It wasn't until after we had committed to this project, we remembered....we don't actually do any of our own hand-dyeing.
But "problem" is just another word for "opportunity", right?
We checked out some local dyers and finally settled on one whose subtle colors had us buying half of her etsy shop stock. Over a couple weeks she came up with several colors for us and we all agreed on a pastel pinky-orange with greeny bits. Great description, huh? Anyhoo, she cranked out a few sample skeins, they got sent to designers, patterns were made and the colors were shown off at TNNA, yarn store committed to purchasing packages of yarn and when we got our final number, we were ready to start dyeing. At the end of day one, our dyer brought us 2 garbage bags of soaking wet, tangled yarn that was...well...NEON. And it bled all over the place. Jennifer and I nearly double our work hours over the next 2 days to clean up and untangle the 100 skeins that had been neoned. There were tears shed, regrets voiced, and then the dyer quit. Mind you, we've got 1200 skeins to dye, dry, hank and label within a 2 week window, and we have no idea how to recreate the original pastel pinky-orange-with-greeny-bits that we need. The dyer agreed to give us her "recipe" which we followed to a T but somehow ended up with a beautiful aubergine color. I actually prefer the aubergine color, but we were committed to the pastel pinks.
Jennifer spent the weekend dyeing little tester skeins and then calling to ask my opinion. Eventually we came up with a color and then quickly realized we were going to need some serious help if we were going to prepare these hank, dye, hank and label and get it done quickly. We bought stoves, we bought steamers, we had electricity and plumbing installed in the warehouse basement and we had people come in to help. We were ready to go.
So we soaked the skeins 15 at a time before dyeing them, also 15 at a time over 3 burners. They went for an hour. Then they cooled, then were soaked in vinegar for a while and then moved to the next station to be painted, one at a time and very slowly. After that, we wrapped them all up in cling-film and stuck them in the vegetable steamers for half an hour, where they turned in to yarn-sausages. Piping hot, we stuck them in more clean water to cool and get the vinegar smell out as we ripped open the little sausages and dug for yarn. After that came the hanging of the skeins, and after we had about 300 on the lines we had to get a little creative with spacing. On sunny days we were able to move some of the nearly-dry ones outside for a blast of sunshine. On windy days, we swore under our breaths while we picked them up off the ground and lost a few to dirty spots and vegetable matter from their trips to the ground. I started with the hanking and finished about half before we collectively decided that since I had twisted the skin off my hands, I was too becoming too slow. After the dyeing was over (and we have a few to spare, even!) all efforts went in to hanking and then labeling, and just as the crazed-twitches and nervous breakdowns were starting, we began packing them up and sending them out. After two days of 4 people hanking and labeling, we were able to call it quits.And I will never complain about the price of handpainted yarn EVER AGAIN.