You're cetainly right that there is so much to know! There are some videos and tutorials online to help with the differences in hand-dyed, hand-painted, etc. I looked for Babette on Ravelry but didn't see it. That's usually a good way to see what projects have been made with the yarn and how the colors look knitted up.
The wonderful thing about having a good LYS is that you can go into the store, feel the yarn, often see samples knit with it, and talk to the people there about the differences in the yarns. Knowledgeable staff can tell you which yarns are sturdier and how they drape which are differences that aren't obvious online.