If you look at the descriptions of the yarns I dye, you’ll see I describe them as tonal, variegated etc. I use these to try and give you an idea of what to expect from the yarn when you use it. There’s nothing worse than yarn that looks beautiful in the skein, but like total crap once it’s knitted up.
So what do these terms actually mean? (Please bear in mind, these terms may be used differently by someone else. These explanations are specifically for my yarns).
This is as close to a solid as you will get in the hand dyed world. The yarn has been dyed with just a single colour. Depending on the yarn base, the colour may well look like a true, even solid. Other bases will pick up the dye at different rates and your yarn may have some darker areas as well as some lighter areas. Once knitted up your fabric will generally look even and solid from a distance, but with more visual interest closer up. Semi solids are well suited to more complex patterns where you want your stitches to be the star of the show.
Tonal yarns can be similar to semi solids. They are dyed with a single colour, only this time lighter and darker tones of the same colour are purposefully added in. This gives more variation than a semi solid, but still using just one colour. Tonal yarns are good for many different types of patterns as they are interesting enough to knit plain, but won’t detract from more complex patterns.
Now this is where the yarn can get really fun. Variegated are dyed with 2 or more colours. If the colours used are similar, such as yellow, orange and brick red, the yarn would be subtly variegated. If the colours are wildly different, such as fuchsia, navy and lime green, the variegation is much more striking. Variegated yarns the ones that can ‘pool’ or ‘flash’ when knitted. Since they have very short colour repeats, picking the right pattern can take some careful consideration. Variegated yarns tend to be the most visually interesting but may detract from more intricate stitch patterns.
As it says, this a yarn designed to knit into distinctive stripes. Generally these are fingering weight yarns dyed to knit into small items like socks and gloves. These are extremely time consuming to dye and can take a lot of precision and planning. All the work goes into the dyeing process so the knitting can be easier!
A gradient dyed yarn is similar to a self striping one, but without the sudden changes in colour. The colour changes will happen gradually and fade from one colour to another. Gradient yarns are great for socks and gloves but will also work well for larger items like shawls.
A speckled yarn quite simply means specks of colour on the yarn. The base can be natural (undyed), semi solid, tonal or variegated. Due to the way the dye is applied, every skein is unique. The speckles add intense little pops of colour and are great for all sorts of patterns. For speckle dyed yarn, you would need to choose your pattern to suit the base colour style.
What is your favourite type of dyeing? Let me know in the comments!