A Field Guide for Yarn – Part II

The Color of Yarn

When you’re adventuring in the wilds of your LYS, you’ll find that there are so many colors to choose from! Below are different types of colorways and suggestions for a good match between color and project.

Solid Yarn


What are they? If your yarn is only consistent color throughout, it is a solid. For yarn that is a true solid, you have to purchase from a larger yarn company rather than an independent dyer. Why? Because the fiber must be dyed before it is processed and spun into yarn – something that only larger yarn companies can manage.
What do you do with them? Well… whatever you want! They are great for showing off fun patterns in a project, like cables or lacework. They make a good contrast to variegated yarn. They can’t be beat for fun color-work patterns. Solids are solidly awesome.

Wonderland Yarns Mad Hatter Sport

Image: Wonderland Yarns Mad Hatter Sport
Photo source: https://frabjousfibers.com/product/mad-hatter-sport/


What are they? Semi-solids are the indie dyer’s version of a solid. The yarn has been dyed all one color, but because of slight variations in how the dye reaches the yarn, there are slight variations in color. Sometimes dyers call them tonals as well – but you will know what you’re looking at when you see it.
What do you do with them? You can treat them as a solid and use them when you want the pattern to shine, or to use in contrast with other yarns, or for color-work. Just understand that there will be slight color variations, and you may want to alternate skeins when making larger projects such as sweaters.

Solids and semi-solids do great with fun stitch work, such as the Dustland Shawl or Plymouth Cabled sweater.

Image: HiKoo Simpliworsted Tonal
Photo Source: https://www.skacelknitting.com/shop/simpliworsted-tonal-7031#attr=9564,7037


What are they? Tonals are similar to semi-solids, except they have been purposefully dyed with differing color saturation. Tonals are sort of a cross between a variegated yarn and a solid.

What do I do with them? Depending on how much variation you have, this yarn may obscure more intricate patterns. If you’re using in a larger project, such as a sweater, you may want to alternate skeins.
We stock some gorgeous tonal yarns, including Simpliworsted or Simplicity by HiKoo, and Urth Monokrom.

Variegated Yarns

What are they? Variegated yarn is any yarn with multiple colors. Tonals, because they’re made with a single color, are not variegated. Variegation can be close (such as mint green and teal) or more dramatic (such as mint green and hot pink) or anything in between. Technically, any yarn that has multiple colors – such as self-patterning and gradients) are variegated. However, when we describe variegated yarn we typically are talking about something like this:

variegated yarn

What do I do with them? Complex patterns such lace and cables can get lost in a variegated yarn, especially if there’s a lot of color going on. Sometimes they look better on the hank than in the finished object, so we recommend working up a swatch to see how it will turn out before starting that bit project. Sometimes the colors will pool, and depending on the look you’re going for this could be a blessing or a curse. Depending on the pattern, you may get different effects. Some patterns help to break up variegation to minimize pooling, such as Hermione’s Everyday Sock.

For larger projects that use multiple hanks, such as a sweater, we recommend alternating skeins – variation in how the skeins take the dye can lead to slight color differences that show themselves in the finished project.

Gradient Yarn

Gradients or Gradient Minis

What are they? Gradients are often shown in cakes to show off the full range of color. They can be a single color for an ombre effect (the darker end of the gradient is held in the dye longer) or multiple colors. Smoother gradients are accomplished with more points of variation.

Wonderland Yarns Blossoms really show off their ombre effects with their cakes. Schoppel Zauberball is wound in a ball what comes next is a surprise.
What do I do with them? Gradients really allow your yarn to do the work. More intricate patterns aren’t lost in the color, so they’re great for lace patterns. However, they’re interesting enough for simple patterns as well. Patterns that allow you to keep going with simple repeats until you run out of yarn are recommended so you get the full range of color.

