Using Hand Dyed Yarn For The First Time

Indie dyed yarns can be exciting to work with, the broad range of colorways and uniqueness of the yarn attract many knitters. Yarn is dyed in small batches meaning that colorways are often one of kind or hard to replicate to produce the exact same yarn like with big mass-produced companies. This adds to the popularity of the yarn as it makes items your knit extra special. Some people are a bit anxious to start knitting with indie-dyed yarns, it's generally more expensive than regular craft yarn such as acrylic which may make you worry about choosing the wrong project or ruining your gorgeous yarn.

So, let's discuss the basics and get you started on your indie yarn journey. Different colorways and dye styles There are four main dye styles when selecting indie-dyed yarn.

• semi-solid yarn – These yarns are one color but may have tonal variation and intensity throughout the yarn. Some yarns are dyed to be as solid as possible while others purposely have a range of tones from the chosen color family to create a unique colorway.

• Speckled yarn – These are created by adding dry dye powder to the yarn to create a random speckled effect. This dye style can be overlayed on previously dyed yarn to give it extra depth or over an undyed skein.

• Mottled yarn- To create this effect liquid dye solution is applied randomly to the yarn using drippers, spray bottles, or pouring. They can be very hard to replicate.

• Variegated yarn –These yarns have regular repeats of color or gradients throughout. They are created by dipping the skein in several colored dye baths or by pouring dye onto the yarn. When knitting this type of colorway, it may show tonal variations or flashes of colors to create a pattern. This colorway is prone to pooling.

Preparing your skein for knitting If you are new to indie-dyed yarn you might not have seen yarn in a skein before. Skeins are used to help dye reach all the yarn during the hand-dying process and are sold this way so that people can see the dye style and how it will look once knitted into an item. It is really important to wind your skein into a ball before you start knitting or you will end up in a tangled mess. There are two ways to wind your yarn into a ball, hand winding or using a ball winder and swift.

• Hand-winding can be a slow process if you have a lot of yarn to wind but essentially you are using your fingers to start your ball of yarn and then wrapping the yarn round on itself to create a bigger and bigger ball.

• A ball winder and swift is a lot quicker. A ball winder clamps onto the table and has a handle you rotate to wind the yarn into a ball. A swift is a device that holds your skein of yarn, it rotates to help transfer the yarn from the swift to the ball winder.

Most common worries when starting to work with indie dyed yarn is the yarn bleeding. You don’t want to spend hours knitting a new shawl or jumper only to find the color bleeds once you wash it. When using yarn from a new indie dyer it is advised to check for color bleeding, knit a swatch for your project, and wash it to check for color bleeding If a small amount of color can be seen in the water this is just excess dye rinsing out, if lots of color leaks from the yarn you may consider contacting the dyer as it could be due to crocking, which is an issue with the dye recipe. Thankfully in my experience crocking is rare and is not something to generally worry about. Some colors such as magenta and turquoise are quite intense and may take extra washes to get rid of excess dye. Once you are familiar with an indie dyer you should be able to trust their yarn won't bleed and won't feel the need to pre-wash or test colorfastness before knitting.

Will I run out of yarn? If you are unsure of how much yarn you will need for a project or are worried about running out, it may be best to buy an extra skein of yarn if you can afford to. Although this is an extra expense, you will be upset if you are nearly finished with a project but can’t complete the last 6 inches due to running out of yarn. It will also be impossible to buy the same indie-dyed yarn at a later date due to the dying process and uniqueness of the yarn.

How to find the right pattern The internet has made finding the right pattern tremendously easy. Using websites like Ravelry mean that you can browse thousands of patterns quickly. It also means that you can see what the finished item looks like, usually in a range of colorways and dye styles. This is important as some dye styles work better with different patterns. You wouldn’t want to use variegated or mottled yarn to knit lace as the busy yarn would take away from the delicate pattern of the lace. The more you use indie-dyed yarns the more experience you will have matching the patterns to the yarn and vice versa.

How to deal with pooling. Pooling is when blocks of color start to form when knitting an indie-dyed yarn instead of developing a random pattern. Most people don’t want this to happen as it can look a bit odd to have irregular blocks of color in your knitting. Sometimes it can work to your advantage and create swirling patterns when knitting in the round. Pooling can be stopped by alternating skeins whilst knitting.

What is alternating skeins? To avoid pooling and other obvious unwanted color changes you can alternate skeins whilst knitting. This means having two balls of the same yarn and switching between them during knitting to spread out the patterns within the yarn. If you are worried about pooling on a sweater with variegated yarn you can alternate the yarn throughout the whole sweater. If you are using a solid color, you may just want to alternate the yarn a couple of inches for the end of the first ball to blend in the new ball in case of color differences.

How to alternate skeins Whether you are knitting a flat piece or in the round, the technique is the same. You will need two balls of the same yarn. Knit two rows with your first ball of yarn, drop this yarn and pick up the yarn from the second ball, knit two rows, then repeat. Cross over the yarns when switching balls to secure it in place but make sure not to pull too tightly on the yarn as this will affect the finished piece.

Indie dyed yarn is a pleasure to knit with and we hope we’ve addressed some worries you may have had about starting to knit with indie dyed yarn and given you the confidence to get started in the wonderful world of luxury knitting yarns.

The next problem you will have is where to store all the stunning yarn you've purchased for projects.