Guide to Multi-Strand Crochet
by Kathryn Vercillo
Double-stranded or multi-stranded crochet, where you hold two or more yarn strands together as you crochet, is a terrific technique to incorporate into your craft experience. Adapting to crocheting with multiple yarns is fairly simple but you can do a lot with it if you learn all of the tips and tricks for this niche. This guide provides that foundation.
What Is Multi-Strand Crochet?
Multi-strand crochet is a really straightforward technique in which you crochet exactly as you always do except that you hold two (or more) strands of yarn together throughout the project. This is different from niche techniques, such as tapestry crochet, where you carry one yarn behind the work and crochet only with the second yarn, switching between the two throughout the row. Instead, you are always crocheting with the yarn strands held together, effectively working with them as if they were one yarn.
Important Note: It is normal for you to run out of one strand of yarn before another strand of yarn, even if they are from the same yarn line (such as two strands of Super Saver). Yarn is sold by weight. The yardage given on a ball or skein band is the minimum yardage that the ball or skein will have, so one skein may have more than the other.
Reasons to Crochet With Multiple Strands
The Super Quick Throw works up so quickly because it is created by holding four strands of yarn together. There are four different colors of yarn held together here to create a brand new colorway throughout the design.
There are a number of reasons to try multi-strand crochet including:
- Quickly craft projects. The bulkier the yarn that you work with, the faster most projects go. Just think about crocheting a baby blanket with thread compared to crocheting the same size blanket with bulky weight yarn. Doubling up your yarn strands makes them thicker so the work goes faster.
- As a substitute for bulky yarns. Perhaps you have a pattern that calls for a bulky yarn but you don't have any bulky weight yarn in your stash. You can use multiple strands of thinner yarn types held together to effectively create that bulky yarn. See below for more precise information about yarn substitutions. Working with multiple strands together also creates a "chunky knit" look because the stitches look oversized in comparison to working the same stitch with a single yarn strand.
- Create thick, plush projects. The yarn that you create when holding together two or more yarn strands is thick and can be very plush. This is great for creating dense, warm, cozy projects. For example, Snuggles Project has some free crochet patterns that call for this technique because it creates such a plush texture for the paws of the animals that receive their blankets. In some instances, double-stranding can also be used to achieve structure for building crochet vessels, hat brims and other architectural details. This is done, for example, when crafting wildlife rescue nests.
The Crochet Brim Hat uses double-stranded yarn on the brim of the hat only to create the structure necessary for the visor-style appearance.
- Create oversized versions of projects. When gauge isn't an issue, you can use multi-strand crochet to create giant versions of smaller patterns. This is especially great for motif / appliqué patterns that you can create in much bigger versions to use as cushions and other projects. See an example below.
- To create ombré patterns. Although you can create ombre designs without using this technique, multi-strand crochet greatly increases the effectiveness and impact of the design. Learn how to create an ombré here.
- To create your own colorways. Mix and match different yarn types to create your own unique yarn blends.
- Making it easier to work with certain yarn types. For example, you can combine a novelty yarn (such as Scrubby) with a smoother and thicker acrylic yarn that your hook can easily grasp.
- Stashbusting. You can use one color throughout a project and combine it with lots of leftover colors to get rid of extra yarn. By holding it all together with that one color throughout, you'll create a cohesive project regardless of all of the different colors in the second yarn strand.
The Romantic Shawl is crocheted with two strands of thread held together, each a different shade of red. This creates a unique color blend and also works up quickly and easily even for people who aren't used to thread crochet.
Substituting for Thicker Yarns
Sometimes you want to use a particular pattern but make your own yarn substitution. The most important thing when doing this is to to make a gauge swatch before you begin. It is the only way to know for sure if your yarn choices are going to match the pattern's needs; if not then you may need to change your yarn strategy or at least change the hook size that you've selected. See more on hook sizes for multi-strand crochet below.
A good general rule to follow is to that two strands of the same yarn weight will create a yarn that is 1-2 sizes greater. For example, two strands of super fine (#1) yarn will create a yarn that is fine (#2) and two strands of worsted weight (#4) yarn will be equivalent to bulky (#5) or super bulky (#6) yarn. Use this information as a starting point and then use your gauge swatch to adjust to perfection.
