Have you ever knit or crocheted a blanket or a sweater with the same color yarn but noticed a slight variation in the color when you were finished? Whoops! This problem happens when the skeins of yarn you were knitting or crocheting with were from different dye lots.
Sometimes it's impossible to knit a project from skeins that are in the same dye lot. Find out more about what a dye lot is, why it matters, and what you can do if your dye lots don't match.
What is a dye lot?
A dye lot is a number used to identify skeins of yarn that have been dyed in the same vat. The difference in dye lots is not always immediately noticeable, especially on the shelf at your local yarn store. But have you ever knitted something with more than one skein and noticed that one skein was perhaps a little lighter in color than the other? That's probably because the two skeins came from different dye lots.
Why dye lots matter
When a yarn company dyes yarn, it's impossible for each skein to turn out the exact same color -- especially when working in smaller batches. Differences in dyeing temperature, how long the yarn is in the dye, and other factors all determine the shade of the yarn. This is where the dye lot comes in handy for knitters and crocheters.
Sometimes the difference in two dye lots is not very obvious. Other times, the two dye lots may vary so much that you think you're looking at two different colors. Buying skeins in the same dye lot ensures that the color of your project will be consistent throughout.
Finding the dye lot on the label
Have you ever examined a yarn label and noticed a sometimes-crazy-long dye lot number on it? Take a look at this yummy Cascade Venezia Worsted yarn (seen above) that's new to my stash. (You can buy it in sport-weight, too!) The label for the Venezia Worsted has both a color number (160) and a lot number (2422). The color number tells me that the yarn is the lovely Ginger color, while the lot number tells me that it was dyed in lot 2422. Any skein of Venezia Worsted that has these same two numbers on the label was dyed in the very same lot as this skein.
If another skein of Venezia Worsted has the same color number but a different lot number, that means that although it's still Ginger, it was not dyed in the same lot. In that case, the color can be slightly different. Sometimes the different dye lots can be noticeable; other times you can't tell a difference at all.
How to knit with different dye lots
Ideally you'll want to use skeins of the same dye lot for a large project so that the color is uniform throughout. But what if you already bought your skeins and they have different dye lots? No worries! Here are a two things you can do:
1. Alternate the skeins
Let's say you have two skeins of yarn that come from two different lots and you're making a scarf. Instead of knitting half the scarf with the first skein, then knitting the last half with the second skein, alternate the skeins more frequently. For example, knit a few rows with the first skein, then knit a few rows with the second skein. This will help the yarns blend instead of appearing to be two large blocks of color. Yeah, it's a pain, but the variation in color will be much less obvious.
2. Use the skeins strategically
If you're knitting something that has several pieces, use those different dye lots strategically. For example, if you're knitting a laptop case, knit the front of the case with one dye lot and knit the back of the case with the other dye lot. This way, the two skeins will be totally separate.
If you're knitting a more complicated garment, like a sweater, you can use the same technique. Knit the front of the sweater with one dye lot and knit the back of the sweater with the other dye lot.
If this all sounds overly complicated to you, why worry about it? Like most of our knitting, only the knitter knows where the mistakes are. I bet no one else will ever even notice the varied color and if they do, just tell 'em it's on purpose. (We'll never tell!)