Hand dyed yarn mini skeins before they are wound into a ball and ready to use

When you’re knitting with hand dyed yarn, how will your socks look?

When you are knitting socks with hand dyed yarns, sometimes it’s really hard to judge how the yarn will look once it’s knitted up into a small circumference like a sock or a mitten.

A stack of knitted socks showing hand dyed yarn

When yarn is sold in a 100g skein or ball, the way the yarn is wound can make it look very different to how it will look when knitted up and it’s hard to see whether it will be deep stripes, narrow stripes, speckled, or highly variegated with lots of different areas of colour that could create puddles or pools of colour.

For example, looking at the gorgeous hand-dyed skein below, you would never know that it would knit up into these amazing stripes.

A skein of hand dyed yarn next to a finished sock on a sock blocker, that has been knitted with the yarn, showing the stripes

Usually, if the yarn is striped, it will say on the ball band, which is helpful (it would say self-striping yarn), and some manufacturers also include an image of the stripes which is even more helpful. 

But, if like me, you have lots of yarns in your stash that you just bought because you love the various colours within the ball or skein, then I hope this post will help you to see how the yarns in your stash might look when knitted up.

A collection of hand knitted socks with various different hand dyed yarns.

Let’s check how you’re socks will look when you’re knitting with hand dyed yarn:

You will need:

  • Yarn from a ball or skein;
  • A yarn winder and yarn swift (optional).


Option 1: If you are winding from a ball or skein by hand, then wind your yarn as you normally would but change the direction of winding after every 8-10 wraps. 

So wind the yarn around the ball approximately 8-10 times and then stop and turn the ball a little bit towards the left so that the next 8-10 wraps are sitting in a slightly different position than the previous wraps.

This will help to see if you yarn will stripe or whether it’s speckled or highly variegated. 

The yarn below is hand-dyed by Liz (@theyarnbadger) and it’s wound into a gobstopper using the above method, which shows off the gorgeous pastel stripes of the yarn.

self striping yarn wound by hand showing stripes

And here is is knitted up into socks. You can see how the pastel stripes are separated by the cream stripes, making a pretty, Spring-like striped sequence.

knitted socks with self striping yarn

Option 2: If you have a yarn winder and a yarn swift, you can wind your yarn into a yarn cake. At this point it is still difficult to see how the yarn will look when knitted up.

Once you have wound the yarn into a yarn cake, unravel 5-8 meters of yarn from the yarn cake and start to wrap in around the cake from top to bottom around the cake (so this is in the opposite direction to the original winding).

Take care to lay each strand of yarn neatly next to the previous strand so that there are no gaps, as shown in the image below. 

As you wind, you will start to see the patterns being created, which will indicate whether the yarn is striped, speckled or highly variegated.

Self striping yarn cake showing how yarn looks when knitted up

Whilst it’s not an exact science (because you are not using quite as much yarn as you would in a round of a knitted sock or mitten), it does give you a really good indication of what will happen when you start to knit.

Plus, it’s really great fun and you might get some really nice surprises.

hand knitted sock cuff with speckled yarn

Also, the winding of the yarn shows off the different colours within the yarn so you can start to see which contrast colours will work really well for your cuffs, heels and toes.

There’s nothing worse that starting a sock with a contrast heel or cuff, only to find that when you switch to your main yarn, that the colours don’t work that well together. 

So this winding method will help you to see which colours will work really well with your main yarn.

pair of hand knitted socks on sock blockers

I hope you have great fun with your yarn winding. It’s a fun way to switch off and focus on a fun exercise that is also helpful and satisfying. I got a bit carried away with my winding, but I found some really gorgeous yarns that I can’t wait to start

cakes of hand dyed yarn with ends wound inn opposite direction to show stripes

Happy yarn winding, Lynne xx

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