What is crochet colorwork?

In crochet, colorwork is a way of saying that more than one color is used to create a pattern within the fabric.

Alternating color in crochet can be used simply to create stripes in rows or rounds. 

And, there are simple techniques we can use to create the intricate and colorful designs we see in crochet fabric (otherwise known as Crochet Colorwork).

Colorwork methods are just color-changing techniques, specifically when it comes to what is done with the unused color of yarn.

If you’re wondering…

What is colorwork crochet

How do you crochet intarsia?

What is the tapestry crochet stitch?

We can help!

Types of Colorwork

Three of the most popular types of colorwork in crochet are Fair Isle, Tapestry, and Intarsia.

When looking at the right side of a fabric, each of these colorwork techniques might look very similar. 

The difference between each type of colorwork is how the unused yarn colors are managed when they are not in use, and the most common are: carrying yarn, crocheting over yarn, and fastening off yarn.

Depending on the project, stitches, number of colors used, and fabric you want to create, these techniques may be interchangeable to fit your needs.

Reading Colorwork Graphs

Most colorwork in crochet is created with basic stitches of solid fabric, and the color changes are what create the intricate designs in the fabric.

Therefore, colorwork is sometimes easiest to read and follow when looking at a color coded graph.

On a graph, one square represents one stitch. Each square color on the graph represents the color changes you must make in your stitches to create the same type of colorwork fabric.

To read and follow a colorwork graph, begin at the bottom row (on the right if you are right handed, and the left if you are left handed), then work upwards.

Fair Isle

This technique uses multiple strands of color, usually two, but occasionally more. The unused colors float along the back of the fabric until they are needed again and picked up.

In this example, the left shows the front of the fabric and the right shows the back of the fabric.

About Fair Isle:

  • Because long strands are left on the back, this is also known as “stranded” colorwork.
  • Only one color is used at a time, so this method produces very clean color changes.
  • This method is usually only used with single crochet.

Fair Isle Tips:

  • To avoid long trends behind your work that can snag or pull, work over unused strands after every few stitches.
  • This method is best worked in rounds, hiding the “stranded” or wrong side of the fabric.

Tapestry

This technique uses multiple strands of color, usually two, but occasionally more. The unused colors are crocheted over (working them into your fabric) until they are needed again and picked up.

In this example, the left shows the front of the fabric and the right shows the back of the fabric.

About Tapestry:

  • Small stitches (single) create a tight space for the yarn that is carried (crocheted) over, which also creates a tighter, more dense fabric.
  • While more than 2 colors can be used per row, each strand thickens the fabric.
  • The fabric has a right side, but the wrong side doesn’t have to be hidden (like Fair Isle).

Tapestry Tips:

  • This technique can be worked in rows or rounds.
  • While single crochet is mostly used, other stitches can be used with this technique.

Intarsia

This technique uses as many strands (colors) of yarn as you like, because each one is picked up and fastened off as needed.

In this example, the left shows the front of the fabric and the right shows the back of the fabric.

About Intarsia:

  • Intarsia is reversible (the front and back of a fabric look similar). This is because yarn ends are sewn into the same color fabric to hide and secure.
  • This is usually worked in single crochet, but is also possible in half double, double, Tunisian and corner-to-corner.
  • There is no limit to the number of colors you can use (each color change is fastened off as you go).

Intarsia Tips:

  • Bobbins (or, small sections of yarn wound up) are used to keep all the different yarn colors from tangling together. This is because every color change is fastened off (creating two tail ends).
  • Intarsia leaves a lot of ends to weave in (two per color change). Sew them in as you work, especially to keep your fabric tidy.

Resources

Colorwork is a color changing technique, and it might take some practice to polish your stitch work.

Learn how to change colors in rows with this video tutorial:

Learn how to change colors in rounds with this video tutorial:

Try a colorwork technique today from our Pinterest board:

Download A Colorwork Cheat Sheet

Click Here to share your new stitch skills in our community!

Peace + Love + Crochet

Salena

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Salena
    I was just wondering where would pooling (argyle patterning) fit in, as there is only one skein of yarn, but in a sense it’s still color work.?

    1. Fantastic question, thank you for asking! Pooling is a colorwork technique of its own entirely; it can only be produced using specific dyes and in a specific type of stitch pattern. I did not add Pooling to this article because you’re not using more than one color (strand) of yarn to create it.

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