One of the most common questions I'm asked is whether or not skeins should be alternated, and the answer is; it's complicated.
So many things go into deciding if you'll take the time to alternate your precious hand dyed skeins of yarn. Here are some things to consider and questions to ask when you're making this decision for yourself.
Reading your skeins:
Open them up, spread them out in good light, and get to know them. They each have a personality, and every batch of yarn is a little different, so taking some time to look at them individually and as a group will tell you a lot. If you're an easy going person who doesn't mind some quirks you probably never need to alternate skeins. If you want more consistency in your project you can take the next steps and decide which method of "alternating" works best for you.
If there is a lot of deviation in the coloring of your yarn you will probably want to alternate for the best results, but sometimes alternating just creates really weird striping and even worse pooling, so another method of yarn management might work better.
(Here's a stack of yarn that is gorgeous, and will make a beautiful sweater, but will definitely need to be alternated unless you want some visible color shifts.)
Some popular methods for managing your hand dyed skeins:
I hope this gives you some ideas to get started, but don't forget that trying different things is the best way to see what will work for you.
Happy Making, friends!
XX, Heather Jane