How Caron One Pound Yarn is Made

How Yarn is Made, One Pound Caron Yarns. Join us for a plant tour. (Picture: Ivy at the Spinrite Factory Outlet Presents... Caron USA Tent Sale

Have You Wondered How Yarn is Made?

Today, I am going to show you a rare behind the scenes look at how yarn is made. This article is showing the process after the yarn is spun. See detailed pictures. Ivy, pictured to the right, is a youngster who captures our emotions when finding that special yarn on the shelves. How does the yarn get made so that you can find it on the store shelves?

I will add commentary to steps based on what I learned during my plant tour of Caron Yarns in Washington, North Carolina. We were granted rare permission by Spinrite Yarns LLP to show you the process with photos we took during our plant tour. Employees involved in the process have been omitted from our pictures to protect their identities. Now that I have the legal stuff out of the way, let’s show you a rare look behind the scenes.

The Caron One Pound Journey

Caron Yarns, Washington, North Carolina
Caron Yarns, Washington North Carolina.

Caron One Pound is USA made from spinning the fibers to forming the skeins. You may be surprised how automated the process is. You would not believe how many millions of pounds of yarn are produced in the USA each year.

The Caron Yarn Plant, division of Spinrite Yarns, is located in Washington, North Carolina. To say the facility is massive is an understatement. I was proud of my yarn collection but this factory has nothing on me when I examine how much yarn is truly there. It’s where the yarn fairies live before you see it on the shelves on your local store.

There are four major processes of yarn manufacturing.

  1. Raw Fibres
  2. Dyeing
  3. Spinning
  4. Packaging

This facility does not deal with the raw fibres, dyeing or spinning of the yarn. This process is done at another location in the USA. Raw acrylic is created, then dyed to the approved colour. Once the fibres are ready, the yarn is spun into the yarn you see on the shelves. Speaking to experienced workers, the really messy and hot labour intensive element of making yarn is the first three processes. Don’t get me wrong though, the workers in the packaging division are working extremely hard as well.

Let’s Begin Your Caron Yarns Tour

From the plant that does the raw fibres, dyeing and spinning comes in large crates of loosely packaged industrial cones. These cones are wrapped extremely tight and you would not recognize the yarn as Caron One Pound Yarn at this point because the yarn appears thin. These cones are heavy containing approximately 10 – 12 One Pound Skeins Each.

Starting Process

Industrial Yarn Cones
Industrial Yarn Cones

 

Most of the machines to create one colour consists of only three employees:

  1. First employee is constantly loading the industrial cones.
  2. Second employee is part of the actual winding process.
  3. Third employee is part of the packaging as the yarn skeins come down the line.

Loading of The Cones

Cones Loaded to the Machine
Cones Loaded to Machine, Back of Machine
Industrial Cones
Industrial Cones Loaded, Front of Loader

 

The loader contains 3 industrial cones per strand that is feeding the machine. As you can count, there are 19 holding spots allowing 19 skeins to be produced at one time on the machines.

So how long do one of these cones last when being packaged?

Approximately 10 – 12 minutes before the entire cone runs out. The machines move so quickly that there are three cones in place for each winder so that the machine never runs out of yarn. The 1st worker is constantly removing the empty cones and replacing with new cones.

The cones ends are tied together. As the machine pulls the yarn off the cones at a rapid speed, when the cone runs out, the end is tied to the next cone to instantly start the next cone without having to feed the entire machine section where the yarn is being wound.

Have you ever seen knots in the yarn balls? There are two reasons:

  1. The knots are factored between two processes. During the spinning stages, the spinner could have snapped the yarn requiring a worker to tie the yarn together as it was winding onto the industrial cones.
  2. The knot could be the knot from one industrial cone to another. Without having severe industrial waste for producing yarn balls without knots, knots are acceptable in the manufacturing of yarn. To produce a no knot yarn ball can have severe consequences to landfills. As a yarn artist that we are, it’s our job to do our part so the yarn remains economical for everyone.

Steaming the Yarn

Caron Yarn Plant Tour
The yarn travels up and over to the conveyor where it’s laid on the conveyor.
Yarn Steamer
The yarn laid onto the conveyor where it will go through a steamer.
Notice how the yarn is laid down.
Notice how the yarn is laid down onto the conveyor.

 

The industrial cones are wound extremely tight. It has no stretch and is thin in appearance. It is wound thin to make it cheaper to transport and deal with during packaging.

The yarn strands travel up over the machine and a machine lays down the yarn in a circular motion so that the yarn can be exposed to a blast of steam. The steam instantly revives the yarn to puff it up.

