Sheepspot

hand-dyed series

How to avoid flashing and pooling

what we doAlicia de los ReyesComment

Over the past few weeks, I've defined some common dyeing terms, and shared how methods like hand-painting and kettle dyeing can be used to create different types of yarn, from solid to semi-solid to variegated (check out the series here). Last week, I shared my top tip for creating a uniform color with solids and semi-solids (alternate skeins). This week, I'm sharing my secret for avoiding flashing and pooling when working with variegated yarns.*

Variegated yarns can be challenging. When working with handpainted skeins, you'll find that they have a "repeat," a set sequence of colors that repeats over and over as you knit the yarn. The repeat results from the dyeing process, which entails laying out a skein or loop of yarn and painting it with horizontal or diagonal stripes. The length of the repeat is determined by the size of the loop. (You can check the length of the color repeats in a skein by unwinding the yarn into a loop and matching up the two instances of the same color.) Depending on the length of the color repeat, the lengths of each individual color within that repeat, your gauge, and the stitch count of your pattern, you may find large blocks of the same color showing up in your project. Some call this "pooling," others "flashing."

Sustainable Merino DK  in " Still Waters Run Deep ."  "Still Waters" has pronounced contrasts in both hue and value, so it will pool more obviously than . . . 

Sustainable Merino DK  in "Still Waters Run Deep."  "Still Waters" has pronounced contrasts in both hue and value, so it will pool more obviously than . . . 

For some knitters, this unexpected effect is part of the fun of knitting with handpainted yarns. And some clever knitters have figured out how to plan for these color patterns in their finished objects—check out Laura Militzer Bryant's Artful Color, Mindful Knits to learn more about how to do this.
 

this colorway of the same yarn,  "Standing in the Shadows of Love."   This yarn may still pool or flash, but because the colors are more similar to each other it won't be as obvious.

this colorway of the same yarn, "Standing in the Shadows of Love."  This yarn may still pool or flash, but because the colors are more similar to each other it won't be as obvious.

Other knitters—and I am one of them—find flashing and pooling irritating, or even maddening. We want a more blended look. Here are a few tips on how to achieve this: 

1. Alternate skeins. Just as when knitting with solid or semi-solid colors, you can alternate skeins every one or two rows to achieve a more "uniform" distribution of color, as long as you start using each skein at a different point in the repeat.

2. Knit with two strands at once. Doubling up your yarn will randomize the color distribution, provided you start each strand at a different point in the repeat.

3. Choose a stitch pattern that will minimize flashing and pooling: look for patterns that contain floats and dropped stitches. I have a whole slew of them on my Patterns for Variegated Yarns board over on Pinterest.  Go check 'em out!

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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.

*And if you want to get content like this delivered to your inbox (along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers!), sign up here to get my weekly newsletter.

How hand-dyeing terms translate

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.*

So far, we've talked about my definition of hand-dyedanything that is dyed by a maker or a small business, rather than an industrial dye houseand some of the various methods of hand-dying. Here at Sheepspot, I hand-paint, immersion dye, and kettle dye yarns and fibers. This week, I'm going to share with you what those different methods result in: solidsemi-solid, and variegated yarns and fibers.

Solids, as you may have guessed, are one color. I immersion dye all of Sheepspot's solid yarns and fibers in a big pots of dye with lots of water. Immersion-dyed yarns and fibers may have a bit of variation caused by a variety of factors, but these will knit up into a fabric that reads as a solid color.

Semi-solids (some dyers call these "tonal") have a bit more variation in value, incorporating darker and lighter versions of the same color. They will produce a fabric with lighter and darker areas, and thus a bit more movement and depth.


When dyers talk about "variegated" yarns or fibers, think "multi-colored." Sheepspot's variegated yarns and fibers are all either kettle-dyed or hand painted. There are lots of tricks to getting variegated yarns to behave the way you want them to in knitted fabric. We'll get into them in my next post, with some tips to make sure that your finished object matches your vision.

Do you need some advice about how to handle a yarn or fiber that you're working with right now? Email me about it and I'll try to help!

*And if you want to get content like this delivered to your inbox (along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers!), sign up here to get my weekly newsletter.

Hand-dyeing terms, demystified.

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? Over the next few weeks I'm going to demystify dyeing terms and help you pick the ideal skein or bump for your next project. Find the whole series here.

In my last post, I talked about what hand-dyed means (anything that is dyed by a maker or a small business, rather than an industrial dye house). This week, I'll talk about four common methods of hand-dyeing: hand-painting, immersion-dyeing, low-water immersion dyeing (also known as kettle dyeing) and dip-dyeing

Left: immersion-dyed yarn. Top right: a kettle-dyed bump. Bottom right: a hand-painted bump, in the same colorway.

Left: immersion-dyed yarn. Top right: a kettle-dyed bump. Bottom right: a hand-painted bump, in the same colorway.

Hand-painting is exactly what it sounds like: the dyer pours or paints dye onto yarn or fiber laid out in a flat loop. This is the most time-consuming method, but it gives the dyer the most control over color placement.

Immersion-dyeing is probably what you imagine when you picture someone dyeing yarn: the dyer puts the yarn or fiber into a big pot of dye with lots of water. This process is usually used to make solid colors.

Low-water immersion (or kettle) dyeing: This process is somewhere between hand-painting and immersion-dyeing. The dyer places the yarn or fiber in a shallow pan with just a little water, and then applies the color (or colors). When only one color is used, this technique can produce a semi-solid. When multiple colors are used, the delineations between them are softer as the water will cause the colors to blend.

Dip-dyeing is usually used with yarn, and is a cross between immersion-dyeing and hand painting in which different parts of the skein are dunked into different dyes. 

Here at Sheepspot I do a little of everything except dip-dyeing. Solids are immersion-dyed, semi-solids are kettle-dyed, and variegateds are hand-painted or kettle-dyed.

In my next post, I'll share how these different techniques affect your finished product. Stay tuned!

PS: Want to get content like this delivered to your inbox (along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers!)? Sign up here to get my weekly newsletter.

What does "hand-dyed" mean, anyway?

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? Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to demystify dyeing terms and help you pick the ideal skein or bump for your next project. Find the whole series here.*

Rambouillet Sport in Cardinal is an immersion-dyed yarn.

Rambouillet Sport in Cardinal is an immersion-dyed yarn.

First up: hand-dyed. "Hand-dyed" refers to a variety of techniques, from hand-painting to dip-dyeing. I use the term to refer to any yarn or fiber that's dyed by a small company or an individual dyer, rather than a big industrial dye house.

Bond Pencil Roving (with a little silk) in Ignite is hand-painted here at Sheepspot.

Bond Pencil Roving (with a little silk) in Ignite is hand-painted here at Sheepspot.

Hand-dyeing gives you access to a much wider range of color choices than would otherwise be available. It also often entails more painstaking or complex dyeing processes than are possible for larger companies. And, it bears the "mark of the maker" who dyed it; for most hand-dyers, big dye lots of identical skeins aren't our objective. To me, this makes hand-dyed yarns wonderfully interesting to work with, but it can present some challenges that I'll get into later in the series.

There are many methods of hand-dyeing yarn; in this series I'm going to talk about four of the most common: hand-paintingimmersion-dyeinglow-water immersion dyeing (sometimes referred to as kettle dyeing) and dip-dyeing. Here at Sheepspot I use almost all of them. I'll take an in-depth look at each one in the next post, and then go on to discuss how different dye techniques will affect your finished objects, as well as ways to have more control over your final results.

*And if you want to get content like this delivered to your inbox (along with sneak peeks at upcoming yarns and fibers!), sign up here to get my weekly newsletter.