Sheepspot

How to alternate skeins

what we doAlicia de los ReyesComment

Have you ever read a label or online description of yarn or fiber and wondered what exactly the dyer was talking about? In this series, I'm demystifying dyeing terms to help you pick the ideal skein or bump for your next project. This week, I'm sharing my top tip for knitting with hand-dyed yarn: alternating skeins.*

Whether I'm dyeing solids, semi-solids, or variegated yarns, every skein is a little bit different, even if they all went into the same dye pot and were handled the same way. I used to find this really frustrating, but I've come to accept it as part of my dyeing process. Temperature is a huge factor in determining how a yarn will take dye, and even slight variations in temperature within the dye pot can make skeins look slightly different from each other.

These skeins of Columbia Aran in Duckling show subtle differences in value: the skein in the foreground is slightly darker than the skein behind it.

These skeins of Columbia Aran in Duckling show subtle differences in value: the skein in the foreground is slightly darker than the skein behind it.

When you order Sheepspot yarns, I always do my best to match the skeins, but the following steps will help ensure the best results in your final project:

  1. Look carefully at the skeins in good light. Most often the differences among them will be differences in what color theory calls value: technically, value is the amount of white or black in a color. Differences in value will make some skeins appear lighter and some darker. One foolproof way to evaluate value is to take a black and white picture of the skeins; the photo will show you immediately which are lighter and which are darker. Based on the picture, number the skeins from lightest to darkest for future reference.
  2. Once you've determined how much the skeins vary, you have some decisions to make, depending on what you're knitting. You might simply knit the skeins in order for a subtle gradient effect. If you go this route, I recommend that as you get close to the end of one skein, you begin knitting two rows from it and two rows from the next one so that the transitions will be as smooth as possible.

  3. Alternatively, if you want color in the entire piece to be as uniform as possible, you should knit two rows from one skein and two from another all the way through. One caveat, though: it's probably best not to alternate between the darkest and lightest skeins. Say you have six skeins that you've numbered from lightest to darkest. I'd alternate between 1 and 4, then 2 and 5, then 3 and 6 for the most even look overall.

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