What can I do with scrap yarn? Jumbo knitting!
Anyone who has done a knitting project or two will know that you almost inevitably end up stockpiling lots of small quantities of left-over yarn – often not enough to use for a new project on their own.
As a knitter, spinner and weaver, I have a lot of these mini balls and skeins saved up. Every so often, I like to pull them out and see which ones play nicely together. When it feels like I have a great colour and texture scheme, I decide what kind of project I’d like to make.
I’m planning on doing a few posts each showing a way to use these odds and ends – some with lots of little bits on their own, and some combining them with other yarns that you might have a skein or two of. There will be knitting, some weaving, and even a bit of spinning! Sound good? Great!
So today we’re talking jumbo knitting. Jumbo yarn has been – do forgive me – big for quite a while now. To the extent that the Craft Yarn Council added a whole new category for it! But we’re not going to be using jumbo yarn; we’re simply going to work with a lot of lighter-weight yarns held together for some large-scale texture.
As with any project, the amount of yarn you have will dictate what kind of item you can make – I'm going to assume you'll be able to judge this yourself. For small amounts you could make a hat or cowl, or if you have years' worth of scraps you could make a big chunky blanket!
Start by gathering your yarn together – any lengths of at least 30ish centimetres will be perfect. Don't worry about yarn weight! You can throw in some lace-weight alongside 4-ply and aran and it will all work out.
For the examples I’ve made, I had a colour scheme of orange, yellow, grey and cream. I used scraps of hand-spun, plus some commercial yarn. As I only had a small amount of the interesting bits, I used some nice neutral, undyed mill-spun yarns that I had whole skeins of to add bulk and hold the colour scheme together.
For the next stage you ideally need to have all of your yarn in balls, cakes or on cones, as we'll be winding them all together and the possibilities for entanglement are enormous.
Start with a number of yarn strands and make a ball; you can use as few as two strands, or combine six, or ten, or twenty! Generally the more strands you use, the thicker and warmer your knitted fabric will be – you just need to make sure you'll have the correct size needles (or knitting loom, or crochet hook, or arms) for the combined yarn you're making. When deciding how many strands I need, I like to very quickly knit a swatch of literally a few stitches and rows to check how the multi-yarn works up, then unravel it and carry on.
With your chosen strands in your hand, begin to wind them all as one into a ball. When you reach the end of one of your smaller balls of yarn, simply join on another yarn of a similar weight. You can either tie a knot – quick and strong, but messy – or splice the yarn for a neater join.
If you want multiple separate sections of the same yarn throughout the project you can simply cut the yarn after a while, join on a different yarn, and come back to the remainder later. I like to stagger my joins, so that each different colours and texture flows into the next rather than having an abrupt change of many yarns at once.
Keep winding your ball until you have run out of yarn or you have enough for whatever you're planning to make! This isn't an exact science; we're all about freestyling here. Once you've got your giant ball of combined yarn, you can work it up into your item of choice. I loom-knitted a couple of very quick cowls with my combo-yarn, and love the warmth and depth of texture!
The great thing about this is that, if you have some of your combined yarn left when you've finished knitting, you can either use the remainder to start off a new ball next time you have scraps to use up, or you can unravel it and combine with other scraps.
I used my combo-yarn to make this super-warm cowl first; it rather draws attention to my crazy long neck and I'll only wear it in the chilliest of weather.
I then combined the remainder with a few more strands of yarn for even chunkier texture and made a shorter cowl that I rather love.
I am new to loom knitting, as may be apparent from my rather messy bind-off. I made both of these within a couple of hours whilst watching a film, and love that the motion for loom knitting is completely different from knitting on needles. It's really important that I try to vary up my activities, as repeating the same movements constantly for regular knitting isn't good for my weak wrists.
Are you inspired to start combining your yarns to make chunky projects? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!