Monday, January 20, 2014

The Joys of Hand-dyed Yarn

I love hand dyed yarns. Most of what I knit uses them. So, I pretty much use them all the time. They can be tricky, even when buying skeins from the same "dye lot" or shipment. Typically, these yarns don't have numbered dye lots.

Thunderhead uses MadelineTosh prairie in the Graphite colorway. Both skeins were purchased at the same time from the same shipment. One skein is a little lighter than the other. To compensate, I alternate between the skeins every two rows so the differences cannot be seen in the finished object. Other skeins of this colorway which were purchased later are reasonably close and could be used in a single garment when alternated in this manner.
This is also the approach that I used when knitting my Whiskey Sour sweater. I had purchased MadelineTosh DK in the William Morris colorway for this sweater about a year before I started the sweater. When I came back to the pattern, the amount of yarn required had changed (yikes!). So, I took a chance and purchased enough skeins to alternate with my original purchase. Luckily the color of the second purchase could easily be alternated with the first purchase.

Alternating between skeins is a little more obvious in Heather on the Moors. This sweater uses a club color of Miss Babs Yummy Superwash Sport. You can see that the variation is more obvious. Again, this was barely noticeable when looking at the skeins.

While alternating skeins works well for sweaters, it can be troublesome in lace shawls. When alternating between skeins, the yarn is typically carried up along the edge. If the yarn carry is too tight it will restrict blocking of the shawl. To avoid this, I try to use only a single skein for lace shawls.

There are other tricks to consider:

  • Don't alternate every other row, alternate in chunks. This will result in more ends or will require more splicing of the yarn, both issues on a lace shawl
  • Don't alternate at all. Investigate if there are good places to make the transition, so the transition looks intentional.
  • Don't carry along the edge. Sometimes you can find a better place to carry the yarn. In the case of Heather on the Moors, I carried the yarn on the inside of the sweater, where the sweater body and Icord meet.
  • Knit a swatch to test the variation between swatches. Knit a number of rows from each skein, then switch skeins. Your goal is to understand the color variation and then choose the best solution for your project.
  • Unfortunately, you can't count on hand dyed yarns even being similar. Sometimes they can vary greatly from shipment to shipment. The three skeins of yarn pictured are all MadelineTosh Sock in the Steam Age colorway. Each skein was purchased at a different time. They are so different, that they are going to be used as if they are separate colors in the Stephen West Shawl, Color Craving by a friend of mine. It will be interesting to see the outcome.


    Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

    Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits.

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