Color Pooling 101: Argyle Print

I’m ready to get on the argyle color pooling bandwagon. Who’s with me? I mean, really, how hard can it be? I’ve read several blogs and watched a few videos. I’ve even crocheted my way through several variegated color schemes. And here’s what I’ve learned so far: you will either get it right away (hallelujah), or there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth. There are several “rules” for color pooling. I’ll address a few of them and when you can break them.

This week we’ll look at pooling the argyle print and working a scarf; in future posts, I’ll discuss other projects you can make.

Rule 1: The variegated yarn needs to have a color sequence that repeats. It can have three colors, it can have eight colors—it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the colors repeat in the same order over and over and that each color in the sequence is the same length in every repeat (red, white, blue, green, red, white, blue, green, etc.). A color may also be in the sequence more than once (red, white, red, blue, green).

You should be able to make at least one single crochet and chain one per color, though three or more single crochet and chain ones is a little easier to see. I personally prefer yarns where each color is at least 7–10 inches long. Don’t be too particular about this, but understand that short repeats may frustrate you. I had a lot of trouble with yarn that had all short colors— two stitches each. And by trouble, I mean some colors only got one stitch because I just could not get a second one. Only my bullheadedness kept me crocheting with that yarn!color_pooling_error_600x600

Caveat: Even though it doesn’t matter how many colors there are in the sequence, how many colors, or more specifically, how long it takes to get through all the colors in the sequence does have a consequence. Longer color sequences will make wider scarves. Shorter sequences make narrower scarves.

Rule 2: Hook size doesn’t matter, except when it does! For the most part, you can use any size hook you want. You will be crocheting through the entire color sequence in the first row (then pulling out the last single crochet and chain one). If you use a large hook, you will make fewer (but larger) stitches. If you use a smaller hook, you will make more (but smaller) stitches. You may get stitches that are half of one color and half the next. That’s okay if you keep doing that every row. Or adjust the hook size so all the stitches are just one color.

Caveat: Hook size will matter if you are trying to follow a pattern for a specific colorway. Everyone’s crochet tension is slightly different, so you may either need to change the hook size if you want to start with the same number of chains as the pattern says, or adjust the starting chain following Rule 3.

Rule 3: To start, single crochet and chain one (the moss stitch) through the entire color sequence. This is Row 1. For Row 2, pull out the last single crochet and chain one of Row 1 and turn. Chain 2, single crochet in the chain one of the row below, chain one, skip one, continue the moss stitch to the end.

Theoretically, you should be able to tell if you are doing the argyle correctly on Row 3. After making several projects, I could actually tell by Row 3 if I was getting the argyle pattern, but when I first started doing the argyle pattern, it took a few more rows for me to recognize what was happening.

The Tell: Begin every row with a chain 2, and then continue the moss stitch. In Row 3, each color should be the same color as the one two rows below, only over one stitch. The new color should start one single crochet stitch after it did two rows below. In other words, each color should be shifting over one stitch (because of that single crochet and chain one you pulled out of Row 1.)

Wait—how many chain stitches do I need to start? See FAQs below.

Caveat: The new color is supposed to start one stitch later than it did two rows below, but 9 times out of 10, it started one stitch before for me. This fact leads to Rule 4.

Rule 4: Each color should shift one stitch compared to that same color two rows below. If it starts one stitch before that color two rows below, make sure every color starts one stitch earlier. If it starts one stitch later, then make sure every color starts one color later. When this doesn’t happen, follow Rule 5.
Rule 5: You will have to adjust your tension to make sure Rule 4 keeps happening. Because of the dyeing process, each color length in the sequence may vary slightly. To keep the argyle pattern working, you may have to frog (rip out) your project a little to crochet tighter or more loosely to make sure you keep getting the single crochets to start one stitch earlier or later. The perfect scarf will have the stitches shift one in every row for every color. But no one is perfect, or should I say, no yarn is perfect.

Caveat: Sometimes as I worked through rules 4 and 5, a correction on one color meant future colors would not shift, no matter how tightly or loosely I crocheted. You may have to break the rules for one color so the rest of the argyle pattern keeps working. Don’t worry; it’s nearly impossible to tell that you’ve done that, even for people with OCD!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many chains do I need to start with?
Unless you have a pattern, or someone tells you what hook size they used in the exact same colorway, the only way to be sure is to make a swatch. Create a little swatch in the moss stitch. Count how many single crochet and chain ones it takes to get through all the colors in a sequence. That is the starting chain. Starting chain cheat #1: Chain through an entire color sequence, then begin Row 1. You will have extra chains, but those can be pulled out by weaving the tail end back through the unused chains. Starting chain cheat 2: Use technology. Go to the {link to} site, type in how many colors your skein contains, then how many stitches you get per color. The site will show you how the yarn will pool depending on your starting number of chain stitches.

What if my color starts striping straight up (or in a little wiggly line)?
Reread Rules 4 and 5.The color is not shifting over one stitch any more. Each color is starting where it did two rows below. Frog back to where it didn’t shift, adjust your tension, and make sure each color is shifting one stitch.

What if the color starts two or three stitches too early?
You may still get an argyle look if the colors are longer. The classic X look will happen, but the X’s will be shorter and squatter. For the nice tall X’s, make sure colors shift just one stitch. That may require some frogging and making sure the color shifts only one stitch.

If I have very consistent tension, will the argyle pattern just keep happening without having to pay attention to every color change?
No, no, and no. You can have the most consistent tension in the world, and you will still have to pay attention to each color change. That is because of the dyeing process. Colors in the variegated yarn can vary slightly, which can affect how the colors line up as you crochet.

How do I join another skein? What if there is a knot in the middle of my skein?
You must always work every color in the same order for the same length of yarn. If a skein has a knot, make sure you continue the color sequence. That may mean cutting the knot and rejoining the yarn in that same spot in the next color sequence. The same with joining a new skein—it needs to be in the same place in the color sequence.

Color Pooling with Variegated Yarn Practice Pattern


Chain through the color sequence. Start Row 1 at the beginning of one of the colors.

Row 1: Ch 2, sc in 3rd ch from hook, sk next ch, sc in next ch, *ch 1, sk next ch, sc in next ch; rep from * across, crocheting through the entire color sequence. At end of row, pull out last sc and ch 1, turn.

Row 2: Ch 2 (counts as tch and ch-1 sp throughout), sk first sc, sc in next ch-1 sp, *ch 1, sk next sc, sc in next ch-1 sp; rep from * across, turn.

Rep Row 2.

Pull out unused extra chains by weaving the tail end back through the unused chain stitches. Weave in ends.

Good luck and have fun!

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