Knitting With Variegated Colourways
February 02, 2018

Knitting With Variegated Colourways

Variegated colourways are super fun to knit, especially when knitting patterns consisting mainly of stockinette or garter, because they keep you engaged with colour and add another dimension to your otherwise plain project.  It's a lot of fun to watch colours pop up in your fabric as you knit with variegated yarn; plus it takes your mind off the monotony that can arise from all those knit stitches!  It's a shame that a lot of knitters shy away from variegated colourways, because they think these colours are too bright or they worry about them pooling.  All of these issues can be easily avoided when you know how to 'read' and use variegated colourway; and, that is exactly what we are going to look at today.  Hopefully, after reading this post we'll have you itching to get some variegated yarn onto your needles!


Pooling And variegated Colourways

Pooling occurs when you knit with a yarn that has been dyed with long colour repeats, like those seen in dip-dyed yarns.



Here we can see that the yarn has large chunks of colour (one at either end of the skein); this will cause colour to pool when knitted.  Colours like this look great when knitted into socks because they cause micro striping.  Here's an example of the yarn above, colourway is called Rain, knitted into socks (check out the micro striping!):



Fun right?!  But, if you were to use this yarn in a large project, like a shawl or garment, you would end up with big pools of colour.  This happens because there is no random colour placement; the colours will stack up row after row and cause a big blob of colour to form on the fabric.  Sometimes this is the effect we are after,  but when you're not expecting it, it can be a bit disappointing!  Here's an example of colour pooling:



How To Avoid Pooling

  • Check the skein for long repeats of colour.
  • Check how your colourway will knit up by swatching it! 
  • Alternate between two skeins of yarn, as this will break up any pooling

You can also cake up your yarn using a ball winder and check the yarn cake for signs of pooling.  If colours pool in the yarn cake, you can bet that they will pool in your project as well.  Here's what a yarn cake with pooling looks like:



See all those blobs of colour?  They are colours pooling together and the effect will be reproduced when you knit them. 


Variegated Colours That WON'T Pool

If you are after a hand-dyed variegated yarn that doesn't pool, this is what you need to look for.  Firstly, you want a colourway that has been dyed with random splashes of colour:



You can see the skein has a lot of colour that has been randomly splashed on.  The yarn cake has no blobs of colour; again, it's just one big wonderful mess of colour.  Now let's look at how this yarn has swatched up:



No pooling! Yipee.


Knitting With Variegated Colour

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, variegated yarn really brightens up plain projects.  By selecting a plain pattern, such as a stockinette cardigan or a garter-stitch shawl, you can let the variegated colours shine.  But what if you love knitting variegated yarns, but don't like wearing a ton of colour?  Obviously you can choose a subtle variegated, but why not try something a bit bolder and use these following techniques to tone down variegated colours?

1. Adding a Semi-Solid Colour
  • By adding a semi-solid stripe to your variegated yarn, you can really tone down the mix of colour that is in the variegated colourway. 
  • Select a neutral or match the semi-solid colour to a colour that is already present in the variegated colourway. 
  • To make the stripes pop, choose a light semi-solid to contrast against a dark variegated or a dark semi-solid to contrast against a light variegated colourway.

Timely Cardigan by Libby Jonson


  • Brioche stitch using a variegated combined with a semi-solid looks amazing and is a great way to use bold and bright variegated colouways.


Stripified by Stephen West


  • Colourwork that involves a semi-solid paired with a variegated colourway look amazing as well!


Marvelous Mitts by karendipity


2. Using Different Stitch Patterns
  • Small lace and eyelet patterns that are repeated over and over help to tone down bright, variegated yarn.

    Pebble Beach Shawl by Helen Stewart


    • Slipped stitch patterns actually alters the progression of colours, which in turn mixes them around and creates a more subtle mix of colour.


    Majuga by Joji Locatelli


    • Textured stitch patterns work in a similar way to slipped stitches, in that they alter the colour progression of variegated yarns.  Seed stitch, bobbles, textured patterns or cables over reverse stockinette stitch, even garter stitch really helps to tone down variegated colours.


    Nelumbo by Asja Janeczek



    Colour Is Key by AbbyeKnits


    • Dropped stitches work in a similar way to eyelets and look fabulous when knit with variegated yarns.

     One & Done by Casapinka


    Ready to cast on with some variegated yarn?  Check out our Pinterest page for more pattern ideas that we think would look fabulous with variegated colourways.