alternating skeins

Hand dyed yarn is just that... dyed entirely by hand. Each skein is like a snowflake: no two are identical but they are beautiful, each in their own unique way. This is my personal favorite thing about hand dyed yarn, little works of art made by the passionate artists in our studio just for you!

the process

Due to each skein being dyed by hand, however, there is some variation skein to skein. Though we are careful to measure all dyes to the tenth of a gram and arrange the yarn in the pan as consistently as possible - some skeins absorb a little more of one dye or another. Some slight speckle differences occur and there are unavoidable variations (even among yarns dyed in the same batch on the same day!).

We don't categorize our yarn by "dye lot" as that would mean every single skein would be it's own dye lot! (I think large companies organize yarn this way because they're doing industrial batches with machines, not the vibe at our studio lol)

However the most drastic differences in color occur from one collection to another, for example during the original launch of a collection and during their reissue for our annual Greatest Hits Collections. These yarns are dyed months apart and although we follow the same exacting recipe, variations may occur.

the result

We are always refining our standards and practices to bring the most beautiful, consistent yarn to the market so sometimes a slightly different look is the result of these standard changes. Sometimes suppliers change a dye formulation slightly or discontinue a dye entirely and we adjust to duplicate the look.

So much science goes into yarn dyeing and so many variables can affect the finished product (even air temperature and humidity)! So in the event that you wind up with multiple skeins of the same colorway that look slightly different, here's how you can still use them in the same project and wind up with a gorgeous result!

see the difference?

the technique

The solution is simple and doesn't require much extra effort on the part of the maker. We're going to "alternate skeins."

All this means is we're going to switch back and forth between the two skeins that differ slightly in color as we knit or crochet. The technique is slightly different when working flat or in the round.

 Knitting or Crocheting in the round:

After each round, switch skeins carrying up the color changes on the inside of the work.

We are essentially striping with the two skeins to blend them together.

 Knitting or Crocheting flat:

Every other round, switch skeins carrying up the color changes on the side of the work.

This can be hidden at the end of a project in a border or other embellishment.

In this version you'll work two rows with the same skein in order to avoid weaving lots of ends later.

an example

Below I've crocheted two swatches in our 1989 colorway. The skein on the left was from our original collection launch in August 2021. The skein on the right is from our Greatest Hits Collection in January 2022.

(You'll notice the twist on these is very different. We've significantly loosened our twists for two reasons - a couple of our employees were struggling with wrist pain when skeining all of our yarn by hand in the tighter twist. Additionally, the looser twist allows the yarn to breath without stretching, affecting its memory).

After caking up these skeins, the differences in dye are more noticeable. The first skein's neutral tones are more greyish and the second skein's neutrals come through more warm brown. The lighter purple dye also seems brighter on the second skein. Remember that these are all the same dyes measured to the same amounts, crazy right!?

the old fashioned way

I crocheted a swatch working up to halfway in the first skein and the second half in the second skein. Can you see the separation?

Let's hold it here for a second: would anyone but a maker notice this? Maybe, maybe not. My husband had to look at this swatch for a longgggg minute before saying "it just looks off..." lol! So if it doesn't bother you, get on with your confident self! If it's driving you nuts, try out alternation.

let's spice it up a bit!

In this second swatch, I completed the above recommendation: change skeins every 2 rows. SO MUCH BETTER!! Although working in the round would blend out this look even more (by alternating every single row), I think this is much more preferable to the above look where we have a harsh line when we move from one skein to another.

Now imagine this in an entire project! With stitch variation and texture and shape. You'd never notice those yarns looked as different as they did in their cake form... and I bet most people wouldn't guess it's yarn from different skeins at all.

another example

Here I've worked up a knit swatch flat, alternating skeins every other round. Knit stitches are much smaller than crochet stitches, so although we're alternating with the same frequency as the crochet swatch above, it looks more blended due to the size of the stitch. The smaller the stitch in either craft, and the lighter weight the yarn, the more blended the final effect will be.

Another option is to work in the round in the recommended style, with the yarn carried up in the middle. Probably the most blended look and the easiest to achieve - you never have to remember when to switch, you just switch every time!