Mad Hatter Blossoms

Image: Wonderland Yarns Mad Hatter Blossoms
Photo Source: https://frabjousfibers.com/product/mad-hatter-blossoms-r/
What about gradient mini-skeins? Gradient mini-skeins give you the same effect as a single gradient cake, but in mini-skein form. Mini-skeins are easier for dyers to manage, and also allow you to have more control over where you want your color to land in a project – you can arrange the colors how you see fit without having to resort to scissors.

We offer several gradient minis, including Urth Merino Gradients and Zauber Perlen.

Self-Patterning Yarns

What are they? Self-patterning yarns do the color work for you, and there is so much variation!
Self-striping yarns make stripes – big or small. Other self-patterning yarns, such as “faux isle,” look like fancy color work, but are actually just a single strand of yarn.
I love Urth Uneek Fingering and Uneek Worsted for self-striping patterns. But I have a soft spot for faux Fair Isle patterns, such as Wisdom Pix and Nordic Tapestry.
What do I do with them? You’ll want to consider whether your pattern matches the size of the repeating color pattern in the yarn – quick color change on a sock-weight yarn might be better for socks or mittens than for a shawl, large blocks of color change may work better on a shawl or blanket than a hat. Check the yarn company’s website or projects on Ravelry for suggestions or to see how the yarn works up.

Wisdom Yarn Pack

Image: Wisdom Yarn Pix

But that’s not all…

This will get you started but there is so much more you’ll find on your color adventures!

Superwash Yarn

Image: Universal Deluxe Worsted Superwash

Heathers are made with different shades of color spun into the same yarn, such as Universal Deluxe Worsted Superwash.

Tweed Yarn

Image: Universal Deluxe DK Tweed Superwash

Tweeds have contrasting bits of fiber spun into a solid, such as Universal Deluxe Superwash Worsted Tweed.
And that just scratches the surface. There’s a ton of fun to be had with color. And if something doesn’t feel quite right, sometimes the pattern can make all the difference.

P.S. Especially with variegated and self-patterning yarns – don’t forget to swatch!

Get Inspired!

Check out our friends' projects and share your own
Tag your photos with #tinkandthefrogsamples on Instagram to add your project to our growing showcase!

Wouldn`t the the newest baby in town look precious in this sweater?

Melissa crocheted this Quick and Easy Baby Cardigan (designed by Zelna Olivier) using just 2 skeins of Malabrigo Rios. It is so soft and warm - perfect to keep baby nice and cozy!

Mostly stitched using double crochet, this cardi whips up in no time.


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Sample time!

Michelle knit this Dodging Raindrops cowl on @wonderlandyarns Mary Ann base in the Toadstool colorway. This cowl is excellent car or travel knitting, with just enough interest to keep it from getting boring. The result is a soft and squishy cowl that is reminiscent of spring rain!

#tinkandthefrogsamples #knitsample #wonderlandyarnsmaryann

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Sample time! Michelle wrote this Colorburst Celebration Cowl pattern to say thank you after her first year of Tink & The Frog!

The pattern uses just one skein of Wonderland Yarns & Frabjous Fibers March Hare in their Colorburst collection. This project knits up quick using simple ribbing, stockinette and linen stitch. Michelle used the Blue Skies & Rainbows colorway.

#tinkandthefrogsamples #colorburst #marchhare #knitting #yarn #yarnaddict

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Wouldn`t the the newest baby in town look precious in this sweater?

Melissa crocheted this Quick and Easy Baby Cardigan (designed by Zelna Olivier) using just 2 skeins of Malabrigo Rios. It is so soft and warm - perfect to keep baby nice and cozy!

Mostly stitched using double crochet, this cardi whips up in no time.


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Sample time!

This Butterfly / Papillon shawl is just stunning! Pairing Urth Yarn`s Uneek Fingering from with a solid, the yarn does of a lot of the colorwork so you can focus on this fun but challenging pattern. Lots of garter stitch makes for a squishy wrap, but the fingering weight yarn makes it light enough to wear out on a summer evening.


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