Cakes Of Yarn

As I continue to sort through the contents of the fiber artist studio I purchased this summer, I keep finding center pull cakes of handspun yarn that were presumably spun by the previous owner. As I stumbled across them I started adding them to a large basket and soon it was overflowing. I realized at some point that the yarn is not only handspun but it was also wound into the cakes in singles of two, held together but not plied. I don’t know if the original spinner intended to ply the yarns from the cakes or use them as is, it’s a mystery.

In one of my many books on dyeing wool there is a technique that describes injecting dye into a ball or cake of yarn, allowing the colors to blend within and create unique, one of a kind colorways. I had tried this method a couple times, but never with a center pull cake of yarn let alone a cake that was wound with two strands.

So, a couple weeks ago I caught myself staring at that giant basket of yarn and I got to wondering what would happen if I were to soak the cake in water for a few hours to saturate all the wool and then tried to kettle dye the bundle using different colors or dip dyeing from one kettle to the other?

My first experiment worked well, way better than I had anticipated despite the fact that the color didn’t fully saturate to the center of the cake. I don’t have a photo of the dyed cake, but this is the plied and set results of that first attempt:


Not bad, but I like saturated color. Still, I think this would make a great dark to light shawl or scarf as the colors on the outside of the cake were much darker than those in the center.

For my second attempt, I pushed dry dye powder into each side of the cake and alternated dip dyeing it into kettles of those colors (burnt orange and peacock blue) until I was fairly certain that the entire cake was saturated with color.

This is what the cakes look like when they are done being dyed/rinsed and drying. The dry time before I can get to plying them is what takes forever.


I begin to ply from the outside of the cake, not the center. The former spinner was a fine spinner indeed, this is some wonderfully spun wool. I love watching the colors change as I spend at least an hour plying one of these cakes.

As I said, my second attempt was much more in line with what I was seeking and I love the autumnal results I was able to capture with this cake to plied skein:


I currently have a two shades of green cake that should be dry by the end of the day for plying, so that is in line to be on deck next for finishing. Stay tuned, there’s a lot of cakes in that basket!


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