Color Pooling 102: Zigzag

Last time I talked about how to crochet the classic (and addictive) argyle/X pattern using variegated yarn. I had so much fun with that, I went a little crazy at the store finding all the yarns that would work. Then I saw the zigzag pattern! It’s another addictive crochet pattern using variegated yarn. If you enjoy the argyle pattern, you are going to love the zigzag pattern too. It looks an awful lot like the argyle pattern except the colors don’t crisscross (except when they do, like on days ending in Y and other specific circumstances!) Most of the same rules apply to zigzag that apply to argyle, so if you can do one, you can do the other.

Imagine a big X. It consists of two lines that intersect diagonally in the middle. That’s the argyle pattern. Now add a vertical line down the middle of the X, so it has a right half and left half. The zigzag pattern includes just the left side (or the right side, whichever you prefer to imagine). You can get a variegated yarn to make a zigzag pattern all the way up a scarf. It won’t crisscross, forming a complete X.

How do you do that? Basically the zigzag pattern is half the argyle or X pattern. (I know I just said that up above, but bear with me.) If it takes 40 stitches to make the argyle pattern, it would take 20 stitches for the zigzag pattern.

Why would you want to do that? The zigzag pattern is narrower. Some variegated yarns have lots of colors and long color sequences (a long time before the color pattern repeats, which results in wide argyle scarves. Cut the number of stitches in half, and you can get a similar appearance without the width. Zigzag makes a beautiful pattern as well.

Caveat: It is possible to get the crisscross pattern of an argyle in a zigzag scarf. None of the colors will cross the vertical midline of the X, so it won’t cross itself like it does in argyle, but if a color appears in the variegated sequence more than once, it can appear to cross itself. If you do not want the crisscross, find yarns that have sequences like red, yellow, blue, green, red, yellow, blue, green (ABCDABCD). If you don’t mind a crisscross in the pattern, you can use yarns that repeat colors like red, yellow, red, blue, red, yellow, red, blue (ABACABAC).

How many chain stitches do you need? It depends on yarn, hook size, and tension. There are a few ways to figure out this number for a zigzag scarf.

1.     Make a swatch. Use the stitch pattern you intend to use for the scarf. You can use all single crochets, or you can do the moss stitch (sc and chain one). Count how many stitches it takes to get through the entire color sequence, then divide by 2. That’s your number of chain stitches, minus 1 for single crochet or minus 2 for moss stitch).
color pooling zigzag
Say what? For the argyle pattern in moss stitch, you’d crochet through the entire color sequence in Row 1, then pull out the last single crochet and chain one so the color would shift a single crochet in every row, getting the crisscross pattern. The same principle applies here. You need the color to shift one, so crochet through half the length of the yarn of the entire color sequence. Then pull out the last single crochet (or the last single crochet and chain one for the moss stitch). This will cause the color to shift one.

Let me clarify: you are not just crocheting through half the colors in the sequence. If there are six colors in the sequence, you can’t just crochet through the first three colors unless all six colors are the same length. (If you’re that fortunate, just crochet through the first three colors and pull out the last single crochet or single crochet and chain one). But many variegated yarns have colors that are different lengths. For the zigzag to work, you need to crochet through half the length of yarn in the color sequence. For instance, if the entire color sequence is fifty inches long, you need to crochet through twenty-five inches, then rip out the last single crochet (or single crochet and chain one). This may be in the middle of one of the colors, and that’s okay.

You should be able to tell if the zigzag is working on Row 3. Each color should start one stitch after it did two rows below. If it’s not shifting one stitch, you need to rip out a few stitches and crochet more tightly or loosely in order to make the colors shift one stitch.
color pooling zigzag
2.     If you don’t want to swatch, you can crochet through the entire color sequence in Row 1, count how many stitches there are, then rip out half of them plus another single crochet (or another single crochet and chain one). You can also go to and type in the colors and the number of stitches you get per color, and it will show you what the pattern will look like for each starting chain number you care to try.

3.     Find the beginning and end of the second color sequence (where the repeat starts and stops). Fold the sequence in half so you can find the middle. Tie a piece of yarn around the middle. Tie another piece of yarn at the end of the sequence. Use the first sequence to make the foundation chain. Chain to the beginning of the second sequence. Begin Row 1 (single crochet or moss stitch). Crochet to the middle marker. Pull out a stitch (for sc) or two stitches (for moss stitch). Turn and begin Row 2.
color pooling zigzag
For the zigzag to work, each color should shift over one stitch (or one single crochet stitch in the moss stitch) every other row. It should consistently start one stitch before or one stitch after it did two rows below. On Row 3, if the color changes one stitch after it did two rows below, then every color should start one stitch after it did two rows below. If color changes one stitch before, every color needs to start one stitch before. Adjust your tension to make sure this happens for every color in every row, which may involve ripping out a few stitches to crochet tighter or looser.

If the color seems to stop shifting and the colors no longer zig or zag,  you stopped checking for color changes. Rip back to where the colors stopped shifting, then adjust your tension to make sure each color shifts one stitch.

Yarn Selection Tips

Lots of yarns will zigzag, but this pattern works best with yarns containing 3 or more colors at least 7 inches long each. The colors have to repeat in the same order, ABCDEABCDE or ABACABAC. You’ll have to pull a strand of yarn out of each skein you’re considering to make sure it repeats and that the color is long enough. Colors shorter than 7 inches are harder to manage, but if only one color is shorter than 7 inches, your task gets easier. If all the colors are shorter than 7 inches, consider a different yarn.

Hook Size

Many hook sizes will work. The perfect hook size forms all the stitches in one color, not half of one color and half of another. If you get half-and-half stitches, the zigzag will still appear, but try to get half stitches in every other row. Otherwise the zigzag pattern will not look quite as clean or clear.

Surprising Effect

I started a scarf in single crochet, but the colors seemed to run together more than they do in the moss stitch, so I decided to crochet in the back loop only. To my surprise, I got what looked like an illusion scarf! Looking straight on, you can make out the zigzag pattern, but because of the offset nature of working in the back loop only, one set of colors seemed to pop out on each side. From an angle, it looked like I was making a diagonal striped scarf. In the swatch pictured, the first 10 rows are single crochet in both loops. Then I switched to back loop only. Can you see the difference?

Most people do the moss stitch for the argyle or zigzag scarves, but there really is no rule about which stitch to use. You can use half double or double crochets if you want. Taller stitches work best if the colors are longer in each sequence. Have fun exploring the zigzag pattern, but remember, this pattern can be addictive!

On Your Own Pattern (in single crochet)

Chain through half the length of the complete color sequence.

Row 1: Ch 1, sc in second ch from hook, sc through half the length of the color of the color sequence, rip out one sc.

Row 2: Turn without chaining, sc across.

Repeat Row 2.

Try Some Color Pooling