What will my yarn look like when knitted?
Looking at a unique skein of hand dyed yarn and being able to imagine what it will look like as a fabric is a learned skill. The way your yarn expresses itself will depend on many factors, including whether you are knitting, crocheting, weaving, or nalbinding, your gauge, and overall stitch count. The most accurate way to see what kind of fabric your yarn will produce is to make a swatch. There are several other guidelines as well, which can give you a general idea of what you are looking at. There is no absolute way of predicting exactly how each skein will behave, since hand dyed yarn is extremely unique. Below, I've compiled examples of yarn dyeing techniques, and swatches illustrating the type of knitted fabric they will generally produce. If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to contact me!
Long Blocks of Color
The nature of the dyeing process leaves these skeins with more deliberate blocks of color, generally slightly longer, and often with multiple colors of varying lengths. If possible, open up the skein, and observe how long and in which ways the lengths of color placement are. This technique results in either "stripy" fabric, where each color stands out clearly from the others, or a pooling effect, where colors stack and form organic patches of color at random intervals. Creating a swatch will help to determine the stitch count of each color, and help you to decide on a pattern you think will fit well, or organize a project with planned pooling. Try folding the skein over onto itself, holding it out in front of you, and squinting a bit. This will show you an approximation of just how much you can expect the colors to blend together. Finely textured fabrics usually become hidden by the colors, so I recommend less complex textures that will let the colors shine through as the focus. Long blocks of color give a very specific look to stockinette stitch knitted fabric, but also look fantastic in projects that were designed to compliment this style, such as the Pincha Shawl, Pool & Conquer, and Close to You.
Organically Formed Color Patches
The nature of this dyeing process leaves skeins with amorphous, organic-shaped areas of color with lots of blending and mixing. These colors will easily combine into an overall color-wash with minimal pooling. If you open the skein, you will be able to see colors of varying length and shapes, and degrees of blended areas randomly throughout. Try folding the skein over onto itself, holding it out in front of you, and squinting a bit. This will show you an approximation of just how much you can expect the colors to blend together. At a distance, the resulting fabric will often appear multi-dimensional. Since this fabric tends to be less busy and bold, both flat and textured patterns as well as simple lace work well with this style of yarn. Some patterns that look great with yarns dyed in this style are the Ariel sweater, Age of Brass and Steam, and the Amberwell Shawl.