I am currently working on a patterned cowl. I am using two colors of the same brand and weight, yet there seems to be a bit of difference in the thickness of and texture of the yarn. There is not enough difference between them to affect the overall appearance; however, I can feel it as I knit. When I compare the two, I can see that the red yarn is a bit thinner and fuzzier than the cream. I am pretty sure that this has to do with the dying process. A few years ago, a friend and I knitted the same sweater pattern and ended up with marked differences in the final projects. We used the same yarn, same pattern, checked and compared gauge. The only difference was the color and texture of the yarn. It was weird.
Many of us have learned the hard way that purchasing enough yarn from the same dye lot is essential. A dye lot is a record of the dyeing process that identifies all the yarn dyed in a vat. The yarn from the same vat has labels with the same number. This is important for the knitter and crocheter to know; even slight differences in color are noticeable on a larger project such as a sweater. Sometimes, it is noticeable when many skeins of yarn are stacked on the same shelf; other times, it is not. However, when worked into a garment or blanket, the differences are visible.
I am working on a cowl with a two-color Fair Isle design. The yarn is a DK weight 100% wool; however, the yarn thickness looks different. Same brand, same weight, but they look and feel different (see photo on the right). This motivated me to do a little research, and I found out that it wasn’t my imagination.
What would cause such a difference? There are several factors during the dyeing process that affect the color and texture of the yarn.
- Temperature of the water
- The amount of time the fiber is exposed to the dye
- The interaction of the dye and fiber
- The ambient temperature when the fiber is dyed
- And, of course, the composition and plies of the yarn
- And, if hand-dyed, who is dying the yarn. https://zenyarngarden.com/blogs/zen-news/dyeing-on-different-bases
Of all these factors, the type of fiber and how it was spun seem to have the biggest factor on how dyes are taken up.
So why is this important? The first take away is to look closely at different colors in the yarns that you want to use in the same project. Are they close enough in texture and thickness to work? As usual, you need to knit a swatch to make sure that you like them together. Next, if you are using hand-dyed yarn in a project, you may need to alternate rows of two of your skeins to evenly distribute the color. Below is a video by Very Pink Knits, showing how to do this.
When purchasing multiple skeins of hand-dyed yarn, make sure that they are a similar as possible. There can be wide variations, especially with skeins that have multiple colors or colors in blocks. Taking into consideration these factors when making your purchase will save some headaches and disappointments later.