Can you feel it in the air? In North America the temperatures are starting to turn cooler, and we know what that means, startitis! I want to buy yarn and start just about every knitting pattern I see. How many new patterns do you have in your queue? I’ve saved 20 in the past six weeks. Not sorry at all.
Are you ready to shop for new fall yarn? I’m here to help. More specifically I’m here to help you figure out just what is going on with those dyed skeins of yarn.
When I walk into a shop and see this:
This is March Hare Superwash merino worsted by frabjous fibers. colors from left to right: Into the Dusk, Kerfuffle, Small Victories on a Monday, Happy Summer Days, Charismatic Character
—I want to know what does the yarn really look like? What does it look like knitted?
As you may suspect, each one has a different dye style. Here’s what I call them, again left to right: semi solid, speckled, intermittent, variegated with clear color breaks, variegated with blurred color breaks.
The dye styles make more sense if you see the skeins open.
Please don’t open skeins without permission in a yarn shop. If you ask nicely anyone who is working will likely do it for you, and they know how to do the magic twist to get it back to looking perfect again. They may even help you figure out the dye style and match yarn to the pattern you’re in love with.
Let’s explore the different dye styles. Are you comfy? Do you need a snack? Have you been to Trader Joe’s lately? There is a wall of pumpkin and fall treats—maple butter, anyone?
I talked about semi-solid dyeing when I wrote about Neighborhood Fiber Company’s Organic Studio yarns. A lot of semi-solid yarns look solid until you knit with them, then you can really see how the color shifts.
Solidly-dyed yarns can sometimes look flat, and semi solids have a little movement and life to them. These are yarns that it’s a good idea to alternate skeins when knitting a bigger project. I’ve noticed that there can be enough differences in a dye lot of semi solid yarn, that it may stripe a bit instead of flow.
The first speckled yarn I knit with was Hedgehog Fibers sock yarn. It was so fun, and a nice change after years of self-striping sock yarns. Now most dyers do some sort of a speckled yarn.
In the skein it can look messy. The dye pattern is random, but once you knit it, those fantastic tiny dots bring your knitting to life. I love the randomness of knitted speckles.
I don’t alternate skeins with speckled yarn. The dots do gather sometimes, but to me it never looks like pooling. Choose carefully when knitting speckled yarn in stitch patterns, I think texture stitches stand up better to the randomness of the dots, and can even emphasize them.
Intermittent dyeing seems to be the new kid on the block in dyeing (nope won’t go there—Backstreet Boys, all the way!). In the skein just one section is dyed. When I first got a skein, I thought it was the oddest thing, until I knit it.
It knits into short lines of color, that randomly shoot across your knitting. I don’t alternate skeins with this style of dying. I’ve even seen some dyers that combine intermittent and speckle into a cool knitted morse code. Both texture and lace stitches work with an intermittent dye style. I particularly like small lace stitches that dart between the dashed dye lines.
Variegated with clear color breaks
It seems that a lot of dyers are moving away from self-striping yarns (except for sock yarns), and leaning into using several colors in shorter pattern lengths. There are a couple of ways that dyers approach this style, clear transitions between colors or blurred transitions between colors.
Yarns that have clearer color breaks frequently have more undyed spots of white in them. The colors, while they do sometimes run together to make a new color, have a crispness.
You can really see it when it’s knitted, each color stands out and there is quite a bit of white in the swatch, more than it seems in the skein. This yarn will pool; if that’s not a look you like, alternate skeins.
Variegated with blurred color breaks
I really like working with these two yarns side by side, just to see how different they are. In this yarn there is almost no white. The dye colors are blended into each other, giving a blurred look to the yarn.
When it’s knit the colors look smudged, and while there is pooling it looks intentional. Because the color is so blended in these yarns there will be some pooling even when alternating skeins.
I knit both variegated yarns in the round, just to see how that affects the color.
The clear color breaks lined right up into diagonal pooling, I think it looks pretty cool, I actually like it better than the flat knit swatch. If I wanted a sweater to come out with this diagonal pooling I’d have to settle in for some swatching to get the stitch count just right.
The blurred color doesn’t change that much when knit in the round. The colors still flow horizontally, the colors spread out more, and there is less pooling.
I wouldn’t use heavily patterned or lace stitches with either of these dye styles, the stitch patterns and dye styles would fight each other, and it’s like you’d see more color than stitch pattern.
I have snacks, there is a new season of Vera on Britbox, and I’m off to my local LYS with a folder full of patterns to match with yarn, coming?