How to Change Colors in Crochet

By Rachel Choi – 120 Comments

If you are new to crochet, here are some tips on how to change colors in your crochet work. The basic idea is to simply let go of the yarn you are currently using and pick up the new yarn that you want to use. Sounds easy enough, right? Let’s explore some examples!

This tutorial is for both right and left handed people. For left handed pictures, roll your mouse over the image and it will change for you.

Changing Colors In a Chain
Suppose you want to change the color in the middle of a chain. Just let go of the color your are using and pick up the new yarn and hold it against your work and start chaining with it.




Changing Colors in Crochet Stitches
Sometimes you may want to change colors after a certain crochet stitch. You change colors the same way, but you do it during the last step of a stitch. Here is an example using single crochet.

Insert your hook into the next stitch (as you normally would)



Yarn over (as you normally would)



Pull the yarn through one loop on your hook (as you normally would)



Now let go of the yarn and hold the new strand of yarn against your work.



Yarn over with the new color of yarn.



Pull the yarn though both loops on your hook.



You can now use the new strand of yarn to continue your work.



To change colors during different crochet stitches, the rule of thumb is to change the color during the last yarn over in the stitch.

Carrying Yarn
Sometimes you will find it useful to “carry” your yarn in your work. This is helpful if you plan to switch your color back to the previous color later. To carry your yarn in your work you change colors using the same method as above. After you change colors, hold the old strand of yarn against the loops of your work.



Now continue crocheting as you normally would with your new color. The old color will be carried in the work since it is being held against the loops you are crocheting in. When you are ready to change colors again the old color will be right there for you to use.

If you need help changing colors in crochet, just leave a comment and I would be glad to help!

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120 Comments

  1. Nicole says:

    I am using two VERY contrasting colors and when I am carrying the yarn to change colors it is clearly visible inside the stiches….. Is there a different way to change the colors without cutting and knotting? If not then is there an easier and more permanent way to weave in the ends?

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Nicole, cutting and weaving in is probably the only other option if your yarn shows through when you carry it in your work. Here’s a post about weaving in ends if you’re interested: Finish Off and Weave in Ends in Crochet (feel free to read the comments section as well to see how others like to weave in their ends, there’s no right or wrong way to do it)

  2. melissa says:

    I just started learning to crochet and I am working on making some placemats to start with. When I get about 5 rows into my work the get shorter. What am I doing wrong? I do each row the same way but I am confused as to why it gets shorter? Please tell me what I am doing wrong.

  3. Donna says:

    Hi Rachel im working on a pattern that needs me to change colors a lot somtimes just for a couple of stitches when i add and cut and weave tail are they secure and wont come un done even after washing ? and one more thing is it true your not to dry item after washing ?

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Donna! Yes, once you weave the ends in and secure them they shouldn’t come undone in the wash. For peace of mind you can try doing it on a small crochet piece first and tossing it in the wash to see if it holds up. Some materials you can put in the dryer and others you shouldn’t, if you still have the packaging label for your yarn it should tell you on it.

  4. Leandra says:

    Hi Rachel! I was lucky to find your site and read about carrying yarn across the back of a piece. I didn’t know that you crocheted over it because nothing has ever said to do that. I love that idea because then you don’t have loose lengths of yarn to catch on things. Now, here’s my problem. I have run across patterns that say roll your yarn in to 3 balls, for example, because you are going to use a ball of a diff. color and leave it hanging during a color change. How do you keep those balls from rolling all over the place AND how do you know when you are 1/3 of the way through a skein? Is it just a best guess estimate? There must be a better way. I see in books that you should roll your yarn into balls all the time bit I just pull from the skein. Any help you can offer? I’m an intermediate crocheter but apparently my skill in this area is out to lunch. I also see this “small ball” use in knitting and you could have 5 or 6 colors dangling from the back of your work!
    Thanks!!

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Leandra, try putting your balls of yarn in a box while you crochet, that way they won’t roll off the table and will at least stay in the box. A shoe box would probably be good, and you can also make a yarn container if you’d like.

      I think guestimating is good enough for when you need to split your skein, but if you really want to be exact you can weight your ball of yarn. If it’s a 1/3 of the weight of the total skein then you know you have what you’re looking for when splitting into thirds. You’ll need a scale that can do light weights though. You can also try measuring your yarn as you pull it out, but that might be more trouble than it’s worth. I hope that helps!

      • shoshy says:

        The way I keep my yarn balls separated while using more than one for color changes is I put them all in individual small ziplock bags closed with just the yarn coming out, then I put those individual bags in my yarn bag and knit right out of it, that way they don’t get mixed up while I am knitting with them all!

