Since I’m going to share what I know about the various yarns, I’ll share a bit about dye lots. Yarns that are dyed by large manufacturing companies will often have dye lots shown on labels but yarns dyed by the large companies often vary very little in color from one dye batch to another. About the only big company whose yarn I’ve used a lot would be Cascade and I have never encountered a problem with their yarns varying in color.
Mostly I use yarns dyed by individual dyers or, as they’re known in the knitting industry, “indie dyers”. One of the larger of the indie dyers is Madelinetosh. They are one of my favorite yarn companies and I’m not bashing them . . I truly love them . . but they do have quite a bit of variations in their yarns.
This is why it’s so important to buy the correct amount of yarn and it’s also why I hate to break up a quantity of yarn. Say I have 6 skeins of a particular yarn and I find a pattern that requires 4 skeins. That is going to leave me with 2 skeins and if I decide I want to make something with those 2 remaining skeins and need more, there’s about a 99% chance the yarns are not going to match.
As I was looking for yarns last night, I needed 4 skeins and I kept coming up with yarns that have 3 skeins or 6 skeins. Three is not enough; 6 is going to lave me with 2 orphan skeins. Then I have to decide: (1) do I want to order one more skein of the color that I already have 3 skeins and then I would have 4 but I would take a chance on the yarns not matching, or (2) do I want to use 4 of the 6, leave 2 orphan skeins and at least use 4 from the stash instead of adding more yarn? I’m kinda thinking I might use the 3 skein color and make some stripes with an additional color but I haven’t decided yet.
When trying to use mixed dye lot yarns, sometimes the skeins can be alternated, meaning when you’re getting a few inches from where you would switch to the second skein, try something along these lines:
- With Skein #1 being the yarn you’re finishing and Skein #2 being the yarn you’re bringing in, you’ve been knitting with Skein #1, knit one row of Skein #2 and two or three rows of Skein #1, then a row of Skein #2 again.
- Knit a few rows of one row of each.
- Knit several rows of Skein #2, then one row of Skein #1. Do that several times, then switch to completely using Skein #2.
If there’s obvious striping, the colors are not going to blend and you’ll always wish you hadn’t tried mixing those two yarns.
Another thing I’ve done that will sometimes work when you’re only going to need a small amount of Skein #2 is knit the ribbing (top, sleeves and bottom) from Skein #2. It may always look a bit lighter or darker but it also will look planned.
When I finished Nicole’s Hitofude, there is a line where one skein is lighter and one is darker but it only shows in the photo. In real life, I couldn’t see it at all.
If you look at the upside down “V”, at the top of the third from the bottom “V”, you can see the slight variation in color. I didn’t notice it while knitting and was surprised to see it when I looked at the photos but then when I looked at the sweater, I couldn’t see it again. We aren’t always so lucky.
Here are some examples of dye lot differences.
This is Hedgehog Fibers’ Silk Kid Silk. The color is Ghost. The bottom skein is much darker, more pinky/lavender, where the upper skein is more mauve. Even alternating skeins would not hide this difference.
These two are both Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. The bottom skein is a lighter pink where the upper skein is leaning towards a plummy pink. I think these two would be fine with alternating skeins.
This one is Madelinetosh Twist Light and the color is Hosta Blue. The one on the right has way more gray. These two would not blend even with alternating skeins.
So, my advice is . . try to get what you need when ordering. Most yarn shops will contact you if you need 4 skeins and they aren’t well matched. I’ve had shops write and say “they’re different dye lots but they are well matched” and I feel like I can blend those. I’ve also had shops write and say “they’re different dye lots and it’s very obvious” and I usually choose a different color and don’t try to match those.