Have you had your eye on those pretty skeins of hand-dyed yarn at your local yarn shop or online but have been afraid to crochet with them for fear of messing them up? I’ve felt that way before too. I’m going to give you tips for crocheting with hand-dyed yarns.
365 Crochet Challenge: April – The Good Yarn
This is our 365 Crochet Challenge Focus Topic for the month of April. I know we are on week 2 of April but I was having too much fun with March’s topic to stop. This week you are going to learn how to wind your hand-dyed yarn into a center-pull ball (as well get some other tips). I will also be sharing a round-up of patterns specifically for hand-dyed yarn and, the thing I am most excited about, a tutorial on how to dye your own yarn with food coloring.
Let’s get started.
Where to buy hand-dyed yarn?
A great place to start is your local yarn store, and I’m not talking about big box stores! Many times your LYS will purchase yarn wholesale from yarn dyers to stock in their shop. To find a LYS in your area just do a quick google search for “yarn shop near me” and see what pops up!
Another place to buy them is direct from the dyer. My favorite place to find new dyers is on Instagram. Here are a few of the dyers I have on my shelves currently:
When you are purchasing yarn online it’s important to pay attention to fiber content, yarn weight, and the amount of yarn you are getting. Also, take note of the shipping schedule.
Sometimes dyers only take pre-orders or do special collection releases. Sewrella yarn, for example, does a themed collection that is available for pre-order for a period of time, after the pre-order period ends then the yarn is dyed, and after the yarn is dyed then it is all shipped. I do know she does keep some in-stock yarns but mostly she releases things in collections. On the other spectrum, Hue Loco keeps many yarns in stock and ready to ship.
Hand-dyed yarn comes to you in these twisted hanks (technical term) or you might see them just called skeins. If you untwist your hank you will see that it is one big circle (see below, under alternating skeins). They will usually either be a semi-solid color, variegated (similar to the rainbow ones further down in the post) or speckled. This is where they sprinkle dye powder over a semisolid or variegated color.
How much does hand-dyed yarn cost?
Typically, most hand-dyed yarns are in the $25-$30 range. That might seem a bit much if you are only used to buying $4 mass-produced yarns from the local big box store. There are a couple of reasons why these beautiful yarns cost so much.
The first reason is the fiber content. Most of the time these hand-dyed skeins are premium merino wool. The second is that each of these skeins is prepped, dyed, twisted, and labeled by hand. They truly are a work of art.
If this price tag is too much for you but you want to get used to working with yarn that comes wound up like this, I recommend checking out WeCrochet. They have a variety of really nice yarns at a lower price point that are sold in these twisted skeins.
How to wind your yarn into a ball.
You will NOT want to work with this yarn how it comes. Doing so will create a twisted mess (ask me how I know!). To work with this yarn it first needs to be untwisted and then wound into a ball.
In the winding by hand video, she says to use the backs of 2 chairs as a “yarn swift” but doesn’t really show what that looks like. I’ve demonstrated that in the picture below. I just used 2 of my dining room chairs.
If you are working on a bigger project that uses more than one skein of the same color, you will want to alternate which ball you are using every 1-2 rows or rounds.
This is because every single skein of yarn is unique, even within the same dye lot and the colors may pool and work up differently with each skein.
Let’s compare these 2 skeins of yarn. They are both the same colorway. The start of both skeins is at a different point in the color sequence. The left starts at the “end” of the purple section and the right starts at the “beginning” This will cause both skeins to pool differently.
The skein on the right has more blue speckling through the purple and blue sections. If you worked the entire 1st portion of your project in the first skein and then switched to the 2nd, this would be very noticeable. This example used a variegated skein but even semi-solids have variations like this too depending on how much dye the yarn took up.
To alternate skeins: Work round 1-2 using ball A, join in ball B for rounds 3-4, and switch back to ball A for rounds 5-6. Don’t cut your yarn each time you alternate, just carry it up the side for rows or the inside for rounds. Ashleigh from Sewrella wrote a great post on why and how to alternate skeins.
Bonus tip: you can also do this for “regular” yarns that don’t have matching dye lots!
Choosing Patterns for Hand Dyed Yarns
This is the easy part because almost every pattern can be made in hand-dyed yarn! You will just need to make sure that you use the same weight yarn as called for in the pattern and you are able to get the correct gauge.
Here are a few patterns that I’ve designed that specifically call for hand-dyed yarn.
Spring Fling Triangle Scarf – uses 1 skein of fingering weight yarn but can be adapted to use any weight.
Reverie Wrap – This is another fingering weight pattern. It is written in a recipe style and is also easily adaptable for other weights.
Stella Beanie – Also, a fingering weight yarn pattern. This is my favorite hat to wear.
Hibernaculum Shawl – This uses DK weight yarn. The dyer whose yarn I used for this project is no longer in business but any DK or even worsted weight yarn will work for this pattern.