won’t stain your hands. The color comes off on wooden needles, as well, so metal needles are a good idea if the notion of blue-tipped bamboo needles troubles you.
Once the garment is complete, Swans Island recommends giving it a good soak with a gentle fiber cleanser like Eucalan, along with a rinse afterward, until the water runs clear. After that, the indigo should not rub off onto your neck as you wear your scarf, or onto your clothes. I recently washed a swatch of indigo-dyed yarn, and can attest that while it gave off a dark blue color in its water bath, the color of the yarn itself did not fade.
This little swatch was made with Sincere Sheep Luminous, a dk weight blend of Polwarth wool and Tussah silk. The yarn is a deep, brilliant blue called “Anja,” an indigo-based colorway. (You may have seen that little swatch before, in fact; it’s on the left in this picture of all our TNNA swatches.) Now that three yarns from Sincere Sheep have made the Hillsborough Yarn Shop their home, I thought I’d pull that swatch out and block it, so it could live with the Luminous yarn as a small sample. I was thrilled with how well-behaved the yarn was in its swatch and its bath, how readily it shows off cables, lace, stockinette, and all else. Yarns like these are worth blue-tinted fingertips; anticipate the rub-off and these indigo-based colorways will delight you.
(If you’re interested in the process of dyeing with natural materials, you can read more about it on the Swans Island website.)