The conveyor moves the yarn down to the dryer to dry the steam blasted yarn to finalize the final look of the yarn. The yarn continues to rapidly dry as it heads to the winders.

Final Process before Wrapping

Conveyors Move the Yarn
Conveyors Move the Yarn
Conveyors Move the Yarn
Conveyors Move the Yarn

 

Each conveyor operates independently from each other. You can see the yarn strand behind pulled from the end. The conveyors keep moving in sync with the pulling of the yarn. When the winders stop between the balls, each conveyor keeps moving forward until all conveyor belts for the each winder is at the front of the machine ready to go for the next ball winding cycle.

From here, the yarn is pulled forwards and up over the operator of the 2nd employee where they are part of the labour intensive winding process.

Winding of The Yarn

Yarn Winding, Caron Yarns
There are 3 Sets of Yarn Winders.
Yarn Winders
Yarn Winders at Caron Yarns

 

The yarn winders are divided into three sections. If this one one massive winder, the operator would be too long with too many winders empty waiting for the reset.

With the 3 sections, the first winder section has 6 skein spots of the 19 that are being fed to this entire machine. The operator just has to deal with 6 and then reset the machine to start again. The operator then moves to the next section that stops. They move between the 3 sections constantly throughout their shift. It’s a lot of work and you must be on your feet the entire shift.

Notice the diameter of the interior spools. The yarn is being wound really tight. The operator cannot remove the yarn off this spool on their own. A hydraulic is released to push the yarn forward when the cycle is done. The operator pulls the skein off the spool. With a snipper cuts the yarn and feeds the new end to the empty spool. They then sit the skein down on a conveyor readying for the shaping and ball banding.

The yarn expands on its own once taken off the spool. The puffing up of the yarn a minute earlier before winding has memory in the yarn. It’s not on the winder long enough for it to lose it’s fluffy look and feel.

The interior of the ball where the spool was instantly fills in with the yarn on it’s own.

Shaping of the Yarn

Caron Yarn
Caron Yarn
Shape Caron Yarn
Shape Caron Yarn
Conveyor of One Pound yarn
Shape of Caron One Pound Yarn

 

I couldn’t help but notice that the yarn doesn’t look the same when it comes off the winder. It reminded me of a tin can shape. The yarn on the shelves has a rounded edge look.

When the yarn is taken off the winder, it heads down a mini conveyor and will pass through a compressor. The compressor slightly squishes the ball and causes it to roll at the same time. This creates the rounded off look and squishes the ball down for the ball banding process.

Ball Banding

Caron Yarns
Caron Yarn, Ball Banding. Ball goes through the conveyor and a machine automatically wraps the balls
Ball Band Wrappers
Ball Banding a Yarn Ball, Wrapper just takes a second to wrap and glue the ball band.
One the Other Side of the Ball Binder
On the Other side of the Ball Bander, the yarn is ready for packaging
Plastic Wrapping Yarn
The Worker Helps the Sealing of Yarn into plastic. Some wraps are single balls and others are in doubles.

 

The Warehouse

Yarn Warehouse
Yarn Warehouse
Yarn Warehouse
Yarn Warehouse

 

Pictures will never do the warehousing of the yarn any justice. It is massive. Some workers have bicycles to get through the warehouse as it is so massive. The warehousing distribution is like a hive of ants moving around with a sense of purpose.

Watch out for forklifts and electronic pallet jacks with the workers riding along. Orders need to be picked and shipped out to fulfill the store needs. This entire facility feeds every store in USA with a secondary facility in Canada fulfilling other orders to support this facility.

Orders have to be picked accurately, wrapped and ready for the transport trucks to pick up the yarn. Being a former transport driver having seen my share of warehousing in my day, this facility is fascinating in the way product is handled.

Distribution

The yarn is picked up and either taken to a store directly where you will find it. It could also be taken to the buyer’s distribution facility such as Walmart, Michaels Stores and other places to be shipped on the next truck that is dedicated for the store.

So What Happens to Reject Yarn?

You may notice in certain stores that carry yarn that there is Mill Ends for 1 Pound or something like that. This is yarn where the yarn ball didn’t meet the weight or size requirements to be packaged. The yarn brand is usually not identified inside as it’s classified as seconds.

The yarn could also be an off-shade meaning the standard colour wasn’t achieved during the dying process. It doesn’t allow it to go out as 1st Quality Yarn. Yarn has a long journey and an off-shade isn’t a deal breaker to everyone so it’s sold off as mill ends.

Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed my tour. What did you think of this tour? I have pictures for automated winders that are completely hands free. Would you like to see that? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

69 Comments

  1. Charlene

    Great info! Thanks for doing this! Wish we could tour it in person!

  2. Is there anyway you could do a video of these cute baby(https://stitch11.com/weight-set-for-toddlers/) weight sets? You give such amazing tutorials. I feel I can do anything after watching your videos, but struggle reading basic patterns. I’ve been watching your 101 videos. They have helped a lot, but I’m still struggling with the basics of reading a pattern. I’ve attached a link to her website. Thanks! Your adoring fan, Carrie.

    • Mikey

      Hey Carrie, I am legally not allowed to. It’s not my own pattern or belongs to Yarnspirations.com. It’s a copyright infringement as a video acts like a photocopier. I’m sorry. Can you reach out to the designer to ask them to film it up?

  3. Carol Ann Reams

    Very interesting article!

  4. Sharlene Waugh

    Sorry, I meant Caron Pounders when I left a post….not Lion Brand….does Lion Brand even have pounders? My bad, have been organizing my yarn stash and the last I was working with was Lion Brand…..stuck in my mind….sorry!

  5. Sharlene Waugh

    I have seen on” How It’s Made” the production of yarn, albeit wasn’t Lion Brand but the process is the same as the info you shared with us….Thank you for your time and devotion to all things crochet!
    I have also become disenchanted with Lion Brand after I bought a number of the pounders and was irked at the number of knots inside the skeins…some were only about 12 inches apart and one skein had 5 knots in it. I can’t believe that 5 knots is the norm for one skein of yarn even if it’s a pounder. I would think that quality control would label skeins with excess knots as seconds and price them accordingly. Also I have seen labels where the country of origin is Turkey…has Lion Brand moved some of their business overseas? I will use up the remaining skeins of Lion Brand Pounders that I have but will switch to another brand if I can find one that has better quality control over their proucts.

    • Mikey

      Caron One Pound was moved to Georgia for making and the yarn has had a shift in the ingredients to make it softer. Remember, in yarn production, there are several stations so the people down the line in moving the product will be unaware of each knot inside. They allow up to 1 knot for every 50 g which is an industry standard. It prevents literally 1000’s of pounds of yarn to end up in landfill and keeps the prices low. Inconvenient at times, yes, but the costs to produce a knot-free version or that carefully controlled to allow 1 – 2 knots only would ramp up the costs of each ball exponentially. Based on research, yarn users want to pay as less as possible and this process allows for that.

      Lion Brand also follows the same protocol. You are best to buy yarn at an independent yarn store where the yarn they sell is ramped up in price where the closer attention to the details are factored in. The balls could be $10 – $30 each but then gives you what you are hoping for in the price.

      Caron One Pound is made in the USA, so the pricing has to make up for paying North American Wages versus importing with workers making pennies per hour.

  6. Over the last 2-3 years, there has been a noticeable decline in the quality of the Caron 1 pound skeins. I can prove this because I have been notating the wrappers each time I have used a skein. I always use the same crochet needle & the exact same pattern stitch for every blanket. I also do NOT get the SAME number of rows with every skein..sometimes 73 rows & sometimes 90 rows. This does NOT make sense. I have been crocheting almost 40 years so I not because I am not consistent with my work.

    The wrappers have various numbers on them- I do NOT mean color numbers. I believe these numbers designate which factory location is making the skeins. EX: 294010, 294002, 294027, 294009, 294015-all colors are found in all the number labels. So they mean something-I have called Spinrite about this problem & questioned why the yarn quality varies so much..they don’t actually have any good answer for me.

    Do you have any answers for me-if so could you reply directly to my email, because I am really thinking about just stopping crocheting because of the quality problem. Also not all the labels are the same- some have smaller printing & some have the numbers set in a different pattern on the label. Which only bolsters my belief that there are various locations within the US where this yarn is manufactured/produced.

    • Mikey

      Afternoon Ranae, I don’t really have an answer for you about the quality. I know that Caron One Pound has been moved to Georgia last year, instead of North Carolina and new machines are used to make it. The yarn formula has been improved to make it softer as well. I don’t know much about the numbers you are speaking of. I am not in a position to know about the making procedures of the yarn to give you an answer to be honest with you.

      I’m sorry Spinrite doesn’t have an answer for you. I don’t know the answers to your questions. I believe right now, there is stock left over from Yarnspirations North Carolina that has the older labels and the new stuff will have a different print because of the location. The new Caron One Pound Balls are more narrow, still one pound but not as wide in the length. That’s how I can tell the difference.

