Updated: Feb 27
This chart shows the weaving setts of my current base yarns.
I buy bulk mill cones of yarn to dye from a variety of sources. These are usually four to five pounds each, though sometimes up to 11 pounds. The supply of undyed yarn can be erratic, so if there is something I really like, I'll get at least 20 pounds. Currently, I'm waiting for a reorder of a fabulous cotton/tencel blend that's been off the market for over two years.
If you are interested in dyeing your own yarns, look at Yarn Barn of Kansas, The Woolery and Eugene Textile Center, as well as any other large online weaving yarn supply shop. The best source for dyes and tutorials is Dharma Trading. The best website for technical dyeing information is Paula Burch's All About Hand Dyeing. Don't be put off by the dated look of the site — this is the most comprehensive technical resource available.
Ring Spun? Open End? What the heck is that?
In the cotton spinning industry there are several ways of producing yarn. Each uses different equipment. Open end (OE) refers to a yarn that is typically spun from shorter fibers. This yarn generally isn't tightly spun and can "full" a bit after washing in my experience. It's a slightly more rustic type of yarn than ring spun, and tends to be correspondingly "value priced". Open end yarns will "track" in plain weave, which can be an interesting design feature. I would use an OE cotton for a baby blanket or sofa throw, and have used them for kitchen towels, but prefer to use RS cotton for the latter. OE cotton yarns are very matte in appearance.
Based on my personal experience, I would sett OE yarns just a bit looser than RS to allow for that fulling. Testing is a great idea. If you'd like to do this, I can supply two-yard undyed warps for sampling. Once they've been through a few wash cycles, the sett will feel just right.
Ring spun yarns are made with longer cotton fibers, and spun to produce a stronger and smoother yarn than OE yarns. They can be more tightly spun, and more durable in the long run than OE yarns. Minor tracking in tabby can occur.