Dye lots – sometimes they matter a lot, and sometimes I honestly cannot tell the difference.
This post is about knitting and yarn, by the way, in case that wasn’t immediately obvious, as I imagine it wasn’t for non-knitters or beginning knitters.
So, dye lots are, essentially, the order in which a skein of yarn is dyed. If two skeins are in the same dye lot, they were dyed in the same pot and, therefore, are more likely to have an identical dye job. This is important for anyone using the yarn, so that they don’t end up with an unintentionally stripey project.
Now, when is this important? Most often, I would say, it’s important with larger indie dyers. If they’re dying up lots of skeins, but not quite enough to be considered “mass produced” or be sold at, say, Joann Fabrics, you’re going to want to make sure you’re in the same dye lot.
I recently purchased Shepherd’s Wool yarn, for example, and while it’s definitely on the more manufactured spectrum, it was important that all the wool be in the same dye lot, so that I didn’t have to alternate skeins or anything.
So then, when is it not as important?
First, if it’s highly manufactured, sold in bulk kind of stuff, like what you get at Michael’s or Joann’s, even Knit Picks yarns, it’s probably not going to make a big difference. You may want to check just to make sure, but these manufacturers produce so much wool and probably have such an automated system, the quality control on your colors is going to be very high.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, I would say that with particularly small indie dyers (think single-person operations), the importance of dye lots really depends. If you’re working on, say, a two skein project and you’re using kettle-dyed yarn, having both of them in the same dye lot is going to be much more convenient. You may be able to get away with two skeins from two different pots, but better safe than sorry.
Alternatively, with something like oven-dyed yarn, which receives a direct application of the dye rather than just a general soaking, dye lots aren’t going to matter a lot. I mean, they will in the sense that you could have a single batch with slightly different coloring/striping, but the reason it won’t matter is because you should be alternating skeins anyway.
Very small operation indie-dyed yarn is going to have some differences. Everything is done by hand, so you can’t expect perfection. So if you’re using a large quantity of skeins, or if they’re particularly stripey yarns, you should definitely keep that in mind when you’re knitting up your project.