Tag Archives: yarn

Variegated Yarn, Part 3: Types of Variegation

In the previous two posts, we have been focusing on the specific yarn shown below:


This yarn has what we could call ‘short patterning’.  The entire cycle of TBBTWOOW repeats itself rather quickly.  In the sample swatches, the pattern starts over every 1 1/2 – 2 rows.  If we used this yarn for a bigger project, the color pattern would repeat within the same row.

Here are some other yarns with short patterning:

  Caron Simply Soft Yarn-4ozLion<SUP>® </SUP> Cotton

All of these yarns will produce zigzag patterning or diagonal striped patterning, depending on whether you work in rows or in the round.

On the other end of the spectrum, here is an example of ‘long patterning’ variegated yarn:

Yarn Kaleidoscope  Boutique Unforgettable™, large

This yarn will not produce zigzag or diagonal striped patterning.  It will produce stripes, whether it is worked in the round or in rows.  The width of the stripe depends on how wide the work is.  For example, if you used this yarn to make a sweater, the body of the sweater will have narrower stripes than the sleeves.

It is fairly easy to tell the difference between short patterning and long patterning variegated yarn just by looking at it in the skein.  For short patterning yarns, the adjacent strands of yarn will be different colors, and for long patterning yarn, there will be sections of strands of the same color.

Finally, there is also ‘self-striping’ yarn.  This is different from the ‘long patterning’ yarn in that it is generally more intricate and meant to be used for certain projects such as socks.

Self-striping yarn will generally be advertised as such.  It can be tricky to use self-striping yarn for projects other than ones it is intended for.


Variegated Yarn, Part 2: Working in the Round

In the last post, we saw how working back and forth in rows with variegated yarn will lead to a zigzag pattern.  The length of the rows determines how the colors work together in the zigzag pattern.  Another trait of variegated yarn worked in rows is the ‘double up effect’, where you get the same color in two consecutive rows at the edge.  If your rows are long enough, you will also see the double up effect in the middle of your work.

Working in the round produces a different type of pattern.  There is no double up effect and the colors form diagonal stripes that go one way only. They zig, but they don’t zag.

In this example, the orange and tan pair up and the brown and white pair up to form diagonal stripes.  Remember the color schema for this yarn: TBBTWOOW.  You can see that orange is in the same position with respect to tan as brown is to white.


In the next example, made with longer rows, we get single color diagonal stripes.  If you pick a single column and move up, the rows follow the color schema exactly – white, orange, white, tan, brown, tan.


To summarize these two variegated yarn posts:

  • Working back and forth in rows produces a zigzag pattern.
  • Working in the round produces a diagonal stripe pattern.
  • The length of the row/round determines how the zigzag or stripe pattern works.  You may need to make a swatch that is the actual length of your project in order to determine if you will like how the variegated yarn works with that project.  If you don’t like what you get, you may be able to significantly alter it by lengthening or shortening the rows by a couple of stitches.
  • In order to visualize how the colors will come together in the zigzag or stripe pattern, it is useful to identify the color schema.
  • Increases or decreases will change the pattern (more on this in a bit).

Next part: different types of variegated yarn…

Variegated Yarn, Part 1: Working in Rows

Man, I’m a sucker for some variegated yarn.

It can look so nice in the skein.

Mary Maxim Lollipop Yarn (908)





Patons Lace
Gray scale!






Bernat Sox Yarn (590)
Dark Rainbow!



All the colors look fantastic together – and I want all those colors in my project.

The possibilities seem endless.  But they’re not. That’s the problem with variegated yarn – what you see on the skein is not what you will see in your knitting and crocheting.  Furthermore, you have very little control over how the colors will play out in your work.

I have abandoned many a project with variegated yarn due to being unhappy with how the colors of the yarn work together in that particular pattern.  The trick to effectively using variegated yarn is to carefully plan how to use it with your project.  This is just like making a swatch – it takes time up front but saves you time in the end.

Unless it’s hand dyed, variegated yarn is made with a repeating pattern.  The yarn below has a very simple pattern.  If you follow from the bottom up, you can see that there is a longer section of brown, a shorter section of tan, a shorter section of white, a longer section of orange, a shorter section of white, a shorter section of tan, and repeat.  Basically, there are two main parts – one long section of brown surrounded by short sections of tan and one long section of orange surrounded by short sections of white.  We could abbreviate this as TBBTWOOW.


The rigidity and simplicity of this pattern has consequences for how it will work up.

If you knit or crochet back and forth in rows, you will get something like this:


Notice how each color section zigzags back and forth.  The orange and brown, which are opposite each other in the TBBTWOOW color scheme, are also opposite each other in the zigzag pattern.  the tan and white form a less discernible zigzagging pattern in the background.  If you do not do any increases or decreases, this pattern will repeat just like this for the full length of your work.

If you don’t like the way the colors mesh, you can try rows with more or fewer stitches.  You will still get the zigzag pattern, but the colors will line up differently:


When working in rows with variegated yarn, the edge of the rows looks different from the center.  In the detail below, you see that, at the edge, there are two consecutive rows of the same color, but that this ends as you move further into the center.


This is due to the fact that when you end one row you are unlikely to end right at the point of a color change, so of course you begin the next row with the same color.  It doesn’t matter how many stitches you have in a row or even if you do increases and decreases – you will always get this effect when working in rows with variegated yarn.

You will also see colors start to double up in the middle of the piece when working in rows that are long enough for more than half the color pattern to be used in one row.  We can divide the longer piece above into roughly seven sections:


Sections 1, 3, 5, and 7 have this double color effect.  You can even see that opposite colors (remember the TBBTWOOW schema) occur in the same row in sections 1 and 5 and in sections 3 and 7.  For example, wherever you see brown in section 1, you see orange in the same row in section 5.  Wherever you see white in section 3, you see tan in section 7.

As you become more familiar with these patterns, it will be easier to judge from the beginning if you have the right variegated yarn for the project.

Next part: working in the round…