How do I Choose the Best Hand Dyed Yarn?

Mary McMahon

Hand dyed yarn can be a fun material for knitters, crocheters, and other crafters to work with. However, there are some considerations to take into account when choosing hand dyed yarn, to ensure that the most appropriate yarn possible is chosen for a project. As with yarn which is not dyed by hand, hand dyed yarn can be incredibly variable in style and quality, and using the wrong yarn can interfere with the success of a project.

Yarn can be hand dyed many colors.
Yarn can be hand dyed many colors.

One thing which people may want to think about is the type of dyes used. People who would prefer more Earth-friendly products, for example, may want to seek out hand dyed yarn which has been processed with natural dyes and treated in a way which does not generate pollution. Crafters may also be interested in working specifically with yarns made from plant, vegetable, and fungal dyes. Natural dyes are variable in quality and colorfastness, which is an important issue to consider when evaluating yarns; it may be a good idea to ask for a sample and subject it to a dip in water to see if the dye bleeds, or to expose it to sun to see if it fades after extensive UV exposure.

Hand-dyed yarn may vary in quality.
Hand-dyed yarn may vary in quality.

Another issue to consider when choosing hand dyed yarn is whether or not people want the yarn to be handspun as well. Handspun yarn can vary in texture from slubby yarns to very fine, delicate yarns which can be used in lace knitting. Crafters who are interested in traditional and artisanal yarn processing techniques may want to consider handspun yarn, although it can be more costly than conventionally produced yarn.

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There are also a number of fiber choices for hand dyed yarn, including alpaca, sheep, and cashmere wools, along with linen and cotton yarns. Some synthetic fibers can also be successfully hand dyed and may be another hand dyed option. Fiber choice may be important depending on the project and personal preferences.

Yarn weight is critical whether one is choosing hand dyed yarn or not. Especially for someone working with a pattern, choosing yarn of the wrong weight can throw the pattern off. Another thing to consider when looking at hand dyed yarn options is dye lots; for a uniform look, it is a good idea to purchase yarn produced with the same dye lot, even if the yarn is multicolored. A blue and green hand-dipped yarn, for example, may look very different depending on the dye lots used, and the difference could be very noticeable in a finished project.

In addition to hand dyed yarn, people can also work with hand painted yarn, which is painted rather than dipped in dye. This yarn can have a different look and feel, and the look and feel can also change depending on whether the yarn is dyed before or after it is spun. When it is dyed before spinning, the color penetrates all the way to the core of the yarn and it is highly even and regular, while yarn dipped after spinning will have a pale core.

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