Sunday, March 8, 2015


All photos (c) Invictus Yarns, taken from the Etsy shop.
An indie dyer I've been dying (pardon the pun) to try out has shown that she truly understands how to connect to potential customers.

I've been eyeing up the goodies in Invictus Yarns' Etsy shop for some time now, after having her yarns recommended to me by a friend. But a couple of things have kept me from taking the plunge.

First, the Canadian exchange rate. Right now, the Canadian dollar is really low. It's like adding 25% to any purchase from US shops. But that has nothing to do with the actual yarn.

Second, and I'm sure many of you can relate to this, it's hard to take the plunge and buy something based just on some photos on a website. Like most crafters, I like to see and touch the yarn before I buy to get a sense of how it will meet the requirements of the kinds of projects I like to work on.

I have some standard criteria for yarn I buy, requirements I've mentally compiled over the years based on my project successes and failures. I like softer yarns. I really won't wear the scratchier yarns, especially for sweaters - even with a shirt underneath. I like yarns with a tight twist, yarns that with great stitch definition for the twisted stitches and cables I adore. And I like rich colors, They don't have to be bright, just have depth.

Invictus Yarns, based in Sacramenta, California, has now given me just the push I need to try her yarns. Yes, I said yarns plural. You know why? Because she's just made available the perfect sampler kit.

Samplers, or mini skein kits, aren't a new idea. Go to any fiber festival and you'll see mini kits on a majority of vendors' tables, thanks to things like the sock yarn blanket, Beekeepers Quilt and color work projects.

But what makes Invictus Yarns' latest offering unique (in my experience) is that her sampler is a Yarn Base sampler. That is, she's offering 6 min skeins, each in a different base of her yarn. Most mini skein sets I've seen are all the same base. Invictus Yarns' sampler lets you touch and compare:

  1. Teal:  (80% SW merino/ 20% nylon sport weight)
  2. Lavender: (75% SW merino/ 25% nylon fingering- light fingering weight)
  3. Orange:  (80% SW merino/10% cashmere/10% nylon fingering weight)
  4. Yellow: (100% SW merino fingering weight)
  5. Green: (75% SW merino/20% nylon/ 5% stellina fingering weight)
  6. Burgundy: (80% SW merino/ 20% silk fingering weight)

The different bases are cleverly distinguished by color, so you won't get the bases mixed up. And I like that there's even a sport weight yarn in there. I prefer to make my cardigans and sweaters out of fingering or sport weight yarn. So I'm eager to get a sense of the different yarn weights too.

For $10, I'll get 4-5g of each base. That's 25-30g total over the 6 bases. That's plenty to do a mini swatch to see how the yarn knits up. Sure, it won't be a full swatch size. But I'll be able to get a sense of the yarn (is it a round, plump yarn, or a loosely plied one) and how it might knit up. Ten dollars is an enticingly low amount for everything those mini skeins will be able to tell me. And I'd rather spend $10 than $20-$30 for a full skein and find out it doesn't do what I need it to do. $10 will give me the confidence to place larger orders and know I'll get yarn that is perfectly suited to my project. That's a lot of peace of mind for $10.

What I also look forward to checking out, is how the different bases take the dye. Different fibers respond to dye differently. Most notorious is silk, which doesn't absorb dye as readily as wool. You can dye merino and silk with the exact same dye and the finished skeins will be different colors. Not every color in the sampler is one that I might pick out for myself, but I can look past the specific color to see what the yarn does with the dye.

Another interesting benefit of the sampler is that I can compare the yarn that arrives at my home with the photos of the yarn I see on my screen. This will give me a sense of how the two relate. This is particularly relevant to me given my recent experience with a shop that provides a lovely product, but what arrives at my home is always much, much darker than what I see on my screen. I no longer buy from that shop because I just can't trust that what catches my eye online will be something I'll like when it gets into my hands. I'll wait and buy from their booth when I see them at Maryland Sheep and Wool or Rhinebeck.

I've asked other dyers why they don't offer samplers like this and they say it's too much work. I totally get this. But with the mini skein craze sweeping the crafting world, and the sheer number of dyers out there competing for people's yarn budget, I think yarn base sampler kits are a great way of reaching potential new customers. I hope more dyers pick up on this great way of offering a low-risk introduction to their products.

So, one of the Invictus Yarns 'Yarn Base Sampler Kits' will be winging its way northward any day now. I can only hope it brings some warmer weather with it too!

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