5 Tips for Using Hand-Dyed Yarn

Using hand-dyed yarn is a wonderful way to add a unique beauty to any project. Whether you choose to go with tonal yarn, speckled, or variegated, you’re sure to achieve a look that is colorful and artisanal. It’s no wonder so many people choose to go the hand-dyed route!

variegated – yarn has vibrant and contrasting colors for a more patterned look

speckled – yarn has a “splatter” effect with random splashes of color throughout

tonal – yarn has multiple shades of the same color blended throughout

For newcomers, however, these colorful hanks can seem quite intimidating! Have no fear—knitting or crocheting with hand-dyed yarn is not much different from other yarn types. Today, we’ll give you our 5 best tips for using hand-dyed yarn with success.

What is Hand-Dyed yarn?

Many commercial yarns are machine-dyed, meaning the yarn is dyed in large vats—called dye baths—for uniform color and consistency.

Hand-dyed yarn is accomplished on a much smaller scale. They are dyed by people, not machines! Each skein of yarn is handled individually, making each one entirely unique, even if they come from the same batch. Every artisan has a different technique and dyeing style—individual colors might be applied by brush or sprinkled directly onto the yarn. The dyeing process is an art in itself, requiring time and skill to master, and all of the dyers I know absolutely love what they do.

When you buy hand-dyed yarn, you are purchasing quality yarn from an artisan who has poured their time and love into that fiber. Because the yarn is dyed in small batches, the colorways are often one of a kind, making your knit or crochet project that much more special.

Tip #1: Buy Enough Yarn for Your Project

Because each small batch of hand-dyed yarn is unique, it is important to purchase all of the skeins you’ll need at once. You would hate to run out before your project is finished only to find that the colorway you want is from a different batch or unavailable.

Tip #2: Prewash

It is not uncommon for a small amount of excess dye to bleed out when you first wash a project, so it’s always a good idea to prewash your yarn before using it. If you are working on a project that mixes light and dark yarn, or otherwise high-contrast yarns, it is best to wash them separately so as not to dull the colors.

Here is a simple step-by-step tutorial for washing yarn.

Tip #3: Wind Yarn into a Ball/Cake

Most (if not all) hand-dyed yarn you purchase will come to you in a “hank.” This is basically a continuous loop of yarn, and is typically twisted to form a nice bundle. Untwist that hank and you’ll find yourself faced with a big ring of yarn that will need to be wound in a ball to be used. Some stores will wind the yarn for you (they will indicate if that is an option, and it sometimes costs extra), or you can wind it yourself.

Here is a simple step-by-step tutorial (with pictures), no tools needed!

Tip #4: Alternate Skeins

Even if you purchase your hand-dyed yarn from the same batch, the colors can still vary slightly, so we recommend always alternating skeins if you’re using multiple skeins of the same color in your project.

Alternating skeins means knitting/crocheting from two skeins of yarn at the same time. There are a few different methods for doing this, but we think the simplest is to switch between skeins every couple of rows.

Doing this can prevent noticeable color blocks (if two skeins are ever-so-slightly different in shade) and help manage color pooling with variegated yarns, so that your finished project is one you’ll love.

Tip #5: Enjoy the Process

One of the most common things we hear is that hand-dyed yarn “too good for a beginner like me.” That couldn’t be further from the truth! We believe that there is no such thing as “wasting yarn” on a project.

“Your creation has intrinsic value because YOU made it.”

Whether you create big blankets, cozy sweaters and scarves, amigurumi, or delicate shawls, your creation has intrinsic value because YOU made it. The stunning colors, quality fiber, and higher price of hand-dyed yarn can feel intimidating, but once you try it, you’ll see that it isn’t so scary after all.

We encourage you to never let perfectionism or self-doubt dissuade you from trying something new. You may be surprised at your incredible results!

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