Changing Colors

Changing Colors – Basic Method
©Sandra Petit,

When I first thought of doing a page on changing colors and joining new yarn, I thought, “Well, this won’t take too long.” As I got into it more and more, I saw it was going to get complicated, but perhaps be one of the most useful pages on the site. I hope you are happy with the results and find it helpful.

The pretty things you see in books and magazines often use more than one color. You can completely change the look of a piece by changing the colors you use to create it. I often use patterns that I find quick and easy to make over and over again, but I use different colors. As a crocheter, I can tell that it is the same pattern, but you will find that not everyone will be able to tell. Try doing an afghan in solids, and then in variegated yarn – very different look.

Here’s an example of different afghans created using different colors. This particular one is still worked in stripes, so that part is the same, but the different colors give it a different look.

3 beginners luck afghans

What are the advantages of working with different colors? Well, as above, you can use the same pattern over and over again and not get bored with the same color scheme. Since you are familiar with the pattern already, it is more relaxing than doing a new one where you have to count stitches and rows.

Also, many times what attracts you to a pattern is the way it looks in the magazine or book. If you use a different color or a variegated yarn instead of the solid pictured (or vice versa), you may not be as happy with the outcome. On the other hand, you may like it even better. I personally use my own color schemes, though when I was a beginner I was hesitant to change the designer’s colors.

Obviously, if you are making an afghan for Aunt Lou and she hates yellow you don’t want to give her a yellow afghan – but you love this pattern which is created using solid yellow yarn. Solution: simply find out Aunt Lou’s favorite color and use it instead of the yellow. Sometimes the opposite occurs – a particular pattern which is done all in one color, will look even better using different colors – stripes or variegated. You will develop an eye for these things over time.

Another reason you might want to change colors is so that you can use up all those little balls of leftover yarn you have from other projects. There are several scrap yarn leaflets and books available which have some lovely patterns, all using small amounts of yarn. If you don’t want to work a pattern, you can just do one of the easiest scrap yarn afghans there is – make a chain as long as you want the afghan to be, pull out your little balls of yarn and work until you run out, then add another ball, continuing until your afghan is as large as you want it to be. Small children will love the variety of this style.

Another option is to do single rows of each color, to give it a more uniform look. If you don’t have enough yarn for an entire row, you can just continue in another color, or you can rip back that small portion and use it for the first round of a granny square or if you are working in double crochet, try a row of sc now and then for smaller balls. If the majority of your balls are small, make strips to join instead of a solid piece, or make squares, yo-yos, or saltines which are great for this.

Another reason you would be changing colors is if you are working a picture afghan from a graph. I am not going to talk about that here as that is a special circumstance. I’ve not done a lot of it and don’t feel qualified to go into it too deeply. I recently completed an afghan which required many color changes. What I did was to use yarn bobbins for the color changes. I only worked over when it was a stitch or two. Carol Ventura is a tapestry crochet expert and her site Tapestry Crochet would be a good one to visit for information on changing colors to create a picture. Though tapestry crochet is a special type of picture crochet, the techniques would be similar.

Now that you have seen different ways you can use color to your own advantage, let’s learn how to do it. The same procedure will be followed whether you are changing to a new color because the pattern calls for a color change or if you are doing so because you have finished a skein and need to join a new skein, or because you had to cut out a knot or other imperfection in the yarn you are using.

If you are doing a double strand piece and one of your strands ends but the other does not, you can join new yarn in the new color while keeping the old one until it runs out. Then you won’t have two strands to sew into the same spot.

There are a few different methods you can use to change colors. First, it is important to know WHERE you are changing colors. Is it in the middle of your row or the end? Back or front? When doing a piece that has a definite front and back, I try to sew all my ends in on the back. If you are on the front when you need to change colors, just thread your cut strand onto your needle and pull it through to the back or use your hook to pull it through. Of course, I try to avoid sewing as many ends as possible in the first place because I am totally lazy.

I will mention that most experienced crocheters will tell you to never knot your two strands when you change color. There is a reason for this. When you knot, it leaves a little hard bump. This can be distressing if one has sensitive skin. Some say that this “wears” on the yarn more as well. When you wash your project, sometimes bits come out where you have sewn in your tails. If there is a knot there, it is difficult to sew back in.

Important note: When you are getting ready to change yarns, if you are going to finish off that original color, be sure you leave a long strand of yarn. Do not cut an inch from the end and think that is enough. You need a minimum of 4″.

To change color, no matter where it is, the most basic method is to begin to make your stitch in the old color, work the stitch to within the last step. Complete the final step with your new color leaving a 4-6″ strand to sew in later. For example, in a dc you would yo, insert your hook into your stitch, yo, pull through, yo, pull through two loops, then drop the first color, and finish the stitch with the second color by working yo, then draw through the remaining two loops. If you are finished with the first color, you would cut it about 6″ from the end and weave that tail in later. If you are at the end of a row, there are other ways to deal with the ends. Sometimes you can carry them up your work. You might be able to work over them while adding an edging.

If you are working a single crochet you would insert your hook into the stitch, yo and pull through (with old color), yo with new color and pull through remaining two loops, finishing the stitch. Tighten slightly by pulling gently on the two threads. Don’t pull so tightly that this stitch looks smaller than the ones you’ve already completed.

changing colors 1

Another reason you might be adding a new color is when you’ve finished your work and want to now start a completely new color for an edging. There may be other reasons you want to join a new color where you are not going to be working from another stitch, but rather have already finished off. In this case, there are a couple different ways to add your new yarn. Some folks like to start with a slip knot on the hook, then insert your hook, yo, pull through slip knot loop to secure, then chain up the proper amount and work your stitch. Some forego the slip stitch, just insert hook, lay yarn over the hook, and draw through, make a chain stitch to secure, then work your sc in the same stitch.

Changing Colors in the Middle/End of a Row

Middle: About 4″ before you need to change color, lay your new color across your work (Fig. A) and crochet over it as you go. Then when you are at the point where you need to change, just clip off the old color and continue with the new one (working the stitch to within the last step with old, then finishing with new as described above). You will have to hold the new yarn with your right hand while continuing to hold your old yarn with your left. It takes a bit of maneuvering. This is neat because then you don’t have to sew that end in later.

You can even crochet over your old color by bringing it up one row and crocheting over it on the next row (if you are using that color). You need to do this carefully so it doesn’t show too much. This keeps it firmly anchored. You might even thread it and weave it through the stitch above it.

changing colors 2
Note: If your color is very different – like the green and white I’m using here – then you may be able to see that old color on the back side. (If you look closely, you can see the green just a little – it shows up more on the other side (Fig. I) but if you are continuing in that color, it’s not too much of a problem.) This method would work very well if you are joining the same yarn as in the case where you’re doing a one-color project but have used up your skein.

changing colors 3

At the end of a row the change of color uses the same method, but when you work your first stitch of the new row, you chain up to get it to height. That beginning chain looks different from the rest of your stitches. If you are adding new yarn at the end of a skein and are working with the same color, you can grab both the strand from the first skein and the new strand from the second skein to make your chain up. That makes it a bit thicker, looking more like your next stitches, and also firmly anchors the new strand. You can weave the rest of the strand later or crochet over it, whichever you like.