What is a dye lot?
Almost all yarn has a dye lot. Yarn is dyed in batches. When a batch is dyed, the dye lot number is assigned; you'll find this number on the label. When the next batch is dyed, a new dye lot number is assigned. Even though the same dyes are used, there may be noticeable color variations.
Why it's important for crafting
It's important that you always purchase enough of the same dye lot in order to complete your project. Before you leave the store, check and make sure the lots are the same. Just because the yarn is on the same shelf, doesn't mean all the skeins are from the same dye lot.
If you're not sure you'll have enough, buy one extra. Check the return policy of the store you're purchasing from. Many allow returns of unused yarn within a certain time frame. If you don't finish within that time and have one skein left over, just add it to your stash. You will find a good use for it eventually (or so they say!).
My yarn doesn't have a dye lot
Occasionally, you'll find a yarn that does not have a dye lot; this will be indicated on the label. A no dye lot yarn does not necessarily mean that all skeins will be exactly the same color. The yarn is dyed in much bigger batches but eventually it's sold out and more must be produced and this will be a different dye lot. So proceed with caution.
What if I run out of yarn and can't find the same lot number?
If you do run short, it's difficult, if not impossible, to find more of the same dye lot. The longer the amount of time that goes by, the more difficult may will be. If you need more yarn for the trim of a project, such as an edging of a throw, consider a contrasting color.
If there's no way around it and you can find more of the same color but not the identical dye lot, take the original yarn with you (even if it's already worked up in a project) to the store. You may be lucky enough to find several different dye lots to choose from. If so, you'll notice that some may be closer to the original than others. Look carefully at the original and the lot you're considering in natural light if possible (fluorescent lights can fool the eye).
Editor's Tip: Lucky for us, the internet age has made it easier to track down yarn in specific dye lots. With a little determination and patience, you may be able to contact other knitters & crocheters on websites like Ravelry.com or Crochetville.org to see if they have the same yarn in a specific dye lot.
Ready? Set? Craft!
When you've made your choice and are ready to return to knitting or crocheting your project, work alternating rows with the old and new dye lot (unravel the project to retrieve some of the old yarn if necessary). This will lessen the noticeability of the contrast of the two dye lots.
To sign up for the Weekly Stitch and get columns like this, free patterns, how-to videos and more, click here.