Tips for Keeping Yarn Strands From Tangling
One of the most common issues that people have when they first begin working with multi-strand crochet is that they get their yarns tangled as they work. It can be really frustrating, but it doesn't have to happen. The trick is to keep each ball of yarn in one place without allowing them to cross over one another. When working with two strands of yarn, you may want to place one ball on your left and one on your right as you work. Here are some additional ideas for keeping your yarns separate:
- Use yarn bowls. Placing each ball of yarn in its own bowl helps to keep the yarns separate and is especially helpful when working with more than two strands of yarn at a time. You do not have to have professional yarn bowls; there are some great DIY tutorials out there for yarn bowls made of wood, clay and even recycled plastic bottles.
- Work from both ends of the same skein. If you want to use the same yarn for both strands of a double-strand project and you have a center-pull skein of the yarn, you can hold the center end and the outside end together and crochet with both strands at once.
- Work from the center of center-pull yarn balls. Working with multiple balls of yarn is made easier when you pull from the center of each of them; they are less likely to tangle and it's easier to control how much yarn is coming out at a time.
- Wind your own multi-strand balls before beginning a project. Take each ball of yarn that you're going to be working with and steadily pull the yarn out, holding the strands together, winding a new ball of your own. Having done this, you can then use the one ball of multi-stranded yarn as if it were a regular single strand ball of yarn. One important benefit of this is that you will easily be able to tell if you have more of one type of yarn than another; this is important if you are working with the same 2+ yarns throughout a project.
Choosing the Right Crochet Hook
There are no hard and fast rules for choosing the right crochet hook when working with multiple yarn strands. Here are some general guidelines that you can use as a starting point although you should always check gauge and adapt your hook selection accordingly.
- When working with two strands of the same weight, choose the same hook size recommended on the yarn label if you want to keep the project close to the same size as the original. Note that this makes it more difficult to pull the yarn through each stitch and can be hard on the hands; it also creates a tighter structure rather than one with a lot of drape. This is perfect for items like baskets but not as good for wearables.
- When working with two strands of the same weight, choose a larger hook size than recommended on the yarn label if you want to maintain ease of crafting and have looser drape.
- When working with two strands of different weights, try the hook recommended for the thicker yarn.
- When working with more than two yarn strands, choose a hook size larger than the one recommended on the thickest yarn label. For example, the Super Quick Throw uses four strands together of Red Heart Super Saver, which calls for a size I crochet hook; the pattern asks you to use a size P crochet hook for this project. The Glowing Embers Basket uses three strands of the same yarn and a size L crochet hook.
- Skip the hook. Multi-strand crochet is perfect for finger crochet projects!
In contrast to the Textured Travel Scarf, this Double Woven Throw also uses two strands of Red Heart Soft Yarn held together but the pattern calls for a size N crochet hook.
An Example of Creating an Oversized Project
This example uses the Decorative Hearts crochet pattern.
In this first sample, I've used the crochet pattern as intended, with a worsted weight yarn (I substituted Super Saver for Soft) and a size I crochet hook. Note that this is a two-sided crochet pattern and I've only worked one (front) side to show the scale of the project.
In the oversized example, I used the exact same pattern but worked with five strands of Super Saver yarn and a size S crochet hook.
Here you can see the difference in the two hearts side-by-side. The original heart is ornament-sized; the multi-strand heart is pillow sized.
Additional Tips and Information
Here are a few more things that it can be helpful to know about double-strand / multi-strand crochet:
- It is important to maintain your tension when crocheting with multiple strands. Watch carefully, especially in the beginning, to see that you have the same tension for all strands. The goal is to work the strands seamlessly together as though they are one yarn.
- Beware of dropped stitches! This is something that knitters know about but crocheters rarely have to worry about. However, with multi-strand crochet, you can accidentally drop a portion of the stitch with one yarn and still complete the stitch with the other strand, creating a problem in the work. If this happens, take the time to frog back and pick up that dropped stitch.
- Double-strand crochet can be useful in bead crochet, allowing you to use small beads even when working with thick yarn. In this case, you would string your beads on to thinner thread thread then hold the yarn together with the threaded beads, working them as a double-strand crochet project.
Here are some additional patterns that call for multi-strand crochet.
The American Pride Flag uses double-stranded thread crochet throughout.
The Glowing Embers Basket uses three strands of yarn, changing the combination of yarn colors used to achieve different color effects throughout the project.
The Quiet Moments Rug uses four strands of yarn held together throughout the project, switching to just two strands (and a smaller hook) for the motifs added atop the rug.
The Pumpkin Bag uses a single strand of yarn for most of the project but incorporates the double-strand technique for the handle. This is a great example of how double-stranding is good for structural details.