A note: when working in this method, keep your method consistent by working your round with the working yarn to the left of your project (or the right if you knit english style/throwing, left for continental). Keep the cake of yarn not currently in use to the opposite or non-dominant side of your work surface. When you come to the end of your round and you're ready to switch yarns, cross your working yarn cake OVER the other yarn cake to switch their places, pick up the new yarn and continue working. Follow this every round and your work will look consistent without a noticeable seam.

Work this method in top down sweaters, on sleeves, socks, hats, anything!

a few questions from y'all

what if I'm working on a larger project and need to alternate more than 2 skeins?

Good question! This is a little trickier since we don't want to alternate between more than two skeins at once (oh, the tangling) so stay with me.

Begin your project working 2 skeins in alternation. Work about halfway through the cakes. Pause and set one cake aside, cutting it to be joined again later.

Add in a new skein and continue working in alternation. When the first skein runs out you can reintroduce the half a skein you set aside or join another new skein (if working with >3 skeins).

Just make sure you're alternating skeins that look different to you. Don't do all this work just to group together 3 skeins from one dye lot and 3 skeins from another! Make sure both strands of working yarn at any given time are from each dye lot.

but what about color pooling?

I'm going to be real frank with y'all because you've read this far and you deserve the truth. Hand dyed yarn pools sometimes. I know it's hard to hear. Take a moment if you need to.

Pooling bothers some more than others. Alternating skeins can certainly help but depending on MANYYYY factors - dye style, weight of yarn, pattern and particular stitch count, working in the round or flat, knitting v crocheting, etc - pooling is the risk you run when you work with variegated.

Now that I've sufficiently scared you away from ever using variegated yarn, I WILL say that most projects I see that are made with variegated yarn utilizing alternation come out with minimal pooling. A small stitch cluster here or there is about the extent of it, rather than the large chunks of color lining up.

A note on pooling: some hand dyed yarns (certainly a lot of ours) are dyed in methods that have a noticeable color repeat. Pooling happens when the number of stitches in a project aligns with the length of the color repeat in the yarn. You won't really know if this is the case until you get to work on a project but I always recommend using these yarns for projects with shaping, detail stitches like bobbles or lace, or other details to break up the pooling.

my tension is wack.

Well, that's not a question but I'll help you anyway.

When you alternate skeins of yarn it's entirely possible that those stitches where yarn is being yanked back and forth can make for some wonky stitches. It's natural to want to pull on those strands when switching between skeins so that you don't have loose stitches.

I've found that if I hold the yarn firmly without yanking, I have the most even tension. An easy way to tell is to look at the stitch from the row below where you dropped the yarn you're now picking up to knit with. Does it look too tight, too loose, or just right? Adjust accordingly.

but won't I have to weave loads of ends?

Nah, boo. Carry that yarn up the side, up the inside, wherever you can. Hide it with a border or just like your floats fly free. Ain't no shame in that.

i've got a dye lot that matches and one odd ball out. Help?

Okay I know I just told you no extra ends will be woven but in this ONE situation, I would try to stretch this one skein out over the project. So say you have 6 skeins that match and one that is a bit off but you need all 7 for your sweater WIP. I would wind that one odd ball in to 4 or 5 little cakes. And alternate with it throughout the project. Another option would be to use it for all your trim/ribbing/or an accent section (like lace) where there is visual textural contrast anyway.

what if I'm holding two strands of something together, like mohair and sock?

You've got a lot of cakes to manage! You've got two options here:

1. You're already blending two yarns with two different looks (even the same colorway looks different on these bases!) so the likelihood that you'll notice a slight dye lot difference for either base is minuscule. So I would probably save myself the risk of tangling and soldier on.

2. Those who are far more detail oriented than me might prefer to alternate. I salute you. You can hold together two yarns and alternate with two more yarns while managing four cakes in the same general method as the above.

I've cast on my sweater. When do I start alternating?

I alternate from Row 1. No reason in delaying the inevitable, lol. I don't find it causes any issues with shaping or other details... but my fried mom brain is only capable of simple patterns lately.

how do I know if I should alternate?

Do the yarns look identical to you? Sweet! No need for any of the above. If the answer is yes, learn this simple technique and cast off gorgeous projects every. single. time.

Please email us if you have additional questions, we're always happy to help with your projects!
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