Hand-dyed Yarn + Patience = Pooling

Why Pooling - the finished products can be spectacular!

Why Pooling – the finished products can be spectacular!

Pooling with Schaeffer Yarns - Anne.

Pooling with Schaeffer Yarns – Anne.

What is Pooling?  Pooling is a different way of looking at hand-dyed yarns.  Instead of trying not to have the colours pool (stack on top of themselves within a project to form awkward or unbalanced blocks of a single colour), the yarn is manipulated at the cast-on so that when the project is knit the colours of the yarn will stack on top of themselves through the whole project to form vertical columns of colour.  Lace or textural patterns with strong vertical lines will emphasize these vertical lines.



Why Pool?  Sometimes we fall in love with a hank of hand-dyed yarn.  We will fondle, hang-up, view, and then stress about what to do with this beautiful yarn.  It is too colourful to knit lace with, the pattern will be lost in it – and knitting it the regular fashion may muddy up the colours as they blend together!  Pooling solves both of these issues.  The colours will only blend around the edges, and the lace will show beautifully in the solid colours.  Perfection!

With pooling, as most hand-dyed yarns are unique each article that you create will be unique – even if you are following an established pattern.

Before you Start Knitting:

Analyse your yarn – Will it pool?  Will it pool flat, or in the round?  Do I want to use only half of the repeat?  How long is the colour repeat?  Is there enough differentiation in the colours to make an interesting pattern when pooled?  The pooling technique is the most dramatic when there is a great amount differentiation in the colours in your hank.  A more subtle look could be achieved in a hank that is more tonal in its dye.  What kind of look are you looking for?

How to Analyse the Yarn:



If you examine the samples, all will pool except sample (d).  Sample (d) may pool, but it would have to be wound up and then laid out to examine the dye repeat.  This is because the yarn has been rewound into a skein after being dyed.  This moves the colour around so that the skein shows the colours differently.

The colour repeat in the 4 remaining samples goes from the sample letter, at the right side, all the way back around back to the sample letter.  This indicates that the 4 remaining samples could all be knit in the round or flat.  Sample (e) would most likely knit best in the round as there is no repeat of colour, though it could look great knit flat, but it would not mirror itself.


Samples, (a), (b), and (c) could all be knit with only ½ of the repeat (from letter to other side).

Sample c - Picture shows sample (c) knit using ½ of the colour repeat for each row for scarf and then knit in the round for the cap.

Sample c – Picture shows sample (c) knit using ½ of the colour repeat for each row for scarf and then knit in the round for the cap.

Sample (c) would be the best balanced of the choices as both halves are the same.    Samples (a) and (b) would pool with just half of the colour repeat but the edges would be different colours and there would be no mirroring of colour on each side of a center line.  Samples (a) and (b) would both show to best effect if a full repeat of each round was used for the knit.

River Moebius - Dramatic colour changes.

River Moebius – Dramatic colour changes.

Sample (b) was knit in the round to create a Moebius Shawl.  This sample has great colour differentiation in the knit for great drama.

The Snow Crocus shawl is similar to sample (a).  A full repeat of the colour is used for every row and one of the colours was split to start and end each row for a mirroring effect.

Snow Crocus was similar to sample (a) in the dyeing pattern.

Snow Crocus was similar to sample (a) in the dyeing pattern.

How to Start:

  • You need a great deal of Patience.  The cast-on and needle sizing may need to be played with a few times to get a number of stitches that will repeat across each row reliablely.  This took about 3 hours of playing before the Snow Crocus Shawl was underway.
  • The cast-on must be a back-wards or simple loop cast-on.
  • The stitch pattern cannot change its base stitch count – many lace patterns do.
  • Sometimes it is necessary to change the tension of your knitting as the hand-dyed yarn is not perfectly consistent.  If your tension when purling is different than your tension when knitting, be prepared to use two different needle sizes.  The colours will “bleed” into each other despite your best efforts.  This is not a technique for perfectionists.
  • Once the knitting is set-up to get the desired results – the knitting is easy – with just a few adjustments to tension as you go.  So attention is needed, but not a great deal of concentration.

This is a technique where the whole outweighs the small details.  It is a “fool the eye” kind of technique.

Happy Knitting


5 Responses to Hand-dyed Yarn + Patience = Pooling

  1. Helene Driesen says:

    Love it! I remember several years back Interweave Knits had an article along side a scarf pattern that explained this as well. At the time I knew I simply would not have the patience to deal with figuring it out, but now I really want to do this. Thanks for sharing and sparking my interest.

    • Hi Helene,

      So glad that the article was useful for you! Pooling has fascinated me for quite a while and I love to see the colours build within the patterns.

      I hope that you enjoy your journey1

      Happy Knitting

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  4. Nice post. I learn something new and challenging
    on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It’s always
    helpful to read articles from other authors and practice something from their web sites.

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