WYS Winwick Mum Collection yarn – Back t’mill
Wow! To say that I am bowled over by your reactions to the Winwick Mum yarn colours is an understatement! Thank you so much for all your lovely comments, I am so thrilled that it looks like yarn you would like to knit!
It’s been wonderful to share this adventure with you and today, I’m going to tell you a bit more about what’s been going on. In my last post about the yarn, I talked about my colour inspiration and about how West Yorkshire Spinners’ Colour Genius, Sarah, brought my ideas to fabulous woolly life. We’ve actually done the blog post equivalent of fast-forwarding the adverts on a TV programme as I didn’t get to see the yarn in balls until the end of the process and I was ready to start knitting, but I wanted to show you sooner than that – and now we need to rewind a little bit! (Warning: this post is picture heavy!)
Let’s go back t’mill ….
West Yorkshire Spinners are a family-run business, first set up in 1997 and moving to their current premises in Keighley in 2011 as the business expanded. They are one of the last remaining Worsted Spinning mills in the UK; yarns are generally either worsted or woollen spun (sometimes a combination of both) depending on the type of mill. Worsted yarns have had the fibres within the fleece combed before spinning so that they all lie in the same direction which gives the yarn sheen, drape and durability and makes it less likely to pill with wearing. These are some pictures from when I went to visit the mill a couple of years ago. You can see the “tops” (they’re the ropes of fleece that look a bit like candy floss) being pulled into one big thick strand together …
This isn’t my yarn, it’s going to be grey sock yarn – you can see the white nylon added for strength and right at the back is a bale of black fleece which will be blended in with the cream to produce a pale grey. Once the tops have been pulled together into one big thick strand, it goes through the square part of this machine which combs the fibres into the same direction and it “pours” out of the tap at the other end of the machine ready for spinning. If you’re interested in the process that the fleece goes through, you’ll find it all in my mill visit blog post!
It may come as a surprise to you if you’ve been using WYS yarns for a while that they only started producing yarn under their own name in 2012. It feels as if they have been around for much longer than that! Peter and Richard Longbottom, the father and son team who run the mill, made the decision that they wanted combine British raw materials with state of the art technology and using their combined skills and extensive knowledge of spinning and the yarn industry, they took the market by storm. Nowadays, their range covers pretty much any weight of yarn you’d want to use from laceweight to chunky and comes in an amazing rainbow of colours.
The West Yorkshire Spinners dye house is where the Colour Magic happens. It’s all top secret as you’d expect, but Sarah has very kindly taken some photos for me so that we can see some of what happens. It’s probably just as well that they didn’t let me in as I’d have no doubt got in the way hopping up and down with excitement!
Sarah’s dye lab is right in the middle of the dye house so she can keep a close eye on what the dyeing machinery is doing. She has detailed records of every recipe that makes up each colour in the new yarns and also how much of each colour is to be used in every dye run. You’ll have guessed from looking at the balls in my previous post that the Winwick Mum colours are going to knit up into stripes because I really love stripy socks (and especially matching stripy socks) and Sarah has created very special Winwick Mum stripes just for me which are quite different to the Country Birds and Cocktail colours you might have knitted before. It’s really quite incredible what can be done with dyeing technology!
Once the yarn is dyed, it’s steamed to set the colours, then scoured and washed to remove any excess dye before being put into a huge spin dryer to remove the water. This is the Wildflower colourway coming out of the spin dryer …
Each band of yarn is a huge hank which is put onto racks and the yarn is gently dried in a special drying machine …
Eek! Look at that! I feel quite giddy with excitement looking at all that Wildflower squishiness!
The last process before winding the yarn into balls is to fluff it up as the washing and drying leaves it rather flat. I’m sure there’s a more technical term than “fluffing it up” but that’s essentially what’s happening here as the yarn travels down this conveyor belt whilst air is puffed up gently from underneath. It’s quite mesmerising to see it all laid out like that, isn’t it? A sea of Wildflowers!
Seascape really does look like waves …
and Hidden Gem is so very purple that it makes me sigh with pure delight! Oh, how I adore these shades of purple!
Finally, here’s Brightside …
Can you see the yarn next to it on the right in the picture below? That’s Mallard from the Country Birds range and it was this photo that really caught my breath. Those are my colours next to a hugely popular Signature 4ply colourway! When I visited the mill back in 2016, I never imagined that I would ever see this photo, although it’s around that time that I wrote my daydream list after seeing how the yarn was made first-hand. I feel that I should keep this photo on my desk forever to remind myself that daydreams and wish lists aren’t something fanciful that we should dismiss as only ever happening to someone else, and that consistently working towards whatever it is that you dream about can only bring it closer. As is happening to this yarn: the conveyor belt brings it closer and closer, and that yellow streak that you can see is the same yarn being wound onto the ball.
Getting closer – and still winding!
The yarn gets wound into balls by this machine and the ball bands are put on at the same time. This is another picture from my mill visit; you can see dark grey balls of yarn at the bottom with the ball bands all ready to be slid over the yarn into place. (There are more photos in my mill visit post)
Brightside is in the ball! At least, it’s in four of them. There are more at the mill so don’t worry if this was your favourite colourway 😀
Look! There’s Hidden Gem as well!
I would definitely have been a liability if I’d been in the dye house on the day this was done as my excitement levels would have been stratospheric by now – plus I’d probably have caused offence by trying to sneak all of it home under my coat 😀
It does look pretty amazing with the Winwick Mum logo on the ball band. Big daughter’s best friend designed my logo for me (she’s a graphic designer) and it’s been wonderful to be able to show her how her artwork has been reproduced on badges, on my patterns and now on yarn ball bands. I love how it feels so much like a family effort: my Winwick Mum family with the West Yorkshire Spinners family – and I hope that these will make fabulous socks (yes, yes, or any other project, not just socks 😀) for your family too. I love how yarn connects us all. It’s magic.
Next time … samples, I promise! 😀