        • Wendy says:

          I use the small sized tissue boxes. The balls fit in good while I’l working, and they store nice and neat when I’m done using them.

          • Jenny says:

            Depending on what size yarn you are using, a metal collander works well too…just pull each color yarn through it own hole and it keeps it from getting tangled too.

  5. connie nipp says:

    Hi Rachel, so glad I came across your site. I would like to make the ALL FREECROCHET 4th of July afghan, for next year, I’m a little late for 2011. How would you change colors with the white star and blue background? I have used blue and white together before and found I can’t carry them because the colors show thru. But, looking at all the color changes on this chart, you would have lots and lots of ends to weave on every square. What do you think?

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Connie, If you’re colors are showing through when you carry the yarn in your work, I would just cut the yarn each time you change the color instead. Yes, it will leave a lot of ends to weave in, but you’ll have a lovely afghan that I will hopefully be worth it!

  6. ashley says:

    thx alot i’ve been trying alot of differnt ways but this one works out the best!!!

    thx rachel

    -ashley

  7. Joyce says:

    I am making a two-color afghan which is many small squares sewn together for form a large block. The colors are cut across in the diagonal for the small squares and then the squares are used on both front and back side to form the pattern. I do not know how to carry the yarn up a row to switch to the 2nd color and keep it the same on both sides. Can you help me?
    Thanks

  8. Marina says:

    Joyce, I think it’s suppose to look differnt on each side. There is a front and back side of the each stitch your make. You’re probably already doing it correctly. What I do is drop the yarn or carry it to where I’ll need it next, then pick it up on the next row.

  9. Leandra says:

    Hi, I would like some advice on changing colors when using a graph. I bought this really pretty afghan kit that has a snowman decked out for Christmas. They say not to carry the yarn more than 3-4 stitches but the colors change all over the place across the pattern because of shading. I’ve never used bobbins before or done this kind of work so I’m more than intimidated by having balls of yarn hanging from the back of my work as I go. Any advice that might make it easier? I sure don’t want to run out of yarn. It is hard enough to keep track of the rows I’ve done because the chart squares are so small.

    Love your site and await your response!
    Leandra

  10. Leandra,

    If you are working from a kit, it is best to follow the advice given in the instructions from the kit. The kit most likely contains just enough yarn to complete the project and not much more if there is any extra yarn. Using yarn bobbins is not a bad idea if you have to change colors often and the kit comes with the bobbins. I have never crocheted anything using a kit. However one of my published designs (crocheted Noel wall hanging) was turned into a kit by the publisher because there were so many color changes often.

    When I crocheted the item I used a combination of whole skeins, yarn bobbins and small balls of yarn, depending on the area to be covered and how much of the same color or different color was needed for a particular section. If you don’t like using yarn bobbins, you may want to put each strand of yarn through a straw to prevent tangling.

    If you have enough yarn to work with and don’t like a lot of different colors of yarn attached to your work at the same time, you can work with one or a few colors at a time and simply cut the yarn not in use. However this can leave the back of your work (wrong side) very messy, unless you leave enough yarn to weave in all the loose ends, which can be very time consuming and may still look messy. You can also use a regular needle and thread to sew all the loose ends into place.

    Good luck and I hope I was able to help in some way.

  11. Joni says:

    Does anyone have a crochet pattern with popcorn stitch. I am looking for a new design to do for
    Christmas gift.

    Thank you,
    Joni

  12. judy Henson says:

    Oh my gosh Rachel im so glad i found you. im going to learn from you because I have been looking for the differnet stiches and you give them on your page.Im a new learner and you going to teach me Thank you so much.

  13. prishita says:

    i want to know how to end the stitch after your done.

  14. Beth says:

    Great tutorial! I’ve never changed colors like this before, but will definately give it a shot ;) Thank you for sharing this technique with others.

  15. Michelle says:

    Any ideas how to change carry a second color through a Fsc? I’m having the toughest time. Thanks, Michelle

  16. Jennifer says:

    I have a hat pattern from the Caron site and it has small diagonal stripes. The chart to stitch it is 3 stitches wide by 4 rows high. The “stripe” is surrounded on all sides by the main color and is only 1 stitch wide. For example mc is x, cc is o. The pattern is oox
    xoo
    oxo
    oox
    and repeats around the hat, with a slip stitch to complete the row, then ch1 and continue the pattern.
    The photograph shows the stripe as rather thick, but I can’t get my stripe to line up, let alone be thick! Can you help me?!?! I can even show you the pattern page if you like, but I’m not sure what your rules are here for your site. Thanks in advance!

