Let’s Talk about Pooling in Crochet

By Caissa "Cami" McClinton – 19 Comments

No, I’m not talking about throwing your crochet project into the pool when you’re frustrated. Pooling is a phenomenon that happens while working with variegated yarns. It is often talked about with knitting, but I wanted to explore this aspect of yarn with crochet.

What is pooling? In knitting, pooling is when like colors in variegated yarn end up next to each other row by row, or round by round. The effect could create a kind of unintentional visual pattern. For example, if I have a blue-purple-green variegated yarn, the blues, purples, and greens would “line up” either occasionally or regularly while I’m working on my project. I’m not talking about self-striping sock yarn, where this type of patterning is intentional and looks intentional. It could happen with any kind of variegated yarn – either hand-painted or conventionally dyed yarn.

Similar to the phenomenon in knitting, pooling can happen while working shorter crochet stitches like single crochet. Much of the time I hear people talking about pooling, it is considered a negative quality in the yarn. I think the reason why pooling may not be desirable is that it is unpredictable. I once made a laptop bag in single crochet where one skein pooled and the other one didn’t. One side of the laptop looked like it had a large argyle pattern and the other looked more random. In the photo below you can see the argyle pattern on the top of the flap.

Laptop Bag designed & crocheted by Caissa McClinton

Laptop Bag designed & crocheted by Caissa McClinton

For my purposes it was fine, but imagine that on the front and back of a sweater. It may not be the look you were going for. Conventional wisdom tells us to alternate balls of yarn and/or ends of yarn regularly to avoid pooling.

It is important to note that pooling is not always considered to be a negative quality. It can be fun to see how the colors line up while working on your project. Aside from enjoying the unintentional joining of colors, some crafters are planning their pooling by swatching projects beforehand and using math to create beautiful diagonal and argyle patterns.

But what about color groupings in longer crochet stitches? When working with variegated yarn in double crochet, we do get “chunks” of color, but is that considered pooling? I think it looks kind of neat here.

Queen Bag crocheted by Caissa McClinton

Queen Bag crocheted by Caissa McClinton

To my mind, I would call it pooling, because there is so much gathering of colors. In the above example, the lighter color is pooling in the same row and sometimes between rows. The darker colors are pooling in the same row and also between rows.

This begs the question – Will variegated yarn always pool when working in longer crochet stitches? What do you think? Is pooling desirable in crochet? Have you ever experienced pooling in a crochet project? If so, what did you think of it? Please leave all of your thoughts and ideas about this topic in the comments below! 🙂

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19 Comments

  1. Paula Holsinger says:

    I love working with variegated yarn just to see the pooling patterns!

  2. Linda Smith says:

    I’ve used it for little dresses to dress Val Pierce design teddies. The dresses are knitted and my variegated yarn has ended up looking different on both sides of the dresses so I understand what you are saying but I, personally like the effect. I try to use a colour that appears on both sides of the dress to knit up the neck line and sleeve edging. I have made baby cardi’s and because they are slightly larger work out better so they don’t pool as much.

    Linda

  3. Leone says:

    I like using variegated yarns and I like pooling but I didn’t know it had a name. I think it works with the width of the project. Is there a math secret? I like when it crosses almost like plaid.

  4. Summer says:

    I don’t like the pooling and that’s why I try not to use varigated yarns as much as possible.

  5. Sandie says:

    I enjoy variegated yarns but mostly use it for small projects where it doesn’t matter. I have had the occasional scarf with the pattern made by the yarn but it hasn’t made a difference to the recipient. I have heard if you use one skein from one end and the next from the opposite end it will help. I’ve not tried it. You could always use two skeins, carry up your yarn and vary each row as though you were making stripes but with the same variegated yarn. Just some thoughts that occur to me off the top of my head.

  6. I’d not given this much thought before. Thank you for always being interesting! 🙂

  7. Mimi S. says:

    I use variegated yarns off and on and when I do not want the pooling problem in crochet I simply use a second skein and every so often I just cut the yarn and join the second skein and keep alternating that throughout the project. It mixes up the way the colors transition.

    • Jeannine Martin says:

      I do the same thing as Mimi S. I cut and splice to avoid the pooling. I’ve spliced in as many as 4 different skeins to keep it from happening.

  8. Cami says:

    Great conversation! I love hearing all of the different perspectives. Thanks for all of your comments!!

  9. karen says:

    I have been reading a few articles here and there as I stumble upon them from a blog or newsletter. I thought yarn is yarn, but wow have I learned a lot!
    There is specific ways to work with variegated yarn/wools after all, it is designed to be used each way results in a specific pattern. I overheard the lady at my local fibre store telling a customer and then I had to ask. She was very direct that it has to be used in its proper style to give the specific look. She told me to go read up on it. Very nice patterns she said.

    So it does have a specific way to it was designed to be used after all.

    I could not find the link I had bookmarked fast to be able to paste it here, but I am sure google can shed some light for us all from all your posts above.

    I love the way it looks all scattered, not the color blocks (aka pooling) way as much, but when I found out about the argyle pattern, I was like wow. Such a neat product. Great you wrote this article and started this dialogue!

  10. pld says:

    I usually don’t mind or even like pooling when I crochet, but once when I was making a small blanket I got a 5″ x 5″ blob of one color. Just one. Right in the side of the middle of the blanket. Took it to my crochet group who couldn’t figure it out. The blanket is keeping a child warm in Afghanistan, but is still a puzzle to me. :+D

  11. ok4 says:

    I enjoy the pooling effect. I think it’s fun to see the random clusters and patterns. I have a friend who is obsessed with symmetry who would probably get ulcers over pooling, however.

  12. Stella says:

    I like pooling. Makes the piece less busy. I use it as a design. People have asked how it was done. I don’t have an answer to that of course. When I start a new ball I try to start at the same (or as close) color change as the ball before. You can almost count on the design being close. I’m not sure what happens if the dye lot is different. I’ve had my piece with pooling and no pooling ( in same item ) and have had no complaints.

  13. mindy says:

    My happiest accidents with pooling happened on a couple bags I made!

    http://im-in-the-loop.blogspot.com/2011/10/messenger-bag-and-tote-bag.html

  14. fleurdelis says:

    Just “Let it go!” The unpredictable randomness can be a happy accident. People will think you are brilliant and will ask you to teach them how you made this beautiful one-of-a-kind artisan piece.

  15. Peggy says:

    Had a disasterous result once with pooling in a blanket I was making for a charity. All 3 skeins were from the same dye lot but the middle skein produced a massive pool of black in the midst of brighter colors. Felt so bad about sending it out that way.

    I still use lots of variegated yarns, nonetheless.

    Once I had yarn in black and cream. When I used it to make mittens for my nephew, the result was mittens for a cow! He noticed it right away and asked me why I’d done that.

  16. Ginger says:

    Can I chain three sequences and have a “three column” argyle?

    • Cami says:

      Ginger, I don’t really know about that but let’s see anyone else has an answer. My best advice? Try it!!

    • Candace says:

      I recently saw a blog post on this that had a visual representation with a slider that showed what the pooling would look like with different widths of fabric. The short of it is: the wider your fabric, the wider and more squashed the argyle looks. As Cami said: try it out and see if you like the more squashed look.

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