Dye Lots…why they are important and how to work around them

Most of you already know the importance of dye lots. But it’s always good to have a refresher!

Each time a yarn is dyed, there is a chance that the lot will be slightly different from the last time it was dyed.  Of course, the mills and the dyers do their best to keep it consistent…but they (and we) can't guarantee that it will always be the EXACT same color.

When buying yarn for a project, you want all of the yarn to come from the same dye lot. Makes sense, right? No one wants to make the bulk of a project, run out of yarn and have it be a different lot number. It wouldn't be good if the sleeves of your sweater were a slightly different color. And believe me…many knitters before you have had this happen (see below).

Now there are times when you innocently don't buy enough yarn…during a crazy yarn sale when you just can't pass up those few skeins; when you are on vacation and see some yarn you love, but don’t know what you want to make; buying yarn for one size and then deciding to make another or if you can’t afford all the yarn for your project at once and have to buy a little here and little there (If this is the case…talk to your LYS, they may be willing to hold some for you; we have all had economic hardships at some point in our lives and they might be able to either hold some or do a layaway plan).

But what happens when you are a few skeins short of the perfect sweater that you MUST make?

Don’t despair…there is a solution! It’s referred to as stranding.

The first thing you should do is figure out how much more yarn you are going to need. This will help you figure out how much stranding you will have to do. For example, if you only need 1 or 2 more skeins, you could only strand on the sleeves. But if you need yarn for half your sweater, you might have to strand the whole project.

Great! But…what is standing?

Stranding is when you work 2 rows from dye lot A and then 2 rows from dye lot B. What you are really doing is making very subtle stripes with your 2 different lots.

I will be the first to tell you that stranding isn’t ideal. You have to carry 2 balls of yarn around with you and carry it up the side of your work as you go (I have a knack for getting the 2 balls tangled together). But trust me…it is way better than having part of your project be a different color. Case in point…this sweater I made several years ago, when I didn’t realize I had 2 different dye lots going.


Not really an ideal spot for a color change. Needless to say, this project was frogged.

I also highly recommend stranding if you are working with hand or kettle dyed yarn (unless it is a one ball project). Even though these lots are small, it can be difficult to get a consistent color through the lot. Better safe than sorry, I always say!

If you need to buy more yarn for your project, let your LYS know that you have a dye lot you are looking for. They can always ask us (and other suppliers) when they call to place the new order if we have that lot in stock. If we do, we are happy to send it (we are knitters too and understand the frustration of not having enough yarn for a project).

My hope for you, dear knitter, is that you will always have enough yarn in the right dye lot. But if you don’t…now you know how to deal with it.


Knit on!

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