five skeins of yarn in different colorways of purple and blue next to a bouquet of flowers on a wooden surface

Yarn Dyeing Techniques

This article will be your ultimate guide to yarn dyeing techniques.

six different pictures of naturally dyed yarns in shades of green, blue, purple, yellow and pink/orange

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Understanding Hand Dyed Yarn Color Terminology

Every hand dyer has his or her own unique yarn dyeing style, whether using natural or synthetic dyes. There are, however, some common terms you should be familiar with. Even if you don’t dye yarns yourself, knowing the terminology of certain color effects in yarns will help you choose the right yarn for your next knitting project (or whatever fiber craft you are interested in).

Understanding hand dyed yarn color terminology can seem confusing, especially for beginners. Therefore let’s break down the topic piece by piece.

If you want to learn how to dye yarn with natural dyes, you can check out this step by step tutorial on my Youtube channel:

a woman holding a yellow skein of yarn. a second picture is showing a basket filled with colorful skeins of yarn. a text saying: How to dye yarn at home with natural dyes

What do I even mean by Yarn Dyeing Technique?

When it comes to hand dyed yarns, there are two factors to consider. The first and probably main factor you think about is the basic color of the yarn. You might be looking for a soft blue yarn. Or you want to find a burgundy red yarn for the cozy sweater you want to knit yourself for fall.

The second factor you have to take into consideration in a yarn is the distribution of the color(s) throughout the yarn. This is achieved by using a certain yarn dyeing technique.

What are the Different Methods of Yarn Dyeing?

In general, these are the terms that are usually used when describing different yarn dyeing styles:

  • Solid
  • Tonal (also called Semi-Solid)
  • Variegated
  • Self-Striping
  • Speckled
  • Gradient / Ombre

Let’s have a look at what each of these terms actually means. Yarns can fall into one of two categories when looking at their color. They can either be single-colored (monochrome) or consist of more than one color. This means they are two-tone or even multi-colored (polychrome).

Solid and tonal are both single-colored styles whereas the other options consist of two or more different colors. Gradient and ombre yarns are the exception of the rule because they can belong to either of the two categories.

Monochromatic Yarn Dyeing Techniques

A solid skein of yarn is monochrome with an evenly distributed color intensity within the skein.

A tonal yarn is sometimes also called semi-solid. It is similar to the solid skein due to the fact that it is also monochrome. The difference lies in the distribution of color value which varies within the skein. You will find lighter and darker parts throughout the yarn. This gives the colorway a more natural look.

four mini skeins of yarns in different values of pink on a white surface and a yellow tulip next to them

Polychromatic Yarn Dyeing Techniques

A variegated or multitoned skein, on the other hand, contains two or more different colors within one skein. This effect can be achieved by either only dyeing parts of the skein and leaving the other parts undyed or by using several different natural dyes. Depending on the dyeing technique, you can either create a random distribution of colors throughout the skein or generate a striped effect.

When you knit or crochet with a self-striping yarn, your project will show smaller or wider stripes, depending on the way you dyed the yarn and the width of your work.

two skeins of yarns in different shades of purples on a white surface next to three blue cornflowers

Next, there is the speckled skein. It is also polychromatic and contains spots of color throughout the skein. The base color of the yarn can either be the natural colorway or it can be colored with a natural dye. It is also possible to create several different colored speckles within one skein.

a cream colored skein of yarn with pink and golden speckles on a white surface next to a blooming oregano flower

Finally, there is the gradient or ombre yarn. Like I mentioned above, these types of yarns can either be monochrome or multi-colored.
In a single-colored yarn, there is a change in color value happening from one end of the skein to the other. For example, you could have a pink yarn that starts with a deep pink hue and gets lighter and lighter throughout the skein until it ends with a soft blush.

yarn cake in color gradient from deep to soft pink
picture credit: picketheyarn/Etsy

In a multi-colored yarn, the color could shift, for example, from a deep blue to orange to yellow.

yarn cake in color gradient from dark blue over orange to yellow
picture credit: RoseLayneCrochet/Etsy

How to Dye a Solid / Tonal / Variegated / Speckled Yarn

When I started natural dyeing in 2019, I researched the topic intensively. And while there is a lot of valuable information about the general topic of natural dyeing out there, I wasn’t able to find pretty much anything on the actual dyeing techniques to create these different color effects on the yarn.

