Skip to content

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?


Here’s how to save this article in your MDK account with one click.

About The Author

Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Keep up with her exploits at


  • Thank you. I have learned to steer away from any hand dyed yarns other than semi-solids after buying skeins that I loved of the others to find that I didn’t like how they knitted up. This should help me make some better decisions although part of the magic of hand dyed yarn is that each skein is special in its own way. I am ok with the fact that I can admire a yarn but know I don’t need to bring it home with me.

  • I love these FF yarns! I’ve tried many different weights in a hat, shawls, cowl, doubled up, etc. The patterns that emerge are interesting and surprising color combos. And the yarn is so soft and wonderful to work with. I can’t wait to get my next mini skein pack for socks!

  • Thanks for the analysis-not forthcoming from any other sites I follow. Would appreciate more info on weights, fibers, dyes. Your take on what you need for specific types of projects, what can work as substitutes. Revelry throws it all on the wall but without the subtle clues about how it knits, hangs, drape.

  • Very helpful. Thanks!

  • Great info. Would be nice if LYS And online merchants had signs indicating which dying process was used for the yarns.

  • Great information! I watched the first 2 episodes of Vera (Season 11) last night. I do love her!

  • I always see recommendations to alternate skeins to prevent pooling, but never for the reason I actually alternate skeins: because there are often subtle differences in skeins that are much more noticeable if you don’t alternate. One skein might be slightly more vibrant, have a little more of one color, etc.—this happens even with speckled colorways. I love hand-dyed yarn and use all these different types, but I’ve come to realize I’ll almost always be happier with the result if I alternate. Maybe other people don’t see the subtle differences, but I do! Occasionally, the differences are not to subtle, too.

  • I always assumed any textured stitches would “get lost” in speckled or intermittent dyed yarns. I’d like to see a swatch with those 2 types of dyed yarn

    • I’m doing a year long KAL with these yarns, and every month is a new stitch pattern! So I could take some photos if you want.

  • Hubby and I are watching Vera. Love all the British crime dramas. Thanks,as always, for your informative blog. I have always loved variegated yarns, the wilder and brighter, the better. I even dye my own yarn to get just the color I want.

    • Thank you for this very helpful article. I’ve shied away from some hand-dyed yarns just because I haven’t been able to picture how they would look knitted up. Definitely hanging on to this guide!

  • What a great article! Who knew? Thanks so much Jill!

  • I know this is knitting… but here’s a granny square question. Love making them…. Hate changing colors. I’m not concerned that the color changes in the middle of a row…or that I have 2 rows of the same color.
    I’m looking for a type of pattern that would have distinct color changes that takes place the equivalent of every 1-3 rows, with very obvious color changes.
    Do you know what category this would be?
    It seems like Varigated with clear color breaks…. But with less frequent changes….
    This is super helpful BTW!!

    • Maybe you mean self-striping sock yarn? That will give you a few rows of each color, IF you’re knitting socks. But if you’re looking for stripes like that in a sweater, you’d be better off manually switching colors every few rows. It’s not hard to do.

  • SO HELPFUL. Thanks a million!

  • Thank you so much for this awesome article! It was just enough info for a non-dyer knitter or crocheted to choose patterns. I often love watching the dye process via YouTube channels and I so appreciate all the work that goes into hand dying yarn but at the end of the day I want to know how do I make the best use of this beautiful hand dyed yarn?

  • I really appreciate this post, thank you Jillian! Its so helpful to see a swatch of these yarns knitted up, I wish more yarn sellers did this in their shops and online.

  • Just the sort of refreshing and thoughtful post I come here for every morning. My knitting companion, my mom, has gone on now, and it is great to have a place go where people are thoughtful about knitting.and wonderful to find such a clear explanation! I am not a pooling fan, but love variation. Now I will choose more wisely, maybe!

  • This is very helpful especially seeing your swatches. Thank you for this info.

  • Such an enjoyable article. Thanks, Jillian. I do love the variety of yarn-talking writers on this site who are always a part of my morning ritual. Having knit with passion for just about a year, I do recognize a seasonal urgency to have things in the works. Looking forward to marling soon.

