April 14, 2023

A Closer Look at Hand Dyed Yarn

A Closer Look at Hand Dyed Yarn

As you can imagine, yarn is at the very heart of all that we make. Everything we sell is made by hand using woven fabrics that start with a simple skein of yarn. Yarn is made up of interconnected fibers that are used to produce textiles. It can be made from a variety of natural or synthetic fibers. At Mayamam Weavers, we use 100% cotton yarn.

In order to make a variety of interesting colors, yarn must first be dyed. Since the late 1800’s, azo dyes have been used around the globe because they can be used at lower temperatures and they are good at creating bright colors.  Azo dyes make up about 70% of the textile industry. While very common to find in clothing and textiles, unfortunately azo dyes can be unhealthy. Some azo dyes are carcinogenic and many cause problems for people with sensitive skin.  It is important to us that we choose to use azo free dyes for your protection as well as the artisans.

Our yarn dyers are a team of 12 – 11 men plus 1 woman! -- practicing artisanal yarn dying in a former home in San Andres Xecul. Not only do they not use dyes with azo, their dyes don’t contaminate the water. Much of their dying process is designed to recycle the water which we think is fabulous.  Every step is essentially done by hand.

The dying process begins with a team of women who work in their homes, unwinding 2 lb cones of yarn and assembling them into skeins. Once the skeins are delivered to the workshop, they are washed by hand. The next step is to mercerize the yarn. Mercerizing strengthens the yarn and makes it ready to take on the dye.  Each skein is dyed 5 times. During the last couple of times, soda ash is added to the colored water which makes the colors brighter and helps them to set.

Once the yarn dries, the skeins are put back together and they are ready to make their journey to the next step in the process – the weaving!

At Mayamam Weavers, we currently have a fairly substantial library of 37 colors. All of the colors we need to create our products, from the cream of Ticking Stripe to the vivid hues in our Rainbow Stripe come from this library.  We certainly would be lost without this variety of hues which match the vibrant and colorful culture of Guatemala.