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Variegated yarn: striping and non-striping

phydeaux hand dyed variegated yarn: lots of shorter and longer color repeats

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.

Phydeaux's "amour" colourway" is likely to stripe/pool, with much longer color repeats - you can see the two main colors clearly in this photo

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.

"Mon Coeur" (a phydeaux colourway) is full of very short color repeats and LOTS of bits and flecks of color - very randomly variegated

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?

dentelle scarf from phydeaux designs showing self striping hand spun yarn

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.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Jill March 13, 2015, 4:47 AM

    I much prefer non pooling, short repeat vareigateds. Thanks for your write up.

  • Diane March 13, 2015, 6:29 AM

    I’m with you, no striping!

  • Terrie Kerth March 13, 2015, 7:24 AM

    I much prefer the longer color repeats that create stripes and pools of color. Not for all my projects but for most of them.

  • Donna March 13, 2015, 8:59 AM

    I like both for different reasons. If I’m going to make something using entrelac or knit a shawlette that intentionally needs stripes I want a self-striping yarn.

    I have both in my stash and have learned the hard way about pooling and striping. I appreciate your article because now I can be more educated when I go shopping. Thanks!

    Donna Collins

  • Jen Heringer March 13, 2015, 4:01 PM

    I think strips have their place, but personally, I love the non-striping yarns, which is why I LOVE your yarn

  • Deborah March 13, 2015, 7:24 PM

    Thanks so much for the lesson. I much prefer non-striping

  • Debbie DiNino March 14, 2015, 10:33 AM

    I am looking for a longer repeat, a dyed around skein, for a particular technique. The technique is color patterning with hand dyed yarn. Dyed around skeins are hard to find, or it’s just not specified how they are dyed.
    For most other knitting I prefer the non stripping look and I am in love with your yarn!
    Thank you

  • Elaine June 26, 2015, 5:09 PM

    I am not a sock knitter and much prefer shorter color repeats. I love varigated yarns and have purchased many long color changes, not understanding it was going to be a challenge to find shawl patterns that worked well it. You do a masterful job incorporating many different colors that magically highlight each in an elegant skein of yarn. Thank you for taking the extra time in dying your yarn!

  • Susanna April 30, 2017, 6:35 AM

    I need tonal, as I knit small items. I want them to be a gorgeous interesting color, but never striped.

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