4 Secrets for Success With Variegated Yarn

When I shop for yarn, it’s always the variegated yarns that look the most tempting as I am browsing through the store shelves. Their beautiful colors seem to beckon me, and it’s hard to resist them.

Yet I find that I’m sometimes disappointed when I actually crochet with my variegated yarns. Often, I find that the finished projects just don’t look as nice as I had hoped they would. (You can check out my list of worst crochet projects for confirmation of this. I’m warning you, it isn’t pretty.)

If you’re anything like me, variegated yarns could be responsible for some of your worst crochet project disasters. If you’ve ever made an ugly project using variegated yarn, please believe me, you aren’t alone.

I think the opposite is also true. Once you get a handle on how to use variegated yarn to its best advantage, it could result in some of your most spectacular crochet projects ever. The trick is just minimizing the amount of inevitable disasters along the way.

Each of my past disasters has taught me something important about what to expect from variegated yarn, and I’m getting better at figuring out what will work out and what won’t. Here are four of the most important secrets about using variegated yarn.

  • 01 of 05

    1. Use Self-Striping Yarns With Long Color Repeats

    Circles Crocheted Using Variegated Yarn
    Circles Crocheted Using Variegated Yarn. Circles Crocheted Using Variegated Yarn. Photo © Amy Solovay

    Some self-striping yarns have long lengths of each color. In my experience, these types of colorways tend to work well for crocheting with.

    You can see a couple of examples of what I'm talking about in the photo pictured here. In each of these circles, can you see how gradually the colors change and shift into each other? Colorways like this can ​accommodate a variety of different stitches, even the taller crochet stitches. These circles are worked in single crochet, but it's easy to of achieve pleasing results with plenty of other stitches too.

  • 02 of 05

    2. Combine 2 or More Yarns, Particularly Two or More Variegated Yarns

    Afghan Stitch Crocheted With 2 Different Variegated Yarns
    Photo © Michael Solovay

    For some reason, this often works well, even though it might seem like a crazy thing to do.

    Pictured here: a swatch of afghan stitch crocheted using two different variegated colorways, one of which is a red / burgundy / brown / black combination, and the other which is a combination of greens and gray.

    Some yarn combinations and stitch combinations work better than others, so be sure to check out these 5 ways to combine variegated yarns.

  • 03 of 05

    3. Keep It Simple

    An Example of What Too Busy Looks Like
    Photo © Amy Solovay

    It's easy to cross the line between eye-catching and too busy. The potholder pictured here is an example of what not to do. To avoid ending up with a similar disaster, keep your project details simple; when in doubt, less is better. This potholder would have been way better if I'd stopped before adding all the orange cross-stitching.

  • 04 of 05

    4. Research the Yarn

    Most of the time, yarn is yarn, and you can use it for either knitting or crocheting, interchangeably.

    However, when you start working with yarns that have distinctive color variations in the same skein, the differences between knit stitches and crochet stitches become much more apparent. They’re totally different, and variegated colors that work well for one aren’t guaranteed to work well for the other.

    In the past, I’ve found that some variegated colorways don’t work well with any crochet stitch I’ve tried. How frustrating!

    As it turns out, some yarn colorways were developed by knitters and intended for use in knitting projects. It’s possible that some of them might not even have been tested in crochet projects, ever. There’s nothing wrong with that, but at the same time, it’s a shame when unsuspecting crocheters purchase these yarns and are then disappointed when their projects don’t turn out well.

    A little research goes a long way here. If you want to buy a yarn specifically for crocheting, I think it’s a good idea to research the yarn. Look around the manufacturer’s website and see if they recommend any crochet patterns for use with that yarn. If there are crochet patterns that are already known to work well with the yarn, it’s a much safer bet that your crochet project has a chance at success too. (Even so, there are no guarantees.)

    If the manufacturer is only displaying knitting patterns, and you can’t find any evidence that the yarn works well for crochet, at that point it’s a total mystery. Maybe it will work well for crochet, but maybe it won’t. Without doing further research, or making an actual purchase, you have no way to know. In that case, I’d only recommend buying the yarn to crochet with if you’re feeling adventurous enough to give it a try for yourself.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Related Resources

    Simple Hat and Scarf Crocheted Using the Variegated Fall Colorway of Red Heart Super Saver Yarn
    Simple Hat and Scarf Crocheted Using the Variegated Fall Colorway of Red Heart Super Saver Yarn. Photo © Michael Solovay

    Want more information about variegated yarn, and inspiration for working with it? If so, I invite you to check out the following pages:

    Crocheting With Color