When I was 12 or 13, grandma took me to the craft store to buy yarn for my first afghan. I remember the excitement…both in awe that I was actually going to spend hard earned allowance money buying yarn for a for real project and because I was spending time with grandma. In the yarn store I got an education. I thought we were picking colors, but it turned out there were rules. Rules that should not be broken. And one of those rules was that you always, always buy from the same dye lot. The second rule is that you always buy an extra skein of that same dye lot yarn because if you underestimate what you need, you might not be able to get the same dye lot and all that hard work could be in vain. A project ruined by a color variance in the final steps. I got the distinct impression grandma had been burned by yarn before. She had that look in her eye of a craft gone bad and I knew this was not a rule to break.
Fast forward in time and these days, there are a lot more yarn choices, including some that say ‘no dye lot’, yet still seem to boast a dye lot on the label anyway. So…DOES dye lot matter?
The short version is YES, yes it does. So you could just stop reading right now and always, ALWAYS buy enough of the yarn dye lot. But maybe you’d like to understand the whole concept better. Or..maybe you want to know what you do IF you run out of yarn in the middle of the project and have no choice but to use a different dye lot yarn.
The gist of the whole dye lot deal is that yarn is dyed in batches and even in very large batches with very exact measuring systems, there is still a chance that each batch of yarn will vary by a slight amount from dye lot to dye lot. Often it is so slight you won’t even notice it. Oh but sometimes..oh yeah..sometimes..the subtle difference is ever so noticeable in the finished project. Trust me. It is a horrible, sad day, when you have 2 inches left to finish in a large afghan, you’ve run out of yarn and the new skein doesn’t match.
The dye lot is a 4-8 digit number on the ball band. Skeins with the same dye lot will all come from the same batch and should be identical in color.
What to Do…
…if you must buy more yarn and none of your original dye lot is available.
- Take a piece your yarn along with the ball band to the store where you bought the yarn. If you very recently bought the yarn, you might get lucky at a nearby branch of the same store. For instance, I’ve purchased the same dye lot yarn in 2 Joann stores on opposite sides of town. Remember, the dye lot matching is worth a trip across town.
- Place your scrap yarn piece amongst the strands of the different dye lot yarn and look at it under good light. If it disappears and blends in, this would be a good skein to buy.
- When you crochet, any time you can create a break between the 2 skeins, any color variation will be less noticeable. For instance, if you are working a stripe pattern, change to a different color in between the old and the new skein. If you are doing a same-color embellishment, make the embellishment in one skein and the background in the other. Remember..natural breaks are a good point to change your skeins.
- If you’re making something with different segments (like a sweater), use one dye lot for one part (like the front/back) and another for the sleeves, for instance.
- If neither of these are possibilities, work the old and new yarn in alternating rows for at least 6 stripes. This tricks the eyes into seeing the two shades as one color, thus making a smooth transition.
The Truth Is
Sometimes you just can’t help it. You miscalculate. You decide to go in a different direction. You try to use up some scraps. But you have to buy different dye lots and it can work out just fine.
I’ll let you in on a little secret…the lower part of the dress of this cutie pie is a different dye lot. I tried to match the new color to the old the best I could, I started the new skein at the start of a row and I think the pattern hid any imperfection. (Interested in Gracie? You can find her pattern here.)
So does dye lot matter? Yes, but it doesn’t have to ruin your project!