Self-striping yarn is a type of variegated (or multicolor) yarn. It can have as few as two colors although typically it has many, and those color change from one to the next to the next in rotation. The color changes may be very subtle or very bold. Often there are long lengths of each color before the color changes to the next, although there are examples of short-length self-striping yarn colors as well.
When you crochet or knit with self-striping yarn, the yarn will typically create a striped project on its own without the crafter having to do any color changes. How well this effect is achieved varies depending on the crochet pattern and the yarn itself and the "rows" might not be exact but the overall effect is that you can use this yarn to create stripes of colors without having to actually change yarn from row to row.
Advantages of Self-Striping Yarn
There are many reasons that people choose to try self-striping yarn.
- Simple color changes. Many knitters and crocheters want to create very colorful, eye-catching projects but they don't want to have to change colors over and over again. Beginners may not feel confident changing colors. Some people don't like all of the ends that it leaves to weave in. Others don't want to purchase many colors of yarn to create one colorful project. Whatever your reason, if you want to create a colorful project using a single ball of yarn then self-striping yarn can be a great choice.
- Colors naturally go well together. With self-striping yarn there is need to worry about whether or not your colors will look good together; the manufacturer has most likely done a great job of picking harmonious colors. This is helpful for crafters who lack color confidence. It's also helpful when you're purchasing yarn on the Internet, and you can't see it in person before you buy it to get an idea of whether or not the colors will work together well when you actually see them in real life. Self-striping yarn allows you to create multi-colored projects without requiring a lot of time picking out the exact colors.
- You can create interesting patterns using color. The advanced technique of planned color pooling in crochet allows you to create patterns, such as an argyle-style of print, using a single skein of yarn.
Disadvantages of Self-Striping Yarn
Of course, every yarn has its pros and cons. Self-striping yarn is a great item to add to your stash but you'll want to know the drawbacks about using it.
- The yarn changes color when it changes; you don't get to decide. One downside to self-striping yarn is that the crafter has very little control over where the color changes fall; they might fall in the middle of rows or rounds even though they are intended to create rows. Sometimes the stripes created look nice and neat, but other times they could end up looking a bit sloppy or uneven. There are techniques to use to get around this (as in planned color pooling mentioned above) but if you want a very specific striped design with color changes exactly where you plan them then self-striping yarn might not be your first choice.
- Self-striping yarn tends to be more expensive than solid-colored yarn is. If the same yarn is available in both solid and self-striping colors, check and compare how many ounces of yarn you're getting per ball in the solid vs. the self-striping. You might find that both balls have the same retail price, but you might also find that you get less yarn in the self-striping ball. This isn't always the case (and if the alternative is to buy lots of balls of different colors then the cost could go up with solid colors anyway) but it is something to be aware of as you purchase yarn.
- Not every pattern looks good in self-striping yarn. It might take some experimentation to find a pattern that will work well with the yarn that you've chosen, varying hook size, etc. The good news is that there are a lot of self-striping crochet patterns out there where the designer has solved the problems for you!
When you work with any sort of variegated / multi-color yarn, including self-striping yarn, your project is likely to turn out looking different than you'd expect. It isn't easy to tell from looking at the ball of yarn how the colors are going to turn out when they are worked in the project itself. If you are following a crochet pattern for a solid color design, you may or may not like how the pattern comes out in the self-striping yarn.
This is neither a disadvantage or an advantage; It's hard to predict whether you'll be pleasantly surprised or unpleasantly surprised.
It is just important to know going in to any self-striping yarn project that you can't entirely predict the results so you want to approach these projects with an open mind and a willingness to change track if it isn't quite working out for you.
How to Use Self-Striping Yarn in Crochet
If you are new to using self-striping yarns as a crocheter, here are some tips that will help you out:
- Look for yarn that is specifically labeled or reviewed as a self-striping yarn. There are many types multi-color yarn and they don't all do self-striping so if that's the effect that you want then look for it.
- Choose patterns designed with self-striping yarns. Crochet designers have specifically created self-striping yarn crochet patterns that work out the kinks and let you make the most of this yarn so play with those as you get started.
- Try double-strand crochet. Combine the self-striping yarn with a second same-color yarn all throughout the project. This will give the project a very cohesive look (because one yarn is the same color throughout) regardless of the color changes from the self-striping yarn.
Self-striping yarn is a great yarn to use for all kinds of different projects, as long as you are aware that it has some drawbacks and might have unexpected surprises. Plan to have fun with it!