Working with hand dyed yarns

Hand dyed yarns can bring depth and amazing texture and color to your knitted garment. There are many ways to hand dye yarn, hand painting, dip dyeing and kettle dyeing or submersion dyeing. Personally I am a kettle dyeing girl, I like muted color changes and semi-solid colors, especially for larger garments. With space dyed yarns like hand painted or dip dyed yarns you run the inevitable risk of your colors pooling, sometimes a different stitch count makes it go away, sometimes it makes it worse. Kettle dyed yarns, even over dyed multi-colored color ways are much less likely to pool and are more random in their color changes than the previous dyeing techniques. But to achieve these unique colors each skein carries the risk of being unique to itself, even when multiple skeins are dyed at once in the same pot. Why you ask? Because temperature and space in the pot are crucial, if a skein is closer to the center of the pile of skeins it will not receive as much dye as it’s “family”, the rest of that dye lot. Thus when you knit one full skein and then start a new one even within the same dye lot, they can be slightly to more obviously different.
How do you remedy this dilemma? I’m sure you will scoff at what I say next, just as how everyone rolls their eyes when the word “swatch” is brought up, but by working with two skeins at once of a hand dyed yarn will make all the difference in your finished garment. Hats, mittens and other small one-skein projects are great for hand dyed yarns, but there is seriously nothing as beautiful as a hand dyed semi solid sweater. By switch skeins every 1 or 2 rounds if working in the round or every 2 rows if working flat, and carrying the yarns up as you go, you can keep your garment uniform in color without stark color changing lines.

Here are three pictures, the first are my two skeins, both the same color way and dye lot, but obviously different, the second are the two skeins knit separately (I switched skeins about half way up the swatch), and the third picture are the two skeins knit together, switching skeins every other round.

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Another technique that can work if you have enough skeins that work well together and won’t create a skein changing line through your work for the body of your garment is to work the sleeves in the skeins that are similar but just a little off, such as they picked up more red dye than others, or something like that. If you can keep the skeins separated into different body sections, such as the sleeves and the body, or even the body and the yoke, these are natural lines that your eye doesn’t immediately go to. But switching skeins is the most effective and fluid way to knit with hand dyed yarns.
As a hand dyer I can assure you that I wish all my skeins were exactly the same from dye lot to dye lot, but sometimes I have to step back and see that if they were all uniform and always the same that dyeing yarn wouldn’t be what I enjoy. I enjoy dyeing yarn and working with color because it is always different, and sometimes what ends up coming out of the pot is infinitely more beautiful than what I had expected. 20 qt stock pots can only hold so much yarn, so always start your project with plenty of yarn in the same dye lot because likely a few months later your dye lot won’t be available anymore or even a similar dye lot! But the garment made with hand dyed yarns is completely unique and worth every penny and second spent changing skeins throughout your project!>

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