Remember when I talked about how long it takes me to knit every damn thing? MAJOR EXCEPTION: chunky knits! Gimme those hot dog knitting needles! I've grown addicted to not only the speed with which these projects zip by, but the phyiscal act istelf. I enjoy the visceral feeling of knitting with big needles more than the fine ones; it's somehow more meditative and happy-making for my hands.
While I've experimented with some chunky guys in the past (both Wool and the Gang patterns you can see here and here) my true appreciation for the joys of bulky yarns came by way of Good, Night Day's latest collection of sweater patterns. I was happy to discover that the designer Tara-Lynn was a fellow Canuck, and snapped up her printed pattern book back in December (she was also kind enough to send me a few of the bigger needles necessary for these patterns, which she also sells in her shop). Now, the biggest issue with using super bulky yarns for projects like this is the pill factor. Most if not all super bulky yarns are single ply. Because they aren't twisted and compressed, there is more surface area and with friction, these yarns will naturally pill more than a 2 or 3 ply twisted yarn. My Wool and the Gang projects have both pilled quite a bit, so you may want to invest in a sweater shaver to keep them at bay. I think the lovely texture you get from chunky yarns is totally worth the maintenance.
This is the Trefann Sweater and (like all the patterns in this collection) is super easy and fast to make, perfect for a beginner knitter or someone looking for a quick, instant gratification project (how often can you say that about a knitted sweater?) It's a simple, boxy, cropped design with full sleeves, and I love the switch from purl to knit stitches for a break in texture. I whipped this up in only a few days while binge-watching TV in December, and happily crammed it in my suitcase to wear over the holidays, wrapped in a lamb soft yellow cloud of happiness.
I did a lot of research on yarn before I got started. There are only a fraction of super bulky options when compared to say, worsted weight yarns, and it's hard to say if one brand will pill that much more than another. Tara-Lynn lists appropriate yarns on her Ravelry listings, and you can also choose to knit several smaller strands together to make gauge, but this obviously will add to cost since you're doubling the amount of yarn you'll need. For this version, I splurged on Malabrigo Rasta yarn in ochre. This yarn is 100% merino and has an incredibly soft hand. It's also got a kind of spongey texture I really loved to fondle. One great piece of advice I got via Instagram is to avoid frogging single ply yarns whenver possible; over handling them will increase their propensity to pill.
Because this yarn is striated, you're supposed to work with two balls at the same time and alternate strands to prevent "pooling" of colour. I looked at a bunch of tutorials for this and tried to work it out, but I had a super hard time hiding stitches when I switched yarns so I ended up utterly giving up. I do find some of the colour pooling annoying but this thing is so damn soft and cozy to wear it's hard to care too much. The only hiccup happened when I cast off and tried it on, only to find it a bit too shrunken for my liking. I thought I had got the gauge right, but I think this yarn is a bit denser than what Tara-Lynn suggested, so that may have had something to do with it.
I ended up wet-blocking it very carefully (bulky knits can stretch out like slime when wet) and methodically shaped it into a slightly larger size. Hilariously, after blocking it and obsessively checking on it's drying while turning it to prevent creases while laid flat, I almost destroyed the entire thing. It was laying on the floor next to the microwave and I accidentally over-melted a plastic tube of honey (anyone else nuke your honey when it crystallizes?) only to have it explode molten honey all over my face, foot and this sweater. I had second-degree burns on my lip and foot and was convinced I had melted a hole in the sweater, but wool is tough. I managed to rinse the honey off (once it had hardened into embedded toffee) and haven't looked back since.
I'm happy with the overall shape, and have been wearing it exclusively with high waisted Ginger Jeans. If it's super cold I layer a tucked in tee underneath to avoid those cropped sweater drafts. When it's yet another overcast winter day, it's the thing I most want to wear. I loved the process of making it so much, I quickly scooped up another super bulky for a second sweater, which I'll be sharing shortly.
How do you feel about super bulky knits? Any tips for keeping it all pill free as possible?