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How to Knit with Art Yarn

Learn how to incorporate your handspun art yarns into your knitting with these expert tips—plus knit a darling purse!

Esther Rodgers Oct 13, 2023 - 9 min read

How to Knit with Art Yarn Primary Image

Not sure what to do with all of your fun textured yarn? Esther has some ideas! Photos by George Boe

This month’s Subscriber Bonus features tips from renowned fiber arts maven Esther Rodgers on how to use textured yarn in your knitting. Plus, current Spin Off magazine subscribers can log in to access the downloadable pattern PDF for the “Locked Up Bag” by Kathy Augustine using the link at the bottom of this post or find it in the Spin Off library here. Not a magazine subscriber? Learn more about all the perks.

Have you ever seen (or spun) those amazing textured skeins of creative art yarn, the ones that you just love to fondle? Most spinners’ first question is usually, “How can I make that?” The second is always, “What would I do with it?” They’re often put up in skeins of small yardage, and they can be very bulky in nature. It’s tempting to just put them in a bowl and pet them when you are having a bad day, but they can be useful as yarn. So how can you actually incorporate them in your knitting projects?

Loosen Up and Keep It Simple

The easiest way to use textured yarn in knitting is by using large needles and simple stitches.

When you use needles that are the “correct” size (the one most commonly associated with the diameter of the yarn), you often lose the amazing texture that piqued your interest in the first place. By using larger needles, you allow the yarn room to show off everything it has going on while also creating a lacy look without fancy lace stitches. You’ll also use less yarn when knitting with large needles, so this will help your smaller skeins go farther.

Simple stitches are extra important when working with textured yarns. When you use intricate stitch patterns with textured yarn, it becomes too much to look at, and you lose both the pattern and the character of the yarn. It’s best to let the yarn do the talking and keep the stitches simple.

This bag is a great example of using simple stitches to help art yarn shine and you can check out the pattern in the Spin Off library.

Drop It!

One of my most favorite ways of using textured yarn, especially yarn that has special textures or add-ins, is to include long stitches such as dropped stitches and twisted dropped stitches. These long stitches give space for the yarn’s texture to shine, obscuring nothing. I like to create even more interest by alternating the length of the dropped stitches, making some rows higher than others. Long stitches also address the problem of small skeins because they are great for adding length without using up yardage.

Dropped stitches allow the long, luxurious locks and fun, glitzy wraps in this yarn to stand out (left). A very thin commercial bouclé yarn contrasts but doesn’t compete with the curly lockspun art yarn (right).

Mix It Up, Stretch It Out

Another way to use textured yarn in your knitting is to mix it with commercial yarns. This is a great way to incorporate smaller skeins of yarn and make them go farther. You can match the weight of the commercial yarn to your handspun,

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