Update: Since this post was written, Dragonfly Fibers has been sold. The new owners pledge to produce the same quality yarn that customers had come to appreciate. I hope to visit the studio the next time I am in the area.
My daughter and I were in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, Maryland, this past weekend- in fact, we flew home early this morning. We were visiting another daughter that lives in Silver Spring. Among our visiting and sightseeing, we considered shopping at local yarn stores. When we arrived in town, I checked Google Maps like I usually do, to see if there were any yarn shops in the area. The well-known “big box” craft stores showed up on the map, but there were also a couple of local yarn shops.
Looking for Yarn
On our last trip, we had shopped at Looped Yarn Works and really liked it. We hadn’t intended to go back during this trip, but found ourselves about two blocks from the shop with an hour to kill. We couldn’t resist stopping in and weren’t disappointed.
On my map search, I also noticed a place called Dragonfly Fibers. I was familiar with this name, because my daughter and I had shopped at a booth with the same name at Stitches Midwest. I looked them up on the internet and found their website – yes, this was the same company. After a little research, I realized this was not just a shop, but the owner’s studio.
The website says that visitors are welcome every Thursday and other days by appointment – my daughter and I were only available on Monday morning. I emailed and received a timely response from Kate, who said we were welcome to stop in.
Dragonfly Fibers is an indie (independent) dyer business. The website states that they specialize in “artisan dyed yarn.” It says, “We dye high quality knitting yarns and spinning fibers in deep, rich and sometimes crazy bright colors.”
Kate Chiocchio started the fiber company in 2007, to sell some of the hand-dyed yarn she was was beginning to accumulate. Her hobby-turned-business continued to expand – to the basement and then to the porch. In 2012, she moved the entire business out of her home and into a studio in Kensington, Maryland. She works with a team of employees, many of whom were originally friends. Most or all of the staff – six to eight people in total, were there when we visited.
As soon as we walked into Dragonfly Fibers, we were greeted by the friendly staff. We were directed to the shelves of yarn that were for sale – a large variety of yarn weights and colors, with two to four or more skeins of each. We were told that the building is not really set up as a retail shop – which we knew – but they are happy to accommodate their customers. The business primarily sells yarn at shows, through their website, and to wholesale buyers and yarn shop owners.
Touring the Studio
Before we shopped, I asked if we could have a tour of the workshop. The staff gladly obliged. The studio is somewhat divided into sections – the yarn set-up section, the dyeing room, the put-up area, and the retail shelves. There are portable drying racks that move from the dyeing room to the put-up area. In addition, large bins store yarn that is being readied for shows or shipment.
The Dyeing Process
The yarn is purchased on cones which may contain hundreds or thousands of yards, depending on the weight of the yarn. The yarn is wound off the cones and into 4-ounce hanks (a kind of skein) in the first step of the process. The hanks are loosely tied together in a couple places to keep the yarn from tangling, while not interfering with the absorption of the dye.
The second step is to actually dye the yarn. The yarn is conditioned before being added to stainless steel pots that contain the dye – one hank per pot. The yarn and dye water solution must be heated in order for the dye to be absorbed by the yarn. The heat helps set the yarn, so it doesn’t run when it is washed by the consumer. When the business moved to the studio in 2012, an eight-burner industrial gas stove was custom built to accommodate the growing demand.
Once the desired temperature is reached, the yarn is allowed to cool in the pots. After it has cooled to room temperature, the yarn is gently squeezed and hung to dry overnight.
Finally, the dry yarn is straightened, and then twisted to form the enticing hanks. A label is added and the yarn is placed in inventory. If the yarn is for a special order, it is set aside until the order is ready to ship. Dragonfly Fibers dyes between 500 and 600 hanks of yarn each month.
Worth a Visit
Viewing the dying process was fascinating! It has piqued my interest so much that I think I’d like to try it myself. If you are a knitter and are in the area, I suggest that you stop in on a Thursday, or make an appointment for a different day. You might not be interested in dying yarn yourself, but there are many skeins of already dyed yarn available for purchase. If you can’t visit, take a look at the yarn on the website.
Thank you, Kate, for your time. Thanks for welcoming my daughter and me into your workshop.