To reskein or not to reskein

If you’re a knitter, you’ve experienced the thrill of buying a new skein of yarn. It goes something like this: you lock eyes with it, feel a jolt of pleasure when the colours just sing to you, and then you proceed to hold it in your hands, squishing and smelling it shamelessly (if in the yarn shop – you’re among your kind, after all) or, if in front of a computer screen, drooling over your keyboard as you enlarge the photo; finally, you have that excruciating mental chat with yourself, “How can I justify bringing this home? Can I afford it? Do I need to hide it from my other half? Can I just pretend this cost half of what it really does? I don’t have a problem, I can stop whenever I can.”

If this sounds familiar, welcome to the club. It’s the bitter-sweet process of yarn stalking.

As a new seller of hand dyed yarn (here’s an example), I want to present my fibre in the best way possible. I want you to feel like you can’t live without that skein, that you need to take it home so you can look at it and call it Precious – not because I want to manipulate you, honest, but because I’m just so in love with my yarns I want to spread the joy (of course the revenue doesn’t hurt, either).

It’s no surprise then, that I started to think about the best ways to showcase my fibre. What’s the best way to show you the colours, the prettiness of it all? Enter some photographic and reskeining experimentation.

This first image shows you the yarn as it came out of the pot. All the colours are clumped together and you can see how much there is of each. It might help you plan for a project, and will certainly help you discern if you like the palette I chose.


Then I reskeined the yarn, thereby changing the colour placement. The big clumps of colour are gone, but now you can better see how they interact with each other. The overall feel is quite different, and I can honestly say I might not realise this was the same skein if I got shown one of each side by side.

Taking this market research thing seriously, I took the matter to Instagram and Facebook to hear what people thought. My question was simple: out of the two, which one would you buy?

I really thought I’d have a clear winner. Nope. On Facebook, I had an absolute tie – 50% preferred one way, 50% the other. Some people even engaged in friendly banter, telling them how wrong they were to choose differently from them. On Instagram the opinions  were also more or less equally divided, with one professional dyer saying that her sales soared when she stopped reskeining. Argh.

Of course, this didn’t stop here – some people asked me how it would knit up (a very reasonable question, but when it’s a one-of-a-kind skein, it’s hard to test knit because I’d have to handle the fibre too much to feel comfortable selling it later). One person even asked how it would look caked up and ready for knitting…

I then decided to go mad, keep this skein for myself and see how it would look made into something. All in the name of science, of course. Here it is caked up – also visually different from the pictures above.


I knitted a cowl with a pattern that would allow me to see how the colours went together without being too boring (I love you stockinette, but sometimes I need something different). Here’s the reverse pattern, where you can definitely see a colour repetition going on. I like how the darkest colour seems to pop up with a rhythm.

And here’s the right side. Here I feel the colours sing without being too jumbled. Notice how even the dark colour doesn’t pop as much (in my opinion).
This pattern is called Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks and is free on Ravelry.

So I guess the answer is, there is no right answer to this question. To reskein or not to reskein, that is the headache.

Here comes the obligatory question: which one would you choose?


18 responses to “To reskein or not to reskein

  1. Who knew the whole yarn dying and selling thing would be so complicated! LOL 😀

    Personally, I tend to buy solid or semi solid colours most of the time – I’m rarely attracted to multi colour skeins although, strangely enough, I’m knitting with one right now and if I hadn’t of seen it in its knitted up state, I wouldn’t have given it a second look. Not helpful, I know…

    The colour of a yarn is, absolutely, the first thing that seduces me – always, so I can see why it’s so important to get it right for a yarn dyer / seller. Having related my recent multi colour skein experience above, this isn’t how it usually works for me – I’m usually seduced by just seeing the skein, but the photography is uber important to get that across online, of course. I am frequently seduced by Debbie Orr’s photography at Skein Queen (it happened again tonight, funnily enough!), which is very simple and clear – one skein shot, one close up shot, well lit, white background, no props. Maria at SuzyParker Yarns on Etsy also sticks to clear and simple backgrounds – either white or pale / natural and ‘dreamied out’, as I like to say 🙂 DyeForYarn on Etsy are amazing photographically too – they have fab lighting that absolutely makes the most of the amazing colours of their yarns and highlights the textures. They also shoot their skeins in ‘poop’ formation – take a look and you’ll see what I mean! That maybe works so well for them because their playing on the one colour, but might be worth seeing if that works for your multis too?

