Dealing With Dye Lots

Filed in Industry Insight, Skill Building by on October 5, 2015 2 Comments

Today I finished my 4th UFO for my Nifty Fifty initiative, which is to finish 50 dormant projects before my next birthday.

My birthday was about 5 weeks ago, so I’m a bit behind, but this took two weeks for me to finish, partly because of an unexpectedly large apple harvest at our house, and partly because I had to wait for some yarn to arrive in the mail. 

One of the problems I encountered in the finishing of this exquisite design from Alice Starmore was a known lack of yarn. I had lost a couple of balls of the stored yarn to some water damage and knew I would be short. Because this project is about 13 years old, I held out no hope of finding a match and knew I would have to find a workaround. I was delighted to find that this yarn has remained in production, so at least I was able to get the same color. That was one big hurdle overcome. As expected though, I was not able to match the dye lot.dyelots

Do remember though, it is always worthwhile to ask. Put out a query on Ravelry and miracles are known to occur. I’ve found odd balls of the exact dye lot I needed several times in this way. That is your first strategy. Unfortunately, it’s not always a succesful venture.

Fortunately, though, although dye lots are very important to the overall success of a project, occasionally mixing them is a reality we all might face, and it can be done if it’s approached carefully. Here are my tips, and a report of this finished project.

  • Estimate your yarn amounts. Weigh the project and a ball of the yarn to figure out how much ground you can cover with one ball. Observe where your ends are and measure a section created with one ball of yarn.  Then estimate how much you’ve got left.
  • Make a plan. Look for established sections and boundaries in the design and use different dye lots in symmetrical, intentional ways. For example, make the cuffs and collar from the different lot. Or the button bands. These sections will have architectural lines that will aid the eye in transitioning from one color to another.
  • Blend. If it’s not possible to use the different lot in discrete sections, it may be necessary to blend it with the original yarn. Do this by alternating rows of the original yarn with the different lot.  This will be visible, so it needs to be swatched and considered.
  • Change the design. Can you shorten the piece? Make it sleeveless? Remove features such as pockets or other details?
  • Add a different color. Sometimes, putting two slightly varying tones of the same color next to each other is the worst possible scenario, but you can add in a second, completely different color. This new color can act as buffer or accent. Can you work a border or the cuffs, collars and bands in a contrasting color? Or even a stripe of another color between the old and new dye lot? Or work a section of colorwork that combines the colors? If there are any unseen parts of the garment, such as pocket linings or waistband facings, those can always be worked in another color with no ill effects.
  • Mix in a stitch pattern. Changing the texture of the fabric surface will change the way light reflects off that surface, which will in turn change the perception of color. It can sometimes be just the thing.

For my project, I lacked one ball at the end. Less than one, to be precise. I only had to work the collar and front bands in the new dye lot, and as far as I’m concerned, the perceived difference is not distracting. It is visible to me depending on the light, but I am very pleased with the overall project and feel that the moss stitch and borders inherent in the design do a pretty good job blending the colors.

In different light, the dye lot difference is less visible.

In different light, the dye lot difference is less visible.

How do you handle differences in dye lots? Please share your tips, tricks and success stories!

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