Where I write about knitting, crocheting and lace, and, on occasion general comments on other topics

A Study of Pooling in a Variegated Sock Yarn

Written by: Lindy

Several days ago, I decided to knit a pair of plain vanilla socks using Serenity Sock Weight Yarn (Premier Yarns) in the colorway Amethyst. This was a yarn I had purchased at my local Hobby Lobby and had been sitting in my sock yarn stash for a few months. In the skein, the yarn appears to be a mix of greys and purples, and I thought it would result in a striping of the socks. The label does not indicate that the yarn is “self-striping”, but the picture on the label shows a sock with an interesting variation of stripes.

Since I had never knit with this yarn, I knit a circular swatch to determine needle size and gauge before starting on my socks – and this is where my study in “Pooling” began. I started with US 2 (2.75 mm) needles and cast on 64 stitches (which is what I would use for my socks with a gauge of 7 stitches per inch). As I worked on the swatch, I noticed that the yarn was not knitting up in the stripes the way I had anticipated – in fact, it seemed to be predominately purple on one side of the swatch and predominately grey on the other side.

Obviously, I had some “pooling “ going on. Pooling is an effect that occurs when a variegated yarn knits up in “pools” of color, rather than in stripes. Now, I wasn’t really sure I liked the effect – and my stitch gauge was 6.25 spi, rather than the 7 spi I wanted.

So, I decided to do a second swatch with fewer stitches, a smaller needle – and because I had read about pooling in a Rav thread, I also decided to knit from the outside of the skein instead of the inside. I cast on 52 stitches on size US 1.5 (2.50 mm) needles and knit away – and I got more striping – not even stripes, but definitely stripes on both sides of the swatch.

So, I took a picture of the two swatches and posted a comment on Ravlery under the thread, “Examples of Pooling Good & Bad”, stating what I had observed along with my assumption that the change was probably due to knitting from the outside of the skein – and completely ignoring the fact that I had changed the number of stitches in the swatch and this might also be contributing to the way the colors were knitting up.

I must admit, I did not anticipate much of a response to my comment in this thread. But I received several. It’s one of the things I love about Ravelry – fellow knitters are always willing to share and question things. Anyway – after reading the comments, I decided I needed to do a little more work before I could actually answer my fellow Ravelers’ questions.

Off I went to swatch again – this time I decided to start from the inside of the skein, use US 2 (2.75 mm) needles and begin by casting on 72 stitches. I knit approximately 1.5 inches, then purled and decreased the number of stitches to 64 stitches, knit another 1.5 inches, purled and decreased to 54 stitches and knit another 1.5 inches. Here’s a picture showing how the yarn pooled with different numbers of stitches.

So – in response to Robocass and Hypercycloid, who asked me if the difference might be due more to the difference in the number of stitches in my swatches: Clearly, the number of stitches used results in very different color patterning and it doesn’t really matter whether I knit from the inside or the outside of the skein.

Hypercycloid also asked about the length of each of the colors in the yarn. Hmm – I hadn’t thought about that, so I got out the measuring tape and discovered that each purple section of the yarn was approximately 19 inches, while the grey sections were approximately 12 inches. Not quite, but almost a 3 to 2 ratio. Statnerd suggested I count the number of grey stitches compared to the purple stitches in my wider swatch – I did and ended up with 27 stitches of grey to 37 stitches of purple. Again, this is close to a 3 to 2 ratio of purple to grey. All of you were correct in your observations that the colors shift around the circumference of the swatches – and due to the differences in the number of stitches, the colors stack up very differently for different numbers of stitches.

Zgma commented:

“It doesn’t look like a self-striping yarn to me. The striping you got in the top sample is a result of the colors pooling in a way that looks like stripes, not actual “self-striping”. When yarns are labeled self-striping, it is because the runs of color are large enough that for the project intended (as in, socks for self-striping sock yarn), the color will last for all the stitches in at least one round or row, usually more. When a particular color (for instance, the black in your sock samples) lasts for part of a row, but then in the next row the color occurs before or after it did in the previous row in such a manner that it looks like striping, it doesn’t mean that the yarn is self-striping – just that it is prone to pooling in a stripey way.”

Yep, you are right about that.

To each of those that took the time to comment — thanks! I learned a great deal about pooling and variegated yarns.

I did a little internet surfing on the subject, as well. I found two informative posts about Pooling — One from the Yarn Harlot and the other from Knitting Sutra.

So – I am not really sure if I like this particular yarn – but I have decided to proceed with using it to knit a pair of plain vanilla socks. I am going to use US 2 (2.75 mm) needles with a gauge of 6.25 spi and cast on 54 stitches (this should fit my foot). I’ll post pictures of the final result.

One Response to “A Study of Pooling in a Variegated Sock Yarn”

  1. Amanda says:

    Wow. I can’t believe there was that much difference in the pooling just by changing the number of stitches. I believe it now for sure. This is really helpful!