Hand-dyed yarn gives you a chance to support small fiber artists and craftspeople, while also finding unique styles and colors of yarn for your own projects. There are a few things to know that will ensure you have success with these unique yarns.
1. Ask for a Swatch
Yarn color variations can be difficult to grasp when the swatch is neatly wound into a skein. Although hand-dyed skeins are often twisted in a manner designed to showcase the variations, it won't provide a full picture. Ask if the shop has a test swatch knitted or crocheted so you can see the color variations in action. If a swatch isn't available, the shop may be willing to unwind the skein in order to show you the variation pattern.
2. Check the Color Run
Color run is the term used to describe the length of each color along the yarn fibers. There are short runs, which means the color will change every few stitches as you knit and provide a mottled color finish. There are also long runs, which are colors that run for great enough lengths so that you get stripes or blocks of a single color before the color changes. Choose that which will work best for your project.
3. Choose Like Dye Lots
Every skein of yarn will have a dye lot number stamped on the label. The shade and intensity of the dye may change slightly each time the artisan mixes up a new batch. If you are making a project that uses more than one skein of yarn, it's a good idea to only choose yarns from the same dye lot. Buying all the yarn you need at one is a must. This way, you can be sure that the colors will match, even as you add new skeins to the project.
4. Read the Washing Instructions
In most cases, you will find that hand-dyed yarn is pre-washed in an effort to ensure that the dye will not run and ruin your finished project. This, along with future washing instructions, should be listed on the label. If not, you can set the dye yourself. Fill a bowl with cold water and about a cup of white vinegar. Soak your yarn in this for a half-hour or so, then allow it to air dry before you use it.
Contact a yarn dealer to learn more about the hand-dyed yarn options that are available.