various colorful yarns

Yarn 101: Color

Not gonna lie, one of the best parts of working in a yarn store is all of the color! And that color comes in so many varieties these days that it merits taking a closer look at all the options. Below are the big mile high categories to keep in mind as you shop for your next project.

SOLID skeins of magenta yarn

  • As the name implies, this is a skein of one pure color. Solids are often machine dyed and tend to be very consistent within a dye lot and even reasonably stable from lot to lot.
  • Colorwork, lace, textures, and other fancy stitchwork sing in solid colors. Show off your hard work to its best effect!
  • Berroco, Lang, HiKoo, Quince & Co., and Brooklyn Tweed all have great solid colors.
  • Pictured: Berroco Vintage Chunky in color Dewberry

HEATHERED & TWEEDskeins of gray heathered yarn

  • One step away from solid, heathered colors contain flecks of a background color like white or black or gray.
  • Heathers are still a safe bet to show off colorwork and more complicated stitch patterns.
  • Again, Berroco, Quince & Co. and Brooklyn Tweed all have great heathers in their palettes.
  • Visually speaking, a kissing cousin to heather is tweed, in which the flecks become more pronounced nubs. We love the tweeds of both Chubs and Squeak and (no shock here) Brooklyn Tweed.
  • Pictured: Quince & Co. Osprey in Kittywake

TONAL & SEMI-SOLIDorange skeins of yarn

  • Another step down the path away from truly solid colors! Tonals/semi-solids usually offer several shades of the same color, adding movement and dimension.
  • Depending on how widely the shades of the main color vary, these are usually still going to show off any complicated stitch patterns just fine.
  • Tonal yarns are often hand-dyed or kettle-dyed.
  • Hazel Knits and Malabrigo are our go-to brands when people ask for tonal yarn. Blue Moon Fiber Arts, Knitted Wit, and Twine also have lovely semi-solid offerings in addition to their better-know variegated ones.
  • Pictured: Hazel Knits Entice in Rick's Cognac


  • Ombre usually refers to one long, slow color change for the entire skein.
  • Self-striping often indicates a more defined shift from one color to the next, probably with a shorter repeat, but it's essentially the same idea.
  • These can involve shades of similar colors or the entire rainbow!
  • Ombres do a lot of heavy lifting for you. You just knit or crochet along normally and let the magic happen.
  • Freia is a great example.
  • Pictured: Freia Super Bulky in Dirty Hippy


  • Variegated colorways combine several (let's say 3 to infinity) colors in to one cohesive package. That's why they're often called "colorways" instead of just "colors".
  • These can stripe or pool or distribute evenly across your fabric depending on what you are making and what the stitch repeat is. It's more or less luck of the draw, though tbh we've all spent countless hours trying to force a skein into to producing the desired effect.
  • Highly variegated yarns tend to obscure stitch definition and patterns... though it's often well worth the trade off.
  • Hand-painted yarns are often variegated. Kettle-dyeing produces a less distinct, more watercolor-like variegation. Either way there tends to be  variation (sometimes significant) from skein to skein.
  • Knitted Wit, BMFA, Twine, Hedgehog, Black Cat, Blissful Knits and Lolabean all have wonderful variegated colorways. Malabrigo is the go-to for kettle-dyed colors.
  • Pictured: Knitted Wit Victory DK in PDX Carpet


  • Ahh, speckles. The newest addition to the landscape of dyed yarn. As the name implies, it's small spots of color or colors instead of longer sections.
  • It takes a deft hand to dye and each skein will be unique. 
  • Because of all the movement and pops of color, speckles can obscure  fancy pattern work.
  • Hedgehog, Malabrigo, and Blue Moon all have wonderful examples of speckled colorways.
  • Pictured: Hedgehog in Shiver

These are just the major groupings - of course, there are many more! Sock blanks... self-patterning... not to mention the impact of fiber content and ply. It's a nearly endless array of color!

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