Tips & Techniques for Using Variegated Yarn

Variegated yarn, or yarn dyed with more than one color, is one of my most favorite yarns to use.  It can have more subtle changes of color or a kaleidoscope of many colors.  The frequency of the colors can be long and spaced out, producing a self-striping pattern, like the photo below:

Click here for Fruit Punch Tablet Sleeve pattern

Or color can appear as shorter “flecks” like this hat:

Click here for Matilda Hat Pattern

Color changes can make your crocheted and knitted projects fun and exciting, making each stitch a wonderful surprise.  

Experimentation is key.  Try making a small swatch first before you commit to the project to be sure the yarn looks the way you would like it to look.  Often stitches will compliment the beautiful yarn, but sometimes it can compete with the variations, producing an overly busy-looking project.  You’ll want to use something that shows off both the fabulous colors and beautiful stitches.

Here are some more ideas for your adventures with variegated yarns:

  • Try a variegated yarn with a coordinating solid yarn for an interesting and unique stripe sequence.
  • Try longer stripes of color (like self-striping yarn) for more gradual and subtle color changes if you’re not into an all-over busier look.
  • Combine two different variegated yarn skeins for an interesting effect, although it might sound crazy, I’ve seen some beautiful projects with unexpected results where two strands of variegated yarn was held throughout.
  • If you begin a project and are not happy with the way the colors are revealing themselves, try a different stitch pattern.  Often switching can correct the problem, as other stitches use varying amounts of yarn and align themselves differently, making for a slight shift in the colors presented on the project.
  • Look at other finished projects that are made with the particular yarn you are using.  This will give you a good idea of what it will look like worked up.  Try searching the Ravelry yarn tab, find your yarn and look at finished projects.  Google Image Search is a fantastic tool as well.  Manufacturer’s websites often have patterns made with their yarn too.

“Pooling” in Variegated Yarns:

Pooling while knitting or crocheting is when large splotches of color develop, creating a “pool” of color.  While it can be integrated as a design element, it can sometimes be unwanted.  

Here are some tips to deal with pooling:

  • Try using holding two strands of the same yarn together.  You can use two different balls of yarn or pull from both the center and the outside if you only have one ball.
  • Try changing the stitch pattern
  • Try going up or down a needle or hook size, this works in some cases by adjusting gauge (be careful when adjusting gauge if you are making a project a specific size)
  • As I mentioned above, a solid stripe added in between variegated stripes will break up any pooling that may be occurring.
  • Embrace the pool!  Some folks plan for interesting pools of color and allow it to become part of the design.

With all of that being said, sometimes rules are meant to be broken!  If you like the way it looks, go for it!  Sometimes jumping in and being adventurous will create fun happy “accidents” that you may not have tried otherwise.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share about variegated yarns?  Be sure to comment below!

Here are some fun patterns (both crochet and knitting) you can try with a variegated skein:

Flower Patch Button Wrap (Crochet)

Kristen Shawl (Crochet)

Matilda Hat (Knitting)

Mango Salsa Scarf (Crochet)

Gelato Infinity Scarf (Crochet)

Wise Oak Ribbed Scarf (Crochet)

Cotton Candy Hat (Knitting)

Celebration Scarf (Crochet)

Mulberry Shawl (Crochet)

Granny Berry Dishcloths (Crochet)

For more fun projects and pretty patterns, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for the latest updates!

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10 thoughts on “Tips & Techniques for Using Variegated Yarn

  1. Thanks for the tips! I have found pooling to be an issue with a few yarns. What is the yarn in the first photo? It is very pretty!

  2. I like pooling. I prefer to use variegated yarn when knitting in the round, in a straight tube design, like the middle part of a hat. That way, the colors pool better. I don't like to use it for ribbing, because the purl bumps show through. I don't like to use variegated in a decreasing area, like the crown of a hat, because the colors spread out more. That's FYI; if you like it another way, that's fine, too.

  3. I love self-striping, self-patterning and any form of colourful yarn. I'm so pleased you wrote this blog as I've been meaning to do something similar as there seems to be a fair few people out there who don't like using this type of yarn! I will be reblogging this to spread the word. And trying holding two self-striping yarns together to see the impact. Thanks again.

  4. I'll use a variegated sock yarn with a solid yarn together for a marled look and a thicker fabric.

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