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Jennifer, are you changing colors like in this tutorial? Take a look at the “changing colors in crochet stitches” section, if you haven’t already. Also, in the pattern you are working on double check it to make sure there aren’t specific instructions as to how they want you to change colors. Some patterns may use a non conventional way to change colors to get the desired look.

  17. Jennifer says:

    Yes, Rachel, I have learned so much on your site and the changing colors lesson was perfect (for other projects). In this particular pattern though, the 1 stitch doesn’t seem to hold up to making a diagonal stripe like it appears to in the photo. I just realized I could look at others’ attempts at the same project on ravelry, and I think I am just going to have to make what I have done be enough. It’s just been a learning curve for me, this pattern, and until I finish it, I will still be a little frustrated. It will look how it looks and I will be happy with that. :)

  18. Jennifer says:

    Okay, Rachel. I found the culprit. In very small print (ie, I didn’t read everything), it says to do the color changing in “Fair Isle Method”. What is that?! Do you have a tutorial for that? Are you even familiar with it? I had no idea there were different “methods” of crocheting. I was just following the pattern as it was written and didn’t see in the explanation at the beginning to do the color changes a different way. Seems I got in over my head a bit. I went ahead and finished my hat with just regular stitches and it looks okay, but I’m ready to make another one because this one is too small. :) Any help will be appreciated!!!

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Jennifer, I’m glad you found the culprit! I’m not a Fair Isle pro, but Linda Cee wrote a couple guest posts on Crochet Spot about tapestry crochet (same things as Fair Isle, just different name). Here are the links:
      Tapestry Crochet (some general information)
      Crochet Pattern: Tapestry Crochet Hot Pad (a pattern that demonstrates how the yarn is being worked and carried throughout a tapestry crochet pattern – may have to read through the whole pattern to understand the technique)

  19. Debbie says:

    Hi, Rachel. I recently did some projects that start out a crocheting in a round. When I change colors, it’s not a seamless transition between colors. Is there a different technique for changing colors when working in the round? Forgive me if this is mentioned elsewhere here… I didn’t happen to see anything that addresses this issue. Thanks so much… I really enjoy your website.

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Debbie, most of the time when you’re crocheting in the round like a spiral the color changes won’t be seamless. It’s natural for this to happen. Other patterns, when you’re crocheting in the round and making the turning chain will have a more seamless color change. The different methods of crocheting use the same technique to change colors, but the method you crochet is what mostly determines if the color change will be seamless or not. If you are crocheting in the round like a spiral, but want a smoother color change, you can try any slip stitch into the last stitch with the old color, and then change to the new color. Then change in stitch height helps to even out the color change.

  20. Maureen says:

    I’ve crocheted for years, just simple stuff, I must not have learned the correct way to change colors because I always looped the hook with the new color, as if I was starting a project, well, that caused problems, so I never tried to change colors often. Thank you so much, your website is great, even for people who have crocheted for a long time.

  21. Susan says:

    I have never crocheted a granny square with an object in the center. I keep reading about droping one color & picking up another, but I don’t have a clue what you do to keep the back from being a big mess. The pattern I want to do doesn’t say whether or not you cut & finish off one color before beginning the second color but I don’t know any other way to do it. Sometimes I will only change color for 2 stitches. How do you do this type of pattern??

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Susan, you can carry the yarn in your work, as shown at the end of this tutorial. But for certain instances, like the granny square, it is best to cut the yarn instead of carrying it in the work.

  22. Cindy says:

    I’m crocheting a football afghan for my son from the Crochet Digest Magazine, Autumn 1999. There’s a lot of color changes sometimes only one stitch of white then 2 of green then 1 of white and so forth. My problem is that that many changes in such a short distance just looks like a mess to me. I don’t see any definition of the stitches and therefore I’m thinking that I’m doing the color changes incorrectly. I was wondering if you know of any tutuorials that show that many color changes and how to do it correctly?

    • Rachel says:

      H Cindy, sorry I don’t have any pictures that show many color changes in a row. But this concept of how to change the colors is the same as in this tutorial. If you are changing colors like in this tutorial, then you probably are doing it correctly :)

  23. granmavis says:

    Wow I think I might be able to do this. I have struggled with this for ever and now I think that I can actually change colours Thankyou

  24. Vee says:

    Another option for changing colors is a Russian join/knot. It helps when using colors that just do not carry well with each other. It is a slightly more time intensive while working but saves a good deal of weaving at the end. There are a few tutorials on youtube showing how to do this particular technique.

  25. [...] When working in 2 colors, work over the unused yarn. With this method, you avoid loose strands in the back. Pull on the unused yarn a little now and then, so that it lies straight inside the stitches, but be careful – don’t tighten too much! For additional help with changing colors, please see the tutorial How to Change Colors in Crochet. [...]