    I hope someone reading this who is a regular multi colour skein buyer will give you some similar leads on what they really like to see when they’re yarn perving 😀 x

      • Everything is complicated, Debbie! I’m glad I had no idea before getting into this, otherwise I might have just stayed put 😀

        It’s interesting what you say about semi solids, those are the skeins I’m attracted to the least – visually speaking, because if I’m honest those would be the ones I’d prefer knitting with. However, I can’t just go for what I love, otherwise I’d be specialising in dyeing gray yarns only…

        I just had to stalk all the shops you mentioned! Very nice photography indeed. That’s the type I like – clear, simple and to the point. I like how Voolenvine Yarns does her colours, and that’s the type of colour ways I’m attracted to. Curiously enough, I think I fall in love with the skeins for their colours without having the slightest idea what to knit (or even whether I want to)…
        Poop formation, LOL! I’ve tried that with some of mine but I think those work better with semi solids 🙂

        Thanks for the input, Debbie! And – double LOL for the expression “yarn perving!”

  2. I adore rainbow yarns, and to be honest, I love both. I could see myself buying both because I like the colors used and because they’re bright and saturated and fun. But if I had to choose, I think the first might call my name louder if only because the colors are more obvious. I can see the big chunks of green and pink and teal and yellow, even though I know they won’t knit up in those big chunks. Good luck! It sounds like a tricky business!

    • Thanks for the input, Bonny! It’s really hard to be objective when you’re invested emotionally on a make, and I confess this whole reskeining of yarn business has left me stumped. It’s not like I can undo it, so I get one chance to get it ‘right’ 🙂

      I guess this means I’ll just have to play with dyes a bit more, huh? Ah, poor me 😀

  3. I don’t buy yarn so I won’t be much help. I think the most important thing is to have good, clear photography. You could try some skeins as dyed and others reskeined and see which ones sell the best. You just have to keep putting it out there and you’ll find what works best for you. 🙂

    • Hah, the problem is with one-of-a-kind skeins, I can’t offer one of each on those… But I agree, I’ll just have to keep dyeing and showing them to people and see if someone falls in love 😊

  4. I’m also a dyer but as a spinner (who doesn’t like spinning white yarn) most of my dyeing is done in the roving or top stage. I did just dye some skeins of commercial white yarn yesterday and have been having the same discussion with myself about reskeining that you are investigating. Sorry I don’t have the answer, but I do think your reskeined yarn gives a closer idea of what the knitted results might be.
    I personally like the as dyed one as I can see the colors you used and guess how the repeats might work out. 🙂 (And with my roving I have found,depending on who does the spinning, the resulting yarns can look quite different!)

    • Thanks for commenting! Yes, dyeing yarn and top can have two very different results indeed, and I love that 😀 And it’s interesting to see how you’re also divided – as is let’s one see the colour variations better, but reskeined definitely helps with thinking about the end result.
      I’ll just have to keep experimenting!

  5. For me, i’d rather want to know how long most colors are and how many in all, and what the colors are. Like if there are 6 colors with 10 inches each, i can imagine how it can turn up on a small or big project. Socks will be stripey and blankets will be dashy.

    • Thanks for commenting, Cecile. How long colours are works best with say a self-striping yarn, maybe not with a kettle dyed one like this, where it’s going to be fairly random. This particular skein has so many colours and they come in larger and smaller patches, there’s really no way to know how they’ll knit up until one does – a knitting adventure 😀

  6. In picture form, the first one reallllly appeals to me. I can see all the colors in it and it just looks neat.The second one would probably appeal to me more if I could touch and spin it around. The cake is also neat looking, but yeah, Definitely the first one really appeals to me.

  7. Well I would like two photos of everything you sell. If I was in a shop I would get to handle the wool so more photos on line is good. Sorry if that’s not helpful.

    • There would always be multiple images of the skein 😀 My issue is whether I should just leave it alone or re-skein it… I would still keep the original photo so people would see it as it was, but a lot of people don’t bother reading descriptions or looking at all the photos…
      See why I need help? 😁

  8. I’m right with you there having just started selling my hand dyed too! I re-skein to make a neater tangle free skein but where possible I show a before and after reskeining shot! Now you have me thinking which would be the best pic to have as the main one!!

    • The best main pic has to be the final look of the yarn, otherwise you’ll get angry customers saying “this isn’t what I ordered.” You can always post a photo with both looks side by side, though 😉
      What gives me pause is when the other dyer told me she had much better sales before reskeining! She’s quite successful so I have to believe it can make a huge difference…

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