How do you know what weight yarn to use for chunky, oversized knitting patterns? (You might think the answer is self-evident, but not to those who aren’t very familiar with yarn weights!)
When I first learned how to knit, I really didn’t understand all the available weights of yarn: lace, fingering, dk, aren, sport, worsted, chunky, bulky, super bulky. Even when I was a much more experienced knitter, I often struggled with what weight to use with which needle size, and didn’t always understand how to adjust a pattern for yarn weight changes.
Many of my knitting patterns call for super bulky yarn. That’s the heaviest weight of yarn, meaning the thickest yarn (the widest circumference). Super bulky yarn is approximately the same width as my ring finger. You really need to use size 17 or 19 (US) knitting needles with super bulky weight yarns.
Bulky weight (not super) is significantly lighter than super bulky. Bulky yarns are about as wide as my pinky fingernail. If I want to substitute bulky yarn for super bulky, my best bet is to use two strands with size 17 or 19 needles. If I don’t want to use two strands, I’ll need to use a smaller needle (likely size 13-15), cast on additional stitch repeats and knit additional rows.
Chunky weight is the next lighter size and is a wee bit skinnier than bulky. I would likely use three strands of chunky yarn instead of one strand of super bulky weight yarn. If you only want to use one strand, you’re now significantly altering the look of a pattern – it loses some proportion and texture – but like bulky, you’d need to cast on additional stitch pattern repeats and knit additional rows (likely size 11-15).
If you’re trying to use worsted or lighter weights in place of super bulky weight yarns, I’d first recommend … not to. You’ll spend so much money and time adding additional strands of yarn, detangling strands as you knit, recalculating how many stitches to cast on, how many rows to knit, etc. And then you run the high risk of not being happy with your finished knit. It won’t look the same, won’t feel the same, and may not fit correctly.
However! Here’s a trick I’ve used successfully many, many times. You can achieve a whole new (and often unique) yarn by doing this: combining different types of fiber. How about one strand of chunky yarn plus two or three strands of fuzzy mohair blends? Instant super bulky yarn. I love using Rowan Kidsilk Aura or Haze for just this purpose (see above!).
Tomorrow, I’ll share some tips about how to use size 17 and 19 knitting needles without hand pain!
But first, what questions do you have about knitting with super bulky yarns? Or … which are your favorites to knit with?