      • Thanks for your reply. I am NOT finding the new yarn out of Georgia to actually be softer…on the contrary, it is thinner quality & absolutely NOT as soft (fluffy).

        My comment is driven by the way it works up when I crochet- the yarn has to actually be pulled out of the skein- the original type that I used to buy was waaaay softer & just seemed to drop out of the skein as I needed it. Almost felt like the blanket was making itself.

        I think I may just stop crocheting- it just isn’t any fun using the new style yarn anymore.

      • Mikey

        You’ve said twice now you are probably just going to quit crocheting as the Caron One Pound isn’t to your liking. I have found that people who state they are going to quit end up doing it. I think you should let yourself off the hook, sort of speak, and quit crocheting. It sounds to me like your heart is leaning in that direction and I think you should go with your gut.

        If you haven’t found joy in other brands, then it’s possible you are finished with this hobby. There’s nothing wrong with ending a hobby and finding something else. I cannot speak for Yarnspirations on the manufacturing side. I’m surprised you haven’t tried another brand and threatening to quit the hobby when there are so many other choices. That’s why I think you should follow your heart and just retire from this hobby, you will most likely be happier and won’t need to worry about this.

        Take care, Michael

  7. I bought Caron yarn at Michaels craft store Torrington Connecticut the yarn had the wrong rappers on it it was a 3-ply 94 ply and I also bought the cure on round bundle of yarn which is too thin to be a 4 ply and I don’t feel as though I should be stuck with this and all the money I spent!

  8. Sandy Shifflett

    Hi,
    I am looking for cup cake yarn in Faerie color. We started a project and need more yarn to finish. We live in Baltimore MD. Please e-mail me with any help or suggestions. Love the yarn!
    Thank you!

    • Mikey

      I’m unsure I have seen Caron Cup Cakes in Faerie Colour. I thought that was online in regular Caron Cakes. I think that colour in Caron Cakes has been discontinued as well. I’m unsure where you could find that colour today. I know I don’t have that colour in my stock as well.

  9. Cornelia

    Thanks Mikey! Makes me feel a bit better. I did used to think they were seconds, unapproved for top quality sells. Hope that find a way to stop the break or label the skein so we anticipate and don’t have to pull out a nearly finished row to reconnect at the seam though. – Cornelia Wright / Cornelia’s Creative Corner

  10. Loved the text-and-photos tour; too bad you didn’t have a video camera along. (As an attorney’s wife, totally understand the “no employee faces” rule you had to work under.)
    Hmmm . . . my “stash guardian” dog loves watching the “Dirty Jobs” show on Animal Planet . . . maybe I should suggest that Mike Rowe (the host of “Dirty Jobs”) should spend a day in a yarn factory sometime!

  11. Shirley

    That is awesome. I feel bad now. since I have complained about the knots.

  12. Cheri Geo

    Thanks for writing and photographing this. It is a wonderful explanation of how it all works. Thanks for being such a genius at this.

  13. Sue R

    So cool to know. Now I won’t curse the knots as much, haha!

  14. Alice Sillis

    Great article on a fantastic US yarn product. I would like to see some of the Caron Simply Soft colors being made… Wish I could visit their Tent Sale.

  15. Kitty

    Where can you find the reject yarns? Do they sell it just there or can you get it on line?

  16. Cheryl Ann

    Bang on Mikey!! Or SPOT ON as I say!! Loved seeing and reading about the process of it and would love to see more!!!
    So plz show us more!!!

  17. Patsy Murphy

    This was very interesting, to bad people can’t tour the factory find this a great way to understand more about the product. You have shown the manufacturing of yarn real well. Can’t imagine the size of the warehouse, would be a knitter or crochetsers dream!

  18. Thank you for sharing this article – I found it very interesting and enjoyable (perspective is always so enriching!) I would love to be able to tour a yarn production facility someday, until then, I will just have fun playing with the end product. 😉

  19. Olivia Oneida Albert

    Thank you for this. I love seeing how things are made. This was very interesting.

  20. Sherry

    Loved this! Fascinating to see how the finished product is made, thanks for sharing.

  21. Joan

    I loved finding out about how the yarn was produced and to see pictures too. It was great. That warehouse must be like heaven! Thank you!!!

  22. Joanne Zednik

    I really enjoyed the article. Good job! I have quite a yarn stash, but nothing to compare to the yarn warehouse. I like learning the steps of how the yarn got to that point.

  23. Cookie Miller

    I loved this article. It’s like being in yarn heaven.

