Keep Samples Of Your Fiber

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the most organized person in the world - not even close. I would love to be, and sometimes I make the effort and tell myself starting now, I’m going to get my sh** together and get everything sorted and just be organized. I might stick to it for a while, and then I go back to being how I’ve always been. For example, today I found myself trying to clear out my filing cabinet (while helping handle all the tax stuff at the very last possible minute) and tossing papers with my maiden name still on them. Like 10-15 year old papers that I really don’t need to be holding onto anymore…

I suppose I’m organized where it matters - if anything it’s a sort of organized chaos. If I need to find something, I usually have a general idea of where that might be. I have planners and notebooks to keep track of the most important things, one of which I’ll share with you today: my fiber inventory binder.

Now, this isn’t just for those of us who have been doing this for a while and have amassed quite a bit of fiber. In fact, the sooner you start, even as a beginner, it will be so much easier for you to keep track of everything in the long run as your collection grows. It’s definitely much easier than having to go back and try to remember how you acquired every little bit, where it came from, etc. - something you might want to know if you’re ever working on a project and really want to use this one color from this other project you did a while back but can’t remember where you got it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really think of doing this until I started dyeing my own fiber, which then prompted me to have samples of the fiber I dyed. In my case, because I tend to be a bit on the frugal side with everything, I started out with just dyes in primary colors figuring that I could just mix up whatever colors I needed. If you are thinking about dyeing fiber and don’t know which dyes to get, it’s definitely a great way to start! However, there’s the issue of remembering which dyes I used in what quantities. The whole sprinkling on dye a little here a little there doesn’t quite work with this method. To remember what I was dyeing, I had my notes numbered in one notebook, and then needle felted stars with numbers on them so I could reference them against the notes. The problem is, stars take a lot longer to felt than just a small patch, and those stars have since become counting toys for my kids. At least I know where they are so I can still reference them.

Since then, I’ve come up with a much better system for myself, one that is not difficult to keep up with at all. I grabbed a strong, sturdy binder, took the leftover empty trading card binder sleeves from my days of making and trading artist trading cards, and started filling them with fiber instead. At the time, I didn’t even use a fancy system, just cut up scraps of paper where I would scribble down what I thought I needed to make note of at the time, and stuck it in a pocket with a sample.

Once you start filling up those rings and find yourself flipping through it on a regular basis, I highly recommend binders like this one, which is the one I use. One of my biggest pet peeves regarding binders is when rings always end up having a gap and things start falling out of it, or getting pinched, so I don’t like using anything else. Amazon has something similar which is double the price (ridiculous, I know). Unfortunately you can’t get Axcess BestBuilt binders on there. Of course, feel free to use what you’ve got and then upgrade if you need to. For the sheets, you’ll want something like this. Let me show you some of the things I catalog, and at the end, I’ll share the PDFs for the little forms I use so you can use them too!

lock samples from different breeds

This is a great way to get an idea of what the different breeds are and how the locks look, and so that when you’re looking for that perfect lock for your project, you’ll remember where you got it from and what it looks like. I also like to write down where I got it, so if I ever run out, I know the first place to look for more. It’s also a kind of cool catalog to just be able to see all the different breeds and color variants I’ve played with (if you look closely, I actually have three different colors of icelandic saved in there, plus a lamb version). Form used - inventory log

dye log

This is my dye sample log for all the dyes I own in numerical order (rather than ordered by color). I have a few dyes which, although I’ve already dyed with them, haven’t had an official sample made (hence the empty pocket on the top right corner). On the middle right pocket, you can see that there are actually two samples tucked in there, one with an A (which the fluorescent pink one also has). The ones with an A are alpaca, and the ones with just the numbers are wool. The reason this matters is different fibers dye up differently. As you can see from the double in the blue, the one with the A is lighter/brighter - this is something I’ve noticed with alpaca fibers in general. You’ll get a similar color, but to get the exact same color, you may either need to increase the concentration of the dye for the alpaca, or decrease it for the wool. The one in blue is an excellent example, because they were both dyed in the same pot under the same conditions at the exact same time. This wasn’t intentional, some alpaca accidentally got mixed in with that fiber, but I’m glad that it happened that way.

Most sheep’s wool will dye about the same, though some may look a bit duller than others. It’s totally up to you if you want to keep samples of every breed you dye. I just use this as a guideline, and for the most part I stick to one or two different fibers for all of my samples - ones that I tend to work with the most. Form used - dye log #2

purchased processed fiber sampler

I love that some companies offer a sampler card that you can purchase before deciding if you’re going to buy the wool in larger quantities. If you can get a sampler, feel free to split that up or hole punch it if it’s on a larger card, and include that in your binder so you have everything together. However, if you just decide to splurge on a bunch of different bundles of fluff, go ahead and just make your own! This also becomes pretty handy when you’re picking out colors for a project, so you can see all of them next to each other. Form used: inventory log

dyed locks sampler

This is similar to the dye sampler, except where the dye log is to help you create a sampler of the dyes you own, this allows you to create a catalog of your own colorways for your locks or wool that you’ll then card into an art batt or whatever. Form used: dyed locks

other things to catalog

There is one more more page that I have for you that I didn’t show a sample of in my binder (simply because I need to go back and transfer my notes over), and that’s for the colors you come up with on your own by mixing dyes. If you plan to start with just primaries, or even if you decide to try mixing some non-primary dyes to see what you come up with, that will help you remember what you did so you can try to get that color again in the future.

A few other possibilities:

  • Different types of carded wool/art batts - if it’s a blend, like in roving form, I would lay it out flat and needle felt it, maybe attaching it to a piece of felt or fabric, so you can see all the colors in the blend.

  • If you like to blend your own fibers, either on a drum carder or blending board for example, include what colors you used and estimate the quantities/percentage of each (so like 50% of one, 25% of another, 25% of a third) to get the final color - I estimate this by weighing out what I add and make a note of it.

  • Exotic fibers such as silk, camel, yak, and so on

  • If you spin your own yarn, note what fiber you used, how it was prepped, spinning style, whorl size, direction & angle of twist, wraps per inch, how long/heavy the final skein, and anything else I may have forgotten here that you keep track of.

  • If you dye your own yarn, include a snip or few snips of it that give a good sampling of the colors, and write down the source of the yarn, what dyes and methods you used to obtain the finished product

In order to help you document your fiber stash, here are some freebie templates for you to print out! Print them at 100% (actual) size, cut them up, and the cards should fit in the trading card sleeves. I usually have a few extra sheets printed out and kept in the front pocket of my binder. One print-out is equivalent to one full trading card pocket sheet - so there’s no waste or an odd number of paper slips. If I end up coming up with any more logs in the future, they’ll be added below.


Inventory Log

Keep inventory of any purchased fiber, raw or processed, locks or carded, with this handy log.

dye log 1 - star magnolias

Dye Log #1

For any colors you come up with on your own by mixing dyes - I personally prefer using dry dyes over stock solutions, but maybe you can make it work for you if you use the latter.

dye log 2 - star magnolias

Dye Log #2

This is the log I use to catalog samples of the dyes I own. I’m not mixing anything here, just using them straight out of the jar.

dyed locks inventory log - star magnolias

Dyed Locks

I call this my “dyed locks” log, but you can use it for any fiber you dye in multiple combinations. In the notes I add any details, like which colors are next to which, or if I use more of one than the other, or if I’m aiming for the dyes to blend a certain way.