Why Dye Lots Are Important For Crafting

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Why Dye Lots Are Important For Crafting

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.


What is a dye lot?

Almost all yarn has a dye lot. Yarn is dyed in batches. When a batch is dyed, the dye lot number is assigned; you’ll find this number on the label. When the next batch is dyed, a new dye lot number is assigned. Even though the same dyes are used, there may be noticeable color variations.

Why it’s important for crafting

It’s important that you always purchase enough of the same dye lot in order to complete your project. Before you leave the store, check and make sure the lots are the same. Just because the yarn is on the same shelf, doesn’t mean all the skeins are from the same dye lot.

If you’re not sure you’ll have enough, buy one extra. Check the return policy of the store you’re purchasing from. Many allow returns of unused yarn within a certain time frame. If you don’t finish within that time and have one skein left over, just add it to your stash. You will find a good use for it eventually (or so they say!).

My yarn doesn’t have a dye lot

Occasionally, you’ll find a yarn that does not have a dye lot; this will be indicated on the label. A no dye lot yarn does not necessarily mean that all skeins will be exactly the same color. The yarn is dyed in much bigger batches but eventually it’s sold out and more must be produced and this will be a different dye lot. So proceed with caution.

What if I run out of yarn and can’t find the same lot number?

If you do run short, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find more of the same dye lot. The longer the amount of time that goes by, the more difficult may will be. If you need more yarn for the trim of a project, such as an edging of a throw, consider a contrasting color.

If there’s no way around it and you can find more of the same color but not the identical dye lot, take the original yarn with you (even if it’s already worked up in a project) to the store. You may be lucky enough to find several different dye lots to choose from. If so, you’ll notice that some may be closer to the original than others. Look carefully at the original and the lot you’re considering in natural light if possible (fluorescent lights can fool the eye).

Editor’s Tip: Lucky for us, the internet age has made it easier to track down yarn in specific dye lots. With a little determination and patience, you may be able to contact other knitters & crocheters on websites like Ravelry.com or Crochetville.org to see if they have the same yarn in a specific dye lot.

Ready? Set? Craft!

When you’ve made your choice and are ready to return to knitting or crocheting your project, work alternating rows with the old and new dye lot (unravel the project to retrieve some of the old yarn if necessary). This will lessen the noticeability of the contrast of the two dye lots.


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  • Dye lots are crucial! When I was a teenager, I knit a long sleeved pullover from a yellow yarn that I adored. I was beginning the front section when I ran out of yarn. So, I went back to the store and purchased more. But when I knit it up, it didn’t match the front. That’s when I realized that the dye lots were different. I never could find a matching dye lot. So disappointing!

  • I can rarely find more than a few skeins in the same dye lot at stores. If you live in a city with more than one store of the same chain, they may have the same dye lots. Otherwise, you might as well buy it on the internet.

  • forget being able to get say 10 skeins of a yarn in the same dye lot at a chain craft store, you’ll be lucky if you find 10 skeins in the same color. It’s very frustrating when it’s a spur of the moment decision to make something and you can’t get enough yarn to do it.

  • If I can’t find enough of the same dye lot at my chain store, I will order the amount I need, it will come in all the same dye lot and usually within a week. I have run out of yarn in the middle of a project, instead of changing dye lots in the middle, I used the new dye lot for a sleeve and it wasn’t noticed.

  • I know that different dyelots look different, and do try to plan for it if I don’t have enough of the same dyelot for the whole garment, whether it is using the lot I have less of for the back or the sleeves, or whether I use one lot at the bottom and the other at the top, rather than just randomly using one until I run out, but I am not trying to pretend that I am making a mass produced garment. I do not even have to use the same color yarn for the whole sweater, so why should I have to use the same dyelot? Of course for some special items or if you are making items for picky people that you want to please, take the extra care to make the dyelots match, but if I am knitting just for fun (wearable fun, but fun all the same) why sweat the small stuff? My stitches are well made, the garments are cozy, the yarn is beautiful.

    Similarly, I (horror of horrors) will sometimes switch the type or brand of needle part way through. I may start out on birch straight needles and switch to a circular needle with acrylic tips if I think the project would be easier to knit on a different needle than I started with. Usually I can tell what needle will work best, or at least well, before I have half a row, let alone a whole swatch done, but sometimes, if a yarn is slipperier or stickier when I am knitting full bore than when I started out, I will change, and I am not going to rip out perfectly good knitting just to make it all the same.

    I will rip out a large amount of knitting if I do not like the way it turned out. For example if the stitch definition does not show the pattern well, I will use this yarn for a different project and find something more suitable for this project. Or if the fabric is too stiff, I will use a larger needle to reknit, changing the number of stitches to offset the change in gage. But shifting tones of a color, that is just a design feature, one of the joys of hand knits for me.

  • By the way, I understand and respect your choice to keep dyelots the same when you can, and if I am planning a particular project before I buy the yarn I will usually make sure I can get enough of one dyelot to start. 90 % or more of the time I do not mix dyelots. But on the occasions when I do, I don’t worry about it, I just try to think about the most appropriate way to minimize or balance the effect. I have even considered seaming with a contrasting color, perhaps with the same color collar, cuffs, and ribbing at the start, which would make the differences in dyelots harder to detect between sleeves and body for example and would be a possible choice for a sweater in school colors, for example. But in that case, you are probably going to make more than one item in that color, and it is then usually easy to buy enough in the second dyelot for the big item, and use the first dyelot for gloves, hat, scarf.

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