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Getting Slubby With It: Novelty Yarn for Knitting, Crocheting and Weaving

If you're a yarn-lover like me, you understand that great yarns lend themselves to simple projects that let their beautiful textures take center stage. Here's my favorite kind of yarn -- and how to use it best.

Crafts Contributor
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Yarn is like tomatoes. When it comes to tomatoes, the really good ones are best sprinkled with a bit of salt -- maybe some olive oil -- and eaten raw, instead of cooked into more complex recipes. And yarn, well, you don't “overcook” that either -- in this case, with complicated patterns and difficult techniques. High-quality yarn just needs structure and a simple shape in order to be transformed into something intensely satisfying. 

 

If you're just getting started with needle crafts, art and specialty yarns can be a great choice. Texture, color, and even fiber changes within the strand mean you just need to use simple stitches -- and a bit of knowledge about the fiber -- to make a wonderful project, quickly and easily.

 

Let's take a look at a great novelty yarn, and one that I love to spin.

 

SLUBBY YARN

 

What is it? 

Slubby yarn is any yarn that has dramatic changes in thickness throughout the length of the strand. The thick “puffs” are called slubs, and I like to spin mine pretty big, so there's a lot of contrast between the thin strand and a big slub. 

 

What kind of fabric does it produce?

If your slubby yarn is made mostly of wool, you're going to end up with a warm, snuggly garment. That wool will also provide beautiful elasticity to hold the shape of your project. My advice: choose a soft wool. There are so many kinds of wool, you may as well choose something wonderful to touch. I like blue-faced leicester wool, as well as fine wools, like merino, cormo, and rambouillet (more on those wools in posts to come). Using these kinds of woold, you can expect a final product that has open and web-like spots where the yarn is thin, and clusters and where the slubs take over. Common sense says that this kind of fabric makes a great scarf, cowl or shawl, but I don't think anyone likes web-like mittens, so plan accordingly.

 

What size needles do I need?

For handspun slubby yarn, I tend to size up. Bigger is better here; those big stitches create a relaxed fabric that allows the yarn to move and showcase texture variation. If you do want to use slub yarn for mittens or hats, you'll want to knit tighter, so size the needles down. It's nice to have a denser fabric for these garments.

 

What kind of stitches should I use?

Single strand yarns are great for crochet, weft in weaving, or any knitting patterns that have a more “horizontal” look, like moss stitch and plain garter. They are really fun to work with, because they tend to have a textured, slightly thick and thin quality. Single-ply yarns can skew anything with strong vertical lines, such as stockinette, or warp for weaving -- for those techniques, generally use 2-ply (or more) yarns.

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Makes a scarf or a cowl.

PROJECT: SLUBBY, SLOUCHY, AND WARM

What makes the project special is high quality art yarn made from outstanding  fibers, and extremely loose stitches that accentuate the texture of the yarn. Work  with your favorite single-ply slubby yarn.  I recommend natural fibers (they feel so much better) and preferably at least 50% soft wool, so that it holds its shape well.

I've chosen to create a sample using Amulet, a jade green slubby yarn made of merino wool and bamboo, with bits of bronze silk running through it.  Yum!

I'm just going to knit stitch (garter) loosely on big needles, in this case size 13. 

Materials


Slubby Yarn:

  • At least 50% wool. This project is all about the yarn, so choose something wonderful and special, even if you're a beginner.
  • Great color and soft hand feel are a must. You should love handling it.
  • For a cowl, 70-plus yards, about 2 oz.
  • For a scarf, 150 yards, minimum 4 oz. 

 

Needles:

  • Straight, no smaller than size 13.  Feel free to go larger!

Method

  • Step 1: Cast on stitches until it looks a little thinner than the width you'd like for your scarf or cowl. My sample uses 18 stitches to get a width of 8 inches.
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  • Step 2: Knit stitch very loosely every row until you are almost out of yarn (leave enough to bind off, and if desired, add tassel or fringe). When I say loosely, I mean you can see the stitches slouching on the needles. Resist the urge to tighten! The stitches should be mostly manageable and keep a basic shape, no more.

  • Step 3: Bind off.

 

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  • Step 4: Finish.

 

Here are some pretty options:

If the project is short (less than 24 inches), seam the short sides together and wear as a gorgeous cowl. Wrap contrasting yarn around the outside edges if desired. If it's long, you can add contrasting yarn around all four edges, tying at the corners to make tassels.

For contrast, I chose another slub yarn, “Smashed Silk” in bronze. After spinning, I treated it unusually for silk, “breaking” most of the rules! Its been washed, scoured and slightly felted, so that it has a worn, papery feeling that I love.

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I wrapped 4 strands held together (each about 4x the length of the edge) like a candy cane around each edge and tied a knot at the corners.  No hook or needles for this, I just used my hands. Want in simpler? Fringe the short edges. You're done!  A beginner can do this easily, and the knitwear radiates comfort and artisan style.  The stitches don't have to be perfectly even because the yarn itself is intentionally uneven. Meanwhile, those ultra loose stitches give the fabric a light bubbly texture that's beyond soft. The yarn has room to move around almost like links in a chain, showing off the beautiful contrast between thick and thin fiber.

This is super quick. An experienced knitter will finish this in an afternoon, and I'd give a novice the weekend.

 

Life is too short to handle boring yarn! Go grab something wonderful. Something that feels good in your hands, and something with colors that express your mood and personality.Then give it a simple shape and enjoy.

Shop Maupston Design Studio in the American Made Marketplace.

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About the Author

Anna Upston

Conservatory-trained mezzo-soprano Anna Upston picked up crochet as a way to relax while practicing scales. Frustrated with unaffordable, unavailable yarns, Anna learned to spin and began designing the yarns she wanted but couldn’t find. Anna launched Maupston Design Studio in 2006, a year after having her first child. Today, she has three children, and her company continues to grow....

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