  26. 'Chelle says:

    Thanks for putting the left handed version!!!! So many people forget about us lefties and I had one heck of a time learning because people couldn’t teach me using my left hand! You are the best! Thanks!

    • Becky says:

      YES…Love the left handed version! Thanks! Sure makes it easier to follow.
      I remember learning to crochet when I was about 10. I drove my grandma’s friends nuts because I did everything backwards. :)

  27. Sue Evans says:

    Hi Rachel,

    This method of changing color almost looks too good to be true. I am picking up crocheting after an absence; I used to do it alot when I was a teenager.

    Recently I have tried to change color by tying knots, but that presents some problems as you know… using your method, it doesn’t fall apart because we are not tying?

    • Rachel Choi says:

      Hi Sue,
      Crochet is basically a series of knots, so you are sort of tying a knot when you join a new color. If you are worried about it not being secure, you can tie the ends of the yarn together after you’ve used this method to join the new color. You’ll see that the ends of the yarn will hang out and need to be weaved into your work, so you can tie them together if you really want to.
      You can also try this method of changing colors on a small swatch of work. Then test it out for yourself by tossing it in the washing machines, etc. to see if it holds up :)

  28. Demi says:

    Hi Rachel!

    i want to try this, but im not sure whether i should cut the yarn or carry it on if i am planning on using the color again, but about 15 rows later. which do you think is better? and how can i “hide” the strings from the other colour? thanks :D

    • Rachel Choi says:

      Hi Demi, when in doubt I like to cut the yarn. You can experiment and see what you like best though. I find that when you carry the yarn it makes the fabric thicker and sometimes, depending on the colors you use, the yarn will show through your work. So I don’t carry the yarn as much as I cut the yarn. It really is personal preference though!

  29. Jayne says:

    Hello Rachael
    I am getting frustrated when changing colours doing single crochet, I can do it on the first row but coming back on the other side I end up with a mess!! Can you help me please ?? Thanks

    • Rachel Choi says:

      Sure thing! What seems to be the problem? Does the yarn get tangled or are you not sure how to work the color change? The color change is worked the same way on either side, it doesn’t matter what direction you’re coming from. If your yarn is getting tangled, try cutting the yarn after you change the colors each time. You can weave the ends in your work so it doesn’t look so messy.

  30. Jude says:

    Love the left handed pics! Also, I know how to carry and change colors, but where I have trouble is when you end one row and turn. carrying a color up the side. doesn’t look too good sometimes.

  31. Wendy says:

    I was wondering…. how do you change colors when you are ending with a sl st on one row, and then beginning with a chain on the next row? I am working on the Granny Ripple afghan (pattern purchased from Crochet Spot). I love it.

    Thanks

    • Rachel Choi says:

      Hi Wendy! You can insert your hook into the stitch to make you slip stitch (as you normally would), they pull the new yarn color through to finish your slip stitch.

  32. Diane Snarski says:

    I am interested in learning and understanding the process techniques of changing colors, creating color designa such as Fair Isle Techniques, Jacquard Techniques, Intarsia Techniques, Taspestry Crochet Techniques, Entralac Techniques, dealing with the crochet process.

    Thank You,
    Diane Snarski

  33. Jackie says:

    Hi Rachael,
    I like your step by step instructions and I am saving it for further use. Thank you. Here is my problem and after looking through I don’t seem to find the answer above. I am making a College Footbal throw and it has a big T in the middle. I already have the graph to follow, but how do I make the rows looks even going up on the T and not look like it is uneven. I am working the way you describe and leaving the ball of main color at beginning of each row of the T. I hope I am explaining clearly.

    • Rachel Choi says:

      Hi Jackie, I’m not 100% sure what you mean by uneven, so feel free to explain further and I’ll try and help you better. Here is a tutorial with tips that might cover what you are looking for: 7 Tips to Establish Consistency in Crochet

      • Jackie says:

        Thank you. Let me see if I can explain what I am saying better. Another words when crocheting the letter T (which is white). As I go to the next row and incorporate the next main color (orange) back in the two yarns show on the first stitch, so that when I go up to the next row instead of being straight up white it is orange and white. Is it because I am not correctly doing that first stitch of going back to the orange and or white? Does this help? I am thinking I wasn’t thinking I was changing the color correctly.
        Thank you for your help. I am determined to get this right. lol

        • Rachel Choi says:

          Hmm… try to do the color changes using the techniques in this tutorial and see if that helps. Change the color at the end of the stitch before it’s needed in the next stitch. Also, be sure you’re not carry any yarn in your work as that may cause the other color to show through.

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