  • Oh, I love this! So helpful! I often shy away from skeins for fear I won’t like the way they knit up. This sure helps to take some of the fear out of it.

  • Just have to add my new current favorite way to use intermittent skeins. It’s called Applied Pooling and there’s a great pattern on ravelry called Float by Dawn Baker. I’ve knit a bunch of variations and worked with Theodora’s Pearls, an indie dyer in CO to dye yarn just for this technique. Whenever you reach that pop of color you knit a cluster type stitch. I love the randomness – it’s really fun!

    • Dawn Barker, perhaps?

  • Wonderland yarns are some of my FAVORITES! I love working with them!

  • At last! A clear description of various dying methods. I love many hand dyed yarns in the skein, but don’t like them knit up. Thanks!

  • Thanks for highlighting Wonderland yarns. I’ve knit with their gradient yarns and they are fabulous.

  • Thank you for showing that. I’ve so often not bought a varigated yarn (yeah, I know, unbelievable) because I wasn’t sure I’d like the finished article.
    I wish my lys would knit a little swatch of each yarn.

  • That was so helpful!! Thanks for doing all of the swatching!

  • File this one under “things I’ve always wanted to know but didn’t really know how to articulate.” Home run, Jillian!

  • THIS was the best article I have read in ages. It really answered some questions I just didn’t know how to ask. Thank you.

  • What so you mean by “alternate skeins”?

    • Knit two rows flat (or one round) with one skein then switch to a second skein, and alternate those two skeins every two rows or one round. This blends any shade differences so the piece doesn’t look striped.

  • This was so interesting! Thanks very much- I’d love to see more like this.

  • So a few months ago I went into my LYS to buy buttons for my Daytripper Cardigan. Thankfully I know myself well enough that I tucked my birthday gift certificate into my bag before I left. My LYS (The Warm Ewe in Chatham, NY) had just started carrying Wonderland Yarns, and I fell in love with the sample swatch of Mad Hatter in the Rainy Day Rainbow colorway. It’s an intermittent, which I’d never seen before. A beautiful dove gray with a rainbow at the end. I walked out with all four skeins they had in stock, and just cast on for a sweater last week. The pattern is a top-down raglan, mostly stockinette with a simple lace pattern down the sleeves and the sides. I’m only about six inches in, but I can already tell that it will be an absolutely stunning sweater and I managed to match yarn and pattern perfectly.

    This is so helpful – I’m sometimes disappointed by how a hand-dyed yarn works up even when they are beautiful in the skein. Thank you!

    • Thanks so much for this! It is a big helping hand up toward next-level thinking about how yarn color/dye pattern and stitch pattern interact. I wish my LYS would display knit-up swatches of various hand dyed yarns. That would be yet another reason to shop in person.

  • well, our bathroom sink is always made from stainless steel because they are long lasting::

  • We’re a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your website offered us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done a formidable job and our whole community will be thankful to you.

  • I adore examining and I believe this website got some really useful stuff on it! .

  • Wow i like yur site. It really helped me with the information i wus looking for. Appcriciate it, will bookmark.

  • This is certainly a great write-up. Thank you for bothering to explain all this out for all of us. It’s a great help!

  • A good clear cut answer and a great concept. But how do I post any work on this website is another question. The Foureyed Poet.

  • Simply wanna input on few general things, The website layout is perfect, the articles is really good : D.

  • if I were a frog, would this post make me jump? I think … maybe

  • I keep on hearing the news broadcast discuss getting free online grant programs so I’ve been searching around for that top website to get one. Would you advise me personally please, where might i find a few?

  • Your understanding really fills a need. I’ve been trying to track down this sort of article and you seriously came through. Can you believe that what you wrote pretty much exactly replicates my very own experience.

  • By the time the film tumbles along to its clumsy ending, fuelled by a particularly wince-worthy patch of deus-ex-machina and boorish repetition, any grins which might have crossed the audiences faces at first are more than liable to be replaced by frowns of irritation or indifference.

  • there are many bargain priced home-for-sale in our city, i was considering buying one.

  • It’s rare to find well-informed people on this kind of issue, however you sound like you know very well what you’re speaking about! Kudos

  • Hey! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog. Is it difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Cheers

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping