I didn’t know know there were different types of colourways when I first started knitting.
Of course, I knew skeins or balls of yarn were different colors, but when I was learning to knit many years ago, yarn came from a hobby or five and dime store, usually Red Heart acrylic, and I was pretty happy with whatever was available.
I worked in a yarn and needlework shop for a very brief stint close to 30 years ago and I was blown away by the amazing hand painted Italian yarns.
Then I lived a block away from the most amazing little yarn shop, 20 ish years ago, which started my love affair with hand painted and dyed yarns.
I’d treat myself each Christmas to luscious mohair blend skeins to knit and crochet scarves as gifts. I loved watching how the colors interacted as the scarf progressed.
But would get frustrated when the colors striped or pooled – I wanted truly variegated color, but didn’t know how to attain it.
After I started selling hand knit scarves and cowls, I learned a lot about variegated yarn, including how to avoid buying the pooling/variegated kind.
Come to find out, yarn with longer color repeats will stripe and pool. Many yarns are dyed intentionally to do so, including repeats designed to work perfectly with socks.
Yarn with shorter repeats will stripe and pool less – or not at all. Dyers will often work with the skein longer, adding bits of color in random sections to achieve non-striping/pooling color.
I now dye yarn myself, of course, and strive to achieve non-striping and pooling color.
My variegated yarns do have short color repeats, and I often add bits and flecks of color to break up stretches of color or white space.
When you look at a skein of multi-coloured yarn (which is “variegated”), you can often tell that it will stripe and pool due to how it’s skeined and twisted. Many dyers don’t reskein their yarn (that’s a lot of work to do so), allowing you to see the color repeats as dyed. If you have a skein with two or three or however many evenly blocked colors … that yarn is going to stripe or pool as you knit or crochet it.
If the yarn isn’t reskeined and you see lots of bits of color, interspersed throughout, that yarn is less likely to stripe and pool (p.s., you can learn more about this at Space Cadet yarns).
But what do you do if the yarn has been reskeined?
Look for the length of the color repeats. If you’re able, untwist the skein or hank so that you can see the sections of color laid out in front of you. A fairly long (more than several inches) of color probably means striping and pooling.
Conversely, pretty short stretches (less than three inches, probably closer to one to two inches) are much less likely to create striping and pooling.
I prefer non-striping/pooling colourways and that’s what I try to dye at Phydeaux, but many many knitters and crochets much prefer the longer color repeats that create stripes and pools of color. No judgment – the world would be a boring place if we all like the same thing, wouldn’t it?
Which do you prefer? Striping or non-striping. Share in the comments below!
Next time: semisolid vs. tonal vs. variegated hand dyed yarns.