Knitting Blog

Colors to Dye For: Tips for Knitting With Hand-Dyed Yarns

If you’ve been lucky enough to knit with hand-dyed yarns, you know why they’re so special. Hand-dyed yarns are all completely unique. Their color can sometimes be unpredictable, with some parts of the yarn skein dyeing lighter or darker than others. Because these color variations are hidden within the skein, you never know what you’re going to get once that skein is unraveled.

Keep these tips in mind as you’re knitting with hand-dyed yarns to make the most of those unique color schemes — and avoid any last-minute surprises.

Half Linen Stitch Cowl with hand-dyed yarn

Photo via Craftsy instructor Laura Bryant

What makes hand-dyed yarns different?

Because they’re dyed by hand, the dye may not be distributed evenly. Sometimes you can’t tell this from looking at the outside of the hank, so the color variations can be a complete surprise once you start knitting.

Another issue is that two skeins dyed the same color can yield totally different results. A green dye, for example, might result in one dark green skein and one slightly lighter green skein. This can be problematic when you’re knitting projects that require more than one skein of yarn because the finished project might turn out to be two different colors. Yikes!

Fortunately, there are ways to deal with all of these unique issues. You may even find that you have more creative freedom with hand-dyed yarns!

Tips for using hand-dyed yarns

Alternate skeins

Let’s say you’re knitting a scarf with two skeins of hand-dyed yarn that are labeled the same color. These skeins could be from the same dye lot or even different dye lots. If you knit the first half of the scarf with one skein and the second half with the other skein, there could be a huge difference in color from one side of the scarf to the other. If you’re ok with that, knit on! Otherwise, try this:

Instead of knitting with one skein then knitting the second skein, alternate skeins throughout the project. I know. It sounds really tedious. But this will help blend the two colors and eliminate that clear dividing line where you changed skeins. If you carry the ends up the sides of the project as you go, you won’t have to worry about weaving in ends.

Hold two strands together

Using your hand-dyed yarn to knit something a little bulkier? Knit with both hand-dyed skeins at the same time when you hold two strands together throughout the entire project.

This is the perfect solution when you just can’t find the right yarn substitute. If your pattern calls for a super bulky-weight yarn, for instance, try holding two strands of worsted-weight hand-dyed yarn together to see if you can achieve the same gauge.

Color Stacked Cowl

Be aware of pooling

If your hand-dyed yarn is a variegated yarn, be aware of pooling. Pooling is when colors start to appear in blocks throughout the knitting, and it’s very common in pieces that don’t have a lot of shaping. If you don’t want your variegated yarn to appear in blocks, stick to a pattern that has a lot of increases and decreases. (A triangle shawl is one example of a project with a lot of shaping.)

Other times, pooling can work to your advantage. Check out the Color-Stacked Cowl pictured above as an example. Craftsy instructor Laura Bryant purposely created these diagonal stripes in the pattern to take advantage of the beautiful colors of the yarn. Want to know the simple science behind it? Learn how to knit the cowl — and how to take advantage of pooling — in Laura’s Color Patterning With Hand-Dyed Yarns class.

Research your yarn

If you’re buying a hand-dyed yarn that’s widely distributed, you may be able to research projects created by other knitters using that same yarn. There may even be member projects right here on Craftsy that use it. Take a look at how other knitters used the yarn and what kinds of color patterns they were able to create with it.

Hand dyeing your own yarn? Check out our tips on dyeing with animal fibers, plus tips on hand dyeing cotton.

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Loved your page on tie tyed yarn


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