  24. Kathi korn

    Omg! Mikey, what a wonderful, well written article. I felt like I was right there with you. The only thing missing was the noise and the smells. Thank you so much for sharing the experience.

  25. I love to learn new things. Had no idea yarn had such a lengthy journey before finding its way to my hooks and needles!

    And by the way….I’m Ivy’s grandma and we’re going to make sure she’s a yarnie!

  26. Janice

    That is SO cool! I was there the day you took the tour and was dying to see what the whole process was like…AMAZING! Thank You for sharing!!

  27. Patty

    This was awesome.You should suggest to them that a video walk through would be great.I mean not just for us adults but it would be quite informative for young children.Just like learn how crayons are made. ( Oh and by the way how the heck did you keep your calm in all that yarn being around you?)

  28. Laura Ruelas

    Yes! A video would be fabulous. (I love to read and watch the video and watch the video and read. It’s what I do with books-on-tape, movies. I dive in and can’t seem to get enough of what I love/enjoy.) Yarn, watchout!

  29. Tracie Condie

    Very Cool, I have watched “How It’s Made” before and this is goes right along with it. I loved the pic’s and your explanations. It is so amazing on how fast and machine oriented it is. I adore the warehouse view and the winding. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

  30. Katherine

    How awesome. My mother was a fiber artist – hand weaver – and I can take wool from raw on the sheep to useable yarn. Don’t do it any longer but know how. So this was very cool to me.

    • Judy

      I would love to learn all of those processes.

  31. Anne

    Thank you Mikey, that was great! Would love to see any more pictures you have. Yarn eutopia!!

  32. Denise

    I very much enjoyed the behind the scenes look at yarn manufacturing. I particularly found the knots interesting. My grandmother, who was born in 1888 and married at the age of 18, worked in a mill before marrying. As a young girl, I remember her comments whenever she found a knot in the skein of yarn she was using. She wound note that that was a sign of poor quality, saying that ends should have been woven together. Thank you for bringing my grandmother back to me.

  33. Tami

    Thank you, Dan and Mikey, for the wonderful inside look. I certainly didn’t know that much went into the packaging of yarn. I’ll look at my yarn skeins a little differently from now on!

  34. Linda Doiron

    I loved seeing this! Thank you so much. I would love also to see the yarn winders.

  35. Betty Lewis

    What a great tour! Definitely would love to see pictures of the hands free automated winder! I recently had the opportunity to tour a sock factory and made the statement that it would be cool to see how yarn was made! Thank you!

  36. inkpattie

    more! this was very interesting…

  37. Erica

    I enjoyed the tour very much. Thank you Mikey. I would enjoy seeing any photos you have of automated hands free ball winders.

  38. doreen

    This was amazing..so glad they allowed you to share would love to see more pictures.

  39. |JoAnne Baker Seiple

    How fascinating! Enjoyed it…and yes, it would be interesting to see the other one. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  40. Diane R.

    Yes I liked this article, details, pictures, explanation mills ends etc….thanks very much!

  41. Donna

    Wow, that’s really interesting. Thank you for sharing. I love knowing how things are made.

  42. Irma M

    Interesting! And well written too! I was surprised at the explanation of mill ends, though. I have bought some brands’ ends and they really did appear to be of a lower quality. Thanks!

  43. Laurie

    thank you for sharing that with us Mikey and yes!!! we would love to see your picks of the automated winders… your tour was quite interesting!!

  44. Linda S. Michaud

    Thank you so much for sharing your Caron factory yarn tour. It’s fascinating to learn how it becomes the product with which we ‘play’. Anything else you’d like to share, I for one, would certainly love to see

  45. Didi Pancake

    Glad you got to see the process. Thanks for sharing it.

  46. Cynthia Jones

    Loved the article and pictures
    Would enjoy seeing more.

  47. WOW. I have never seen it made before. I think the process of puffing it back up is most interesting. We were at the tent sale and i had no idea so much was going on behind those walls 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing.. One thing I would love to see is how they make the ombre colors. Maybe next year Mikey?? 🙂 Love Caron. Its my favorite

  48. Staci K

    would love to see any pictures you have of the process. Very interesting! Would love to see the handsfree automatic winders.

  49. Sandra

    Very interesting to see the process of yarn making in a large factory. You had posted y’all were going to have a tour and we’re glad they allowed you to take photos. Bang on! 🙂

  50. Karen

    I really enjoyed this article. Thanks for taking the time to put it together for us.

  51. Doris

    Very interesting. Thank you Mikey.

  52. Elizabeth Jones

    This is great! I’m always fascinated to see how things are produced. It makes me want to live in the warehouse.

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