Hand Dyed Yarn for Newbies: Tonals

Hello, and thanks for joining me for the third installment of Hand Dyed Yarn for Newbies! You can find the last two posts here:

  1. Solids
  2. Semi-Solids

Today’s yarn style is likely to be the most confusing for newbies as it is a term that cover anything from semi-solid to variegated yarns. The key thing to remember is the word itself: tonal. Meaning that whether the dyes used are of the same colour group or different colour groups they are very similar in tone. Now, I’m not going to go into tone in this post. I never really studied art. 😉 My knowledge of tints and hues etc is very limited but if you’re interested, there are a lot of great resources if you Google ‘colour tones’.


As we discussed in the previous post, a semi-solid yarn can be referred to as a tonal as it features darker and lighter shades of the same or similar colours:

A semi-solid dyed yarn with speckles – MyMuddlings ‘Emerald City’ on Aran

MyMuddlings ‘Blushing Rose’ on fingering

Today’s post will be about colourways that have shades from different colour groups but still remain ‘tonal’. One of my favourite examples of this is my own colourway Wisteria Arbour:

MyMuddlings ‘Wisteria Arbour’ on fingering

As you can see from this picture, the overall ‘tone’of the yarn is fairly similar. There are no highly contrasting colours. This colourway features two different tones of purple along with some black and grey. So although black and purple are different colour groups, they create a variegated tonal.

The queen of variegated tonals (and variegateds and speckles – yes, I’m fan-girling!)  would have to be the extremely talented Kristin of Voolenvine Yarns. If you’ve been in the yarny world for any length of time you’ve likely heard of her. Her yarn is EXTREMEMLY popular and very hard to get. She has a knack for mixing just the right colours together to create stunning tonals:

Voolenvine Yarns ‘Taiga’ – Photo from Voolenvine Yarns

Voolenvine Yarns ‘Jilted Rose’ – Photo from Voolenvine Yarns

Voolenvine Yarns ‘Succulents’ – Photo from Voolenvine Yarns

As you can see, this woman has enviable talent! I can only hope to be as good as Kristin one day. #dyegoals 😉 I dye my variegated tonals in much the same ways as I dye my semi-solids, only with differing colour groups. Check back to the semi-solids post for more details.

So I hope these examples have helped to show the difference between semi-solid tonals and variegated tonals. I hope you can see how they are all ‘tonals’.

I know this is potentially the most confusing of all the hand dyed yarn types so if you have an questions, as always feel free to contact me via the comments or to my email address found on the ‘Find Me‘ page. What’s your favourite tonal yarn colourway or dyer? Are you a fan of Kristin’s work? Have you been able to get your hands on any of her yarn? Let me know in the comments.


Hand Dyed Yarn for Newbies: Semi-solids

Welcome to the second installment of my Hand Dyed Yarn for Newbies series! I hope the first post was interesting and potentially useful. In case you didn’t see it, you can find the first post on Solids here. Sorry there was such delay between posts, I had a busy week last week. I will endeavour to get these posts out more regularly from here on in.


Semi-solid yarns are usually of one dye colour or layers of similar coloured dyes to give various tones of the same colour over the skein. It is one of my most favourite ways to dye yarn. Semi-solids can also be referred to as tonals; however, tonals can also be a version of variegated. As such, tonals will have a post of their own.

An example of a semi-solid or tonal: MyMuddlings ‘Be Still My Beating Heart’ on DK

As you can see in the above picture, I have created a colourway that is just one colour (a pinky red), but there are varying tones from light to dark. In this colourway, I’ve used more than one dye colour to create it. However, you can also make a semi-solid with just one shade of dye like the picture below:


Fingering weight yarn dyed by me using Greener Shades dyes

In both cases, it was done in a large stock pot, with a fairly high water level but not as high as for solids, perhaps 3/4 full. As we’ve discussed, solids need a high water level. For semi-solids you want a slightly lower water level so the yarn doesn’t have so much room to move; you want to get more dye on sections of the skein and less on other areas. This gives the darker (more dye) and lighter (less dye) tones.

When I dye my semi-solids, I usually lay down a base layer in a method similar to solids. I do not have any acid in my simmering water and I add a small amount of dye in much the same method as for solids; I make my dye bath and then add my yarn. This gives a fairly consistent all-over colour. From there I might add another layer of the same colour or a different one in the same method. Once I’m happy with my base colour, I’ll add my acid and allow it to set for a few minutes.

Then depending on what colourway I’m dyeing, I’ll add my next colour (could be the same as my previous steps or another of the same colour group) in an indirect method, where I pull and push my yarn into and out of the ‘clouds’ of predissolved dye as I add them to the pot. This allows certain parts of the skein to get the full brunt of the dye where other parts only get a small amount.  This step can be repeated as many times as required, with as many dyes as required to get the desired effect.

I personally love using semi-solids (and their variegated tonal cousins). I find they give a lovely depth to the colour of the overall knitted fabric, and generally no one stitch is identical to another as they all have a slightly different tone.

So I hope you enjoyed this installment and it has been helpful. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Do you like working with semi-solids? Do you have a favourite dyer of semi-solids? Let me know in the comments.

Stay tuned for the next post on tonals.

Hand Dyed Yarn for Newbies: Solids

Hello and welcome to my new blog series entitled ‘Hand Dyed Yarn for Newbies’!


Three different types of hand dyed yarn: semi-solid, variegated and tonal. Yarns pictured are from MyMuddlings Yarns: ‘Be Still My Beating Heart’, ‘Winterfell’ and ‘Wisteria Arbour’

Now, this series has nothing specific about how to dye yarn. I will touch on how things are done but it’s more about helping you initially to know what each type of hand dyed yarn is and then to select patterns that go with various types of hand dyed yarn. This series will be helpful for newbie yarn crafters but also established crafters who have never used hand dyed yarns before.

Every dyer has their own style, the way they use colour and of course their favourite colours, but the base types of dye method usually stay the same, and they can be combined to give different effects. Today’s post is about solids.


Now this is the most simple of all the dye methods. It can be done with just one dye colour, or a combination to get a new colour but basically it gives a single all over colour. The fantastic Nicole over at Hue Loco has an amazing collection called ‘Fly’ that are a range of solid colours and they’re beautiful:


Hue Loco Fly Collection ‘Drift’

The way to achieve this ‘solid’ all over colour is to use a high water level immersion method where you’ve already added your premixed dye to the pot to create your dye bath. (The reason I use the apostrophes around the word solid is because hand dyed yarn will never truly be totally solid. You can get pretty close but due to the nature of the process, i.e. human hands are doing the work, you will likely get a small amount of variation in your skein.) The point at which you add your acid can change the overall evenness of the colour and sometimes salt is used to slow the uptake of the dye and that will affect it too. Personally, if I’m dyeing a solid, I prefer to have the yarn circulating in the dye bath for a few minutes so the dye can touch all parts of the skein before it is locked to the yarn with the acid (and heat). The reason for the high water level is so there’s plenty of space for the yarn to float about, and you’re more likely to get an even, all over colour.

For me, I don’t really dye many (if any) solids, or purchase hand dyed solids because I think most times you can find a cheaper, commercial alternative. Of course the exception to this would be if you’re using a semi-solid, tonal or variegated yarn from a hand dyer but want a coordinating solid skein to match. This is why Nicole of Hue Loco has made her Fly Collection. The are a range of specially curated colours to coordinate with her other yarns and they work brilliantly.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this first instalment in my Hand Dyed Yarn for Newbies series. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. 🙂 Do you like working with hand dyed solids? Let me know in the comments.