As if we need more enticement to buy sock yarn, there seems to have been an explosion lately of “limited edition” hand-dyed yarns from the larger dyers. Some companies have paired with shops to offer “exclusive” colorways (Lorna’s Laces with Jimmy Beans Wool and The Loopy Ewe, for example), others offer “sock club colorways” that are only dyed once and available only until they sell out (like Dream in Color). Of course, for most indie dyers, every colorway is a “limited edition,” since they lack (and may not want) the ability to exactly replicate a colorway again, and different batches of the same colorway may look dramatically different.
Above you see two skeins of the same colorway of dkKnits! Technicolor Dream Toes (Rose Garden). This can occur even with larger dyers as well (I have seen very different-looking skeins of Malabrigo Sock in “Archangel,” for example, varying in the proportion of purple and orange), making the warning to buy enough for your project at once even more necessary perhaps than with solid-colored yarns.
All this “limited” talk is marketing, of course, to get you to click “add to cart” before it’s gone. Often, the colorways are not so limited (The Loopy Ewe still has Dream in Color’s December Dream Club colorway in stock, and while Jimmy Beans Wool’s website warns that the Lorna’s Laces exclusive colors “often sell out in 3 – 5 days,” they still have stick of the August 2010 color), but you never can tell. If you love it, many others probably do as well. “Exclusive” colorways are often ongoing colors, but only available at that one shop, and they hope that other things will magically hop into your cart since you’re there (and aiming for free shipping, as always!). It may be possible to find a similar colorway in the same or another yarn line, of course. It’s hard on a monitor to tell how different, for example, Lorna’s Laces “Loopy Red” is from “Bold Red” or Malabrigo’s “Ravelry Red.” (This makes me jealous of those who can call one of the great sock yarn suppliers their LYS!)
Another marketing ploy used is the linking of a colorway with a pattern: Lorna’s Laces Grand Street Ink is being marketed as the color in which to knit Jared Flood’s Rock Island Shawl. Other colors have been linked to designers (such as Cookie’s Deep Dark Secret), but this is perhaps the first time I am aware of a color being created for a particular pattern and marketed together. This touches on my dislike of “pattern stories” in knitting magazines based on color. The color is the easiest thing to change about a project – it seldom defines the item, though most of us have trouble appreciating the possibilities of a pattern if we hate the color. The magazines use color to unify a group of patterns that otherwise might not have much in common or just to make for cute copy. The latest issue (Early Fall 2011) of Vogue Knitting has a collection of 5 capes and cowls all knit in red, just so that they can call it “Into the Woods” and have a photoshoot in the forest. I would argue that red is not the defining feature of any of these items, and if you shy away from wearing red, you should still take a good look at them and decide whether you might like to make one in green, or purple, or brown. Obviously, the sample item needs to be knit in some color, and you’ll always find someone who doesn’t like it, but the inclusion of items grouped by color story in almost every issue of every knitting magazine gets tiresome to me. Even better would be to show the same item in a variety of colors, to help those of us with less color imagination picture whether the item might please us in some other color. With the advent of added content online, this shouldn’t be too onerous, especially when the color can be altered digitally – no need to knit multiple copies of the same item. An interactive feature allowing the user to color the item would be even better (gee, how would that look in blue?). Maybe someday we’ll be able to upload a photo of ourselves and choose from actual yarn colorways to show exactly what the finished item would look like. Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?