Swans Island Limited Edition Ikat.

There’s a brand new, limited edition color in Swans Island Natural Colors Merino Fingering, and we’re delighted to have it here at the shop! These unique blue and white skeins are hand-dyed with natural indigo using an Indonesian dyeing technique called Ikat. Hanks of undyed merino wool are tied tightly with cord, and the portions of the skeins that are wrapped resist the dye, creating a variegated colorway.


Indigo is a pigment rather than a dye, so you can expect to find blue streaks on your hands after knitting with indigo-dyed yarns for a while. Rest assured, it comes off easily with soap and water, and wont continue to crock once you’ve washed your finished project, rinsing til the water runs clear. I’ve written about indigo-dyed yarns here on the blog before; click here to read more.


Each 100 gram skein of this yarn boasts 525 yards, plenty for a pair of mitts, a hat, scarf, or shawl. Patterns with simple stitch patterns will allow this colorful yarn to shine; think “Sumatra Mitts,” “Hitchhiker,” or “Ahull.”

Look for a special Ikat-dyed skein tucked into our basket of Swans Island Natural Colors Merino Fingering. See you at the shop!

Back in stock: Swans Island Natural Colors Merino Fingering.

Swans Island Natural Colors Merino Fingering has been a favorite yarn from the moment it first arrived at the shop, back in 2011. It’s been so well-loved, in fact, that our basket of the stuff began to empty once again last month, leaving us with a paltry palette of just eight-or-so colors. Our recent Swans Island shipment remedied that, and how.


We added eleven colors on this order, filling the basket quite nicely, indeed.


The Natural Colors collection is so-named because its yarns are hand-dyed with plant-, mineral-, and insect-based natural dyes. One of those is indigo, used to create vivid blues, purples, and grays.


Indigo has a tendency to rub off with the abrasion of knitting or crocheting, and will turn your fingers blue as you work with it. It washes off with soap and water, and shouldn’t continue to rub off once the finished piece is washed and rinsed til the water runs clear. I wrote a blog post awhile back about what to expect from indigo-dyed yarns, and Swans Island marks their indigo-based colors with a little tag, explaining the same.


Over the years, we’ve seen glorious shawls and stunning sweaters made from this special yarn. It’s happy in stitch patterns from simple garter stitch to elegant lace, and one 525 yard skein goes a long way. For pattern inspiration, check out our Pinterest page online, or come to the shop to flip through the Swans Island pattern binder.


Look for Swans Island Natural Colors Merino Fingering in the fingering weight section of the shop. See you there!


Sincere Sheep and Swans Island are two yarn companies we’re thrilled to support, and one of the many reasons is that they both use all natural dyes. This means that their colors are created with minerals, plants, and insects rather than synthetic, petroleum-derived dyes. The bold blue colors have been some of the most popular in both Sincere Sheep and Swans Island yarns, and they all come from natural indigo, a plant-based colorant. Indigo can also be used to create deep purples and steely grays.

Natural indigo has a tendency to rub off, one which you may have already experienced in a pair of blue jeans. A knitter working with an indigo-dyed yarn will likely have blue fingers after a while, but it washes off easily and won’t stain your hands. The color comes off on wooden needles, as well, so metal needles are a good idea if the notion of blue-tipped bamboo needles troubles you.

Once the garment is complete, Swans Island recommends giving it a good soak with a gentle fiber cleanser like Eucalan, along with a rinse afterward, until the water runs clear. After that, the indigo should not rub off onto your neck as you wear your scarf, or onto your clothes. I recently washed a swatch of indigo-dyed yarn, and can attest that while it gave off a dark blue color in its water bath, the color of the yarn itself did not fade.

This little swatch was made with Sincere Sheep Luminous, a dk weight blend of Polwarth wool and Tussah silk. The yarn is a deep, brilliant blue called “Anja,” an indigo-based colorway. (You may have seen that little swatch before, in fact; it’s on the left in this picture of all our TNNA swatches.) Now that three yarns from Sincere Sheep have made the Hillsborough Yarn Shop their home, I thought I’d pull that swatch out and block it, so it could live with the Luminous yarn as a small sample. I was thrilled with how well-behaved the yarn was in its swatch and its bath, how readily it shows off cables, lace, stockinette, and all else. Yarns like these are worth blue-tinted fingertips; anticipate the rub-off and these indigo-based colorways will delight you.

(If you’re interested in the process of dyeing with natural materials, you can read more about it on the Swans Island website.)