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Knitting with Bulky Yarn

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bulky yarn

Bulky yarn knits up quick with big stitches.

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Knitting with bulky yarn can be a lot of fun, but some knitters actually don't like working with these big fibers. Here's all you need to know about bulky yarn and how to work with it successfully.

What is Bulky Yarn?

For the purposes of this discussion, bulky yarn is anything that's larger than worsted or medium weight yarn. In the yarn classification system that's actually two categories, known as bulky and super bulky yarn.

Bulky yarn (weight classification 5) is generally thought of as being yarn that uses size 9 to 11 US knitting needles (5.5 to 8 mm) and that measures a gauge of 12 to 15 stitches per four inches.

Super bulky yarn, classified as number 6, is worked on needles larger than 11 (8 mm) and gives an average gauge of 6 to 11 stitches per 4 inches.

What's Good about Knitting with Bulky Yarn?

There are a lot of reasons a knitter might want to work with bulky yarns:

  • Because the yarn is so thick, it's much quicker to knit even large projects with bulky yarn than it would be to knit the same thing with a finer yarn.
  • Some knitters find the yarn easier to work with than lighter weight yarns.
  • Projects worked with bulky yarn require less yardage than the same project worked in a lighter yarn, so you can get a lot of project for not a lot of yardage (which may save you money, but see below).
  • Bulky yarns trap a lot of air, so they're warm pretty much regardless of fiber content.
  • As of this writing, bulky yarns seem to be pretty trendy.

What's Not So Good about Bulky Yarns?

On the other hand:

  • Some bulky yarns are not incredibly tightly spun (or, in the case of roving-type yarns, not really spun at all), which means it can be easier to split bulky yarns compared to other fibers.
  • Bulky yarn is sold in skeins of much smaller yardage (sometimes less that 50 yards per skein) so while it takes less yarn to finish a project, you might end up paying more for it.
  • Some knitters find bulky yarns too difficult to work with or uncomfortable to knit with, particularly those with arthritis or repetitive strain injuries (the big needles in particular can be uncomfortable to work with).
  • Bulky yarns make bulky garments, which aren't flattering on everyone.
  • It's easy to get overheated when wearing a bulky garment.

What's the Bottom Line?

As with many things in knitting, some people love bulky yarns, and some people hate them. Some people use them sparingly, if at all, for scarves and other accessories, but would never let a bulky knit cover their body.

Give a bulky yarn a try on an easy project like my Beginner's Garter Stitch Scarf and see what you think.

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