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hand dyed yarn: semisolid vs tonal

midas hand dyed yarn by phydeaux designs

Do you get a little confused about hand dyed yarn terminology?  I know I used to – and sometimes still do.

To a certain extent, maybe everybody does, because finding a rock solid definition for anything related to hand dyed yarn can sometimes be tricky.

For instance, what’s the difference between “semisolid” and “tonal” colourways?

Oh, wait, let’s back up one step: what’s a colourway, you ask?  That just means the color of the yarn or fiber.  The range or combination of colours in which a style or design is available.

I think “semisolid” is a little more clear than “tonal.”  A semisolid colourway is not quite … a solid.  You could call Phydeaux’s Midas colourway (shown above) a semisolid, with so many shades and tones of gold, but a true semisolid would be ONE gold color in varying intensities.  A semisolid can involve multiple layers of color, or maybe just one color bath, allowing the yarn to take up the dye to varying degrees, resulting in a blotchy – in a pretty way – color.

Any of Phydeaux’s non-variegated yarns could be called “semisolid.”  And many of them are, but many of them also contain subtle – or not so subtle – shifts and flecks of color.  Midas, for instance, is a lot of beautiful golds, with flecks of red and rust and pumpkin throughout.  So what do you call that?

You could call it a “tonal” colourway.  Tonals tend to involve more layers and glazes of color, resulting in pops and shifts of different colors.

alchemy hand dyed yarn from phydeaux designs

For instance, “Alchemy” by Phydeaux is a deep, dark, mysterious semisolid, which all sorts of shifting colors, from berry to deep gold to hints of green and blue and grape and red and brown.  Alchemy’s dyeing process takes at least four different dye baths of completely different colors, which creates all that shifting color, along with a lot of depth and dimension.

If you google “semisolid vs. tonal yarn,” your gazillion (or 79,500) results will all differ.  I personally love dyeing, and knitting, semisolids full of life, depth and dimension, with subtle shifts and breathes of differing colors throughout.  So I suppose I love dyeing and knitting tonals.  Or semisolids.  Or semisolid tonals.

Which do you prefer knitting:  semisolids or tonals?

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