Conditioning Yarn

Have you ever looked for the answer to a fiber or yarn question only to find you don’t understand the answer? The fiber industry might not have as much jargon as other industries, but there are some terms and processes you should know. Ashland Bay is trying to help make sense of this crazy fiber world with answers to a few questions we receive on the regular!

What does ecru mean?

One way to describe the term ecru is the natural color of the fiber as it comes off the animal. In our world, ecru means undyed not white. Therefore, both our Blue Face Leicester Wool Top and Black Blue Face are ecru, but both are not white. We borrow the word ecru from the French, where it translates to ‘raw’ or ‘unbleached.’

What does unconditioned yarn mean? And how does this affect the yarn?

Unconditioned yarn is yarn that has not been washed or steamed since it has been plied. Most Ashland Bay yarns arrive in this state. Tension is used when spinning fibers into yarn which can leave the yarn looking flat and limp. Some fibers also require added spinning oil to control the static when spinning.

How do I condition my yarn?

Washing (also referred to as scouring) the yarn before knitting removes the spinning oil and relaxes the fibers. Conditioning changes the look of your yarn by evening the twist and increasing the diameter of the yarn. We suggest letting your yarn soak in warm, (gentle) soapy water for about 20 minutes. Rinse, squeeze out excess water and let completely dry. As you can see from the photo, conditioning greatly affects the yarn. If you are dyeing the yarn, it will be conditioned during the dyeing process.



Pictured: the skein on the left is unconditioned and the right skein has been washed and dried.

If you have two skeins of the exact same yarn from different orders, and one looks drastically smaller and flatter, try conditioning the skeins. Wool is like a sponge. In its natural state 18.25% of wool’s weight is water and it can absorb a lot more moisture. Our yarns from Peru are spun at high altitude with very little humidity and then press packed for shipping. If you receive a yarn that has just arrived to our warehouse, it will be noticeably thin and flat. Once the yarn is released from the press pack in our warehouse the wool will start to absorb the moisture from the air and start to relax and fill out. Washing and drying the skeins will give both yarns to the same look.