How to read a skein of hand dyed yarn -- kettle dyed

Posted by Melanie Cheripka on

It's Samhain and what better way to spend a spooky day than to talk about the Witch's Brew of yarn dyeing, kettle dyed yarns? How does this Witch's Brew work? The yarn is placed in a cauldron (pan) filled with water then you apply the dye haphazardly, do some chanting and dance to the beat of Twenty One Pilots.



Some Witches (dyers) only use one magic ingredient (color) but I live dangerously and usually use 2 or more. You really have to know your color theory or you could get the color mud with this brew -- because of the water, the dye moves unpredictably in the cauldron (pan) and sometimes the different colors blend together. I love the randomness of kettle dyeing, though ... you never know what is going to happen!

You'll notice that kettle and hand painted skeins look very similar. And they are. However, once knit up you'll see subtle differences. Kettle dyed yarns knit up with a more mottled, random effect. There is a soft blending of the different colors, often creating an entirely different color altogether where they blend.


When buying these yarns in the store, you have to really study the skein and see if you can tell how it was dyed. Maybe even untwist it, if the dyer or shop owner will let you. Or maybe ask if they will do it for you. I'll be uploading a video in my YouTube channel in the next day or two showing the difference. This is why I don't reskein my yarns. While they're prettier reskeined and it's nice to see how the colors look together, I like to give my buyers the opportunity to see where each color is placed so they can get an idea of how it will knit up.



You'll notice in the swatch below that, while there is a slight patterning, it's very random. There's not much predictability. I would not suggest this yarn for intricate patterns because the colors are placed randomly during the dye process, it's sometimes difficult to tell how it will look when knit up.



The whimsy of this yarn is where its beauty lies. This is an excellent yarn choice if you love to be surprised at the finished item. These skeins are great for patterns with a simple design. Choose these yarns to add some excitement to a simple sock or hat pattern.

If you are thinking of buying some kettle dyed yarn or already have some in your stash, these patterns will let your yarn really shine!

Hitchhiker by Martina Behm
Barley by Tin Can Knits
Broken Seed Stitch Socks by Hanna Leväniemi

How do you feel about kettle dyed yarns? Do you love them or hate them or meh?

Mise le meas,


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