Handling a Dyelot Change

June 8, 2016Threads Standard

I discovered this needlepoint thread problem after I had been stitching only a couple of years. I was making a pillow for my friend Dot. It was a big red dot on a white background. I stitched for awhile and then I ran out of white thread. I went back to the store and bought some more and went back to stitching. It was only after the pillow was finished that I discovered there was a difference in the two dye lots — my background was two different colors!

You have probably heard at least a dozen times — buy everything for your project at once! Dye lots can change! While this is true of all needlepoint thread, it is especially true of many of the hand dyed threads available now.

This happens because it is almost impossible to control all the factors in the dyeing process to get the same results. The composition of the water changes, the chemicals used to dye change, the person overdyeing the thread paints more purple today and more pink tomorrow. Or a dozen other things. Dyers keep notebooks to try to reproduce the same color each time, but it does not always work quite that way.

If the areas of your canvas which are the problem color are not connected, don’t worry about the change in dye lot. Finish one area in the old needlepoint thread and one in the new. When people look at the finished piece, the eye will “fudge” and make the two areas look the same.

If you are working on a highly geometric piece, you can usually get away with a change in dye lot. Once again try as much as you can to finish one area with one dye lot and then go on to the second dye lot.

But the real problem occurs when you have a large connected area which is only part way done and you can tell you are running out of needlepoint thread. First and most importantly, stop right now BEFORE you run out completely. This will allow you to blend the two dye lots together.

If at all possible, go back to the same store, with your thread tag and leftover thread in hand. Many manufacturers put a dye lot number on the back of the card. With the card in hand, you can check to see if the dye lot is the same. If it is, you’ve lucked out. If it isn’t, or if there is not dye lot information available with the leftover thread you can try to find the closest match. Many stores put more than one dyelot on a hanger, or have more stock in back. Don’t be afraid to ask if there are other dyelots available. Most store owners are stitchers too and have had this problem.

Once you start stitching again, there are several ways to handle the dyelot change, depending on whether you are using only a single strand or multiple strands.

With a stranded needlepoint thread, and beginning from where you left off, substitute one or two strands of the original thread with one or two strands of the new thread. Stitch a couple of rows, then substitute more strands. Continue this process until you are stitching with only the new thread.

Essentially a dye lot change is a shade change and the goal is to make the border between the two colors as fuzzy as possible. This tricks the eye into thinking of the entire background as a single color.

If your thread is non-stranded, then you have to be more clever. Make an irregular edge with the original color, leaving out stitches. Leave out more and more stitches as you more farther from the completed stitching, eventually petering out to where there are no stitches done in the original color. Begin to stitch with the new thread, filling in those skipped stitches.

This process is not as seamless as blending two dyelots in one needle, but it will create a gradual blend.

But what else could you do? Consider making a patterned background using the two dyelots in a regular pattern. The end result is a damask effect, where the color change is done on purpose.

I used this technique several years ago. I had what seemed like lots of a dark green thread left over from a project. But not enough to do the background of a floral wreath pillow. Since the thread was several years old, there was no hope of matching the dye lot. So I went and bought the same shade and made the background a very subtle stripe. This was definitely a case of stitching from my stash and making a virtue of necessity.

If you know there is not enough needlepoint thread soon enough you can use techniques like this to make a more interesting background while dealing elegantly with the dye lot change.