Unlike dyeing with synthetic acid dyes, where it is rather straightforward to create a variegated or speckled yarn because the uptake of the dye is much faster, using natural dyes is a complex and slow process. It is simply not possible to transfer the methods that work with synthetic dyes over to natural dyes.

This is why I decided to create an ebook with step-by-step tutorials to show you exactly how the different techniques work.

What will You Get?

cover of an ebook about natural dyeing techniques volume 1 by annika scheer, a stack of purple yarns on a wooden surface

The ebook contains four specific dyeing techniques to create different effects on yarn. You will learn exactly how to dye

  • solid,
  • tonal,
  • variegated
  • and speckled skeins of yarn using natural dyes.

You will receive the ebook in pdf format (23+ pages) immediately after your purchase.

The ebook is also available in my Etsy shop.

excerpt of natural dyeing techniques ebook, showing the table of contents. several pictures of hand dyed yarns in different shades of purples and pinks.

Here is a look at the table of contents. As you can see, I also included a step-by-step tutorial on how to dye yarns with natural dyes (chapter 2). If you have never dyed a skein of yarn with natural dyes before, you should start with this tutorial. If you have some experience with natural dyeing or already read my blog post on how to dye yarn with natural dyes, you can consider directly moving on to the next chapter.

What can you Expect to Learn from the Ebook?

You will learn exactly how to create these four types of yarns: solid, tonal, variegated and speckled.

If you want to know more about the ebook itself, you can find a more detailed description of the ebook here.

What Others are Saying about the Ebook:

I am interested in learning about natural dyeing and read this e-book as someone who is a complete novice at the techniques used when dyeing with natural ingredients. The book is so clearly written and well thought out. I’m looking forward to experimenting and discovering some new (to me) natural colourways!

Margaret from Prince Edward Island, Canada

Thank you very much for letting me test read your ebook. I found it interesting to read and I love the fact, that you provide information on the different dyeing techniques with natural materials, as there is hardly any information “out there” at the present moment (as you stated in the ebook). I am looking forward to trying out the variegated and speckled technique, as I have only been dyeing solid skeins with natural materials so far. I love your enthusiasm and passion for natural dying and enjoy reading your blog posts and look forward to your news letters.

Kind regards, Kelly from Switzerland

A really concise but thorough introduction to natural dying. Annika explains these basic techniques clearly without being too wordy, illustrating each step with photos as well. I think I will definitely be able to have a first attempt at dying after reading this!

Emily, Vienna, Austria
tablet with an ebook about natural dyeing techniques. in the background you can see a white surface and a purple statice flower.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments or send me an email at

Pin It For Later: Yarn Dyeing Techniques

five pictures of different colored hand dyed skeins of yarn and a text saying 4 yarn dyeing techniques every natural dyer should know

Want to learn how to dye yarn using natural dyes?

I have created a beginner’s guide to natural dyeing that contains everything you need to know to get started. And the best thing: it is available for free!

four hand dyed skeins of yarn in shades of purple and blue on a wooden surface and a text saying beginner's guide: natural dyeing. everything you need to know to get started dyeing yarn with natural dyes


I am a yarn dyeing artist, writer and educator.
I am also an avid knitter and love to create something with my hands every day.
Read more about me here:

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  1. Paula says:

    Thank you for your great article about mordanting which I just found. I’m a long time knitter and crocheted but really want to learn to hand dye naturally. Can’t wait for the book!

    1. says:

      Hi Paula,
      Thank you so much for your comment! I hope you enjoy the ebook and would love to hear about your natural dyeing results!

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