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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.


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Not so very long ago, I was always stressing over budgets or getting to the next meeting on time or the logistics involved with a new program I was setting up or a crucial recruitment I was working on or (fill in the blank … the options are endless).

I often dreamed about living in the mountains, working in a creative field (like painting or writing).

Amazing how life works out, isn’t it?

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Not so very long ago, these two sweet faces didn’t get to see me a whole lot. Twelve hour work days were common, with an hour commute on each end.

Now they get lots of kisses throughout the day.  Whether wanted or not.

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I remember, not so long ago, mapping out how many crockpots I could put in my guest bedroom to steam yarn, in order to create the volume of hand dyed yarn needed for a viable business.

Two weeks ago, Dad and I reworked the outdoor dyeing space.  We may now (in theory) dye up to 300 skeins a day.  I spent an afternoon scrubbing my beautiful six burner restaurant stove – it sure has come in handy!

(BTW, I think 300 skeins in one day would both do me in and warrant a celebratory dinner!)

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Not so very long ago, I had two dye pots.  Two.


New dye pots added in the last few weeks:  three more 12 quart, two more 32 quart, and one more 40 quart.


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Not so very long ago, Dad kept asking me, “So explain this to me again?  You dye the yarn and people actually want it?  I don’t get it.”

And now he’s Chief Re-Skeiner, while tying off all skeins for dyeing (not an enviable job!), and Right Hand for All Things Phydeaux.

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Not so very long ago, I crunched numbers or sat in meetings or worked on new programs or interviewed potential employees or (fill in the blank – again, the options are endless!) in artificially lit rooms in big buildings with lots of other people doing similar work.  Spending time outside meant rushing between buildings to the next meeting.

Now my views beyond the dye pots or drying yarn involve a lot of trees. Clean, pine-scented air fills my lungs.  My distractions might include squirrel antics, exchanging pleasantries with one of the several feral kitties, squinting up at an eagle far overhead, hoping that the loud rustling in the forest beyond the fence is a feral cat rather than a mountain lion (!!!).

Not so very long ago, I was desperately holding on to a life that I needed to let go of.  Little did I know that a fantastic life – one that I’d dreamed of living – was just up ahead, albeit with heart break, stress, and super hard work.  Which is true of any life, isn’t it?

I didn’t plan for this life in the mountains, surrounded by yarn and nature, living with my dad, working harder than I’ve ever worked.  And yet, it’s exactly the life I needed.

I am blessed.


Jimmy Beans 12 Days of Yarn-Mas

six geese a layin colourway for jimmy beans wool hand dyed by phydeaux

One day in October, I found an email from Leanne at Jimmy Beans Wool in my inbox.

I was pretty excited, as a HUGE Jimmy Beans fan (have you been to their warehouse in Reno?  WOW).

And even more excited to read my invitation to participate in their upcoming 12 days of yarn-mas:  an exclusive colourway a day from a yarn dyer they don’t currently carry.

Of course, I said “yes,” as fast as my fingers would type.

six geese jbw soie 2

My day was “six geese a layin.”

Oh good, I thought, I can come up with a goose-inspired colourway super quick.

Famous last words …

Come to find out, geese are kinda … white and black and grey and maybe amber/orange if they have that color of bill or feet!

six geese jbw soie 4

I dyed a LOT of new colourways, thinking about different angles:  my beloved Northern California geese (love hearing them honk overhead!), the goose who laid the golden egg, Mother Goose.

Then it hit me:  goose feathers.  Those gorgeous geese who visit the lake just down our hill are covered in iridescent, amazingly beautiful feathers.

Greys in all hues:  deepest charcoal to palest mist, with tiny subtle flecks of color.

In fact, six feather-lined nests in a row, for those six geese a layin’, lovingly blanketed in goose down and feathers, to protect those precious eggs.

And Six Geese a Layin was born.

Watch Jimmy Beans carolers sing The 12 Days of Yarn-mas (up to day six!) here.

And order your own skein of Six Geese a Layin’ right here (quick, before they sell out!)!

I’ll share some great complementary colourways later today!


Brand new Phydeaux base yarns: Coussin

miss havisham coussin hand dyed yarn phydeaux designs

I have been searching for a great super bulky yarn even before I started dyeing yarn.

And I finally found it:  Coussin.

Soft, fat, pillow, cushiony, all around delicious, Coussin is a single ply 100% merino wool (NOT superwash), perfect for chunky accessories and sweaters.

So pretty in delicate and subtle colourways (like Miss Havisham, shown above), and – wow – Coussin also really loves vivid, bold, rich colors (like Highgarden, just below).

hand dyed super bulky yarn coussin in highgarden from phydeaux designs

Even better, Coussin is perfect for all of Phydeaux’s super bulky accessory knitting patterns, like Granite, shown below in Winterfell.

I am so happy to now have a single ply merino wool super bulky yarn for you!  You can order Coussin in any of Phydeaux’s colourways by clicking here.

Don’t forget to read up on super bulky yarn, and then let me know in the comments what else you’d love to know about working with Coussin!

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