Finding a combination of yarn that makes my woven fabric sing is a pursuit I will never tire of. One of my greatest pleasures is walking into a yarn shop filled with wall-to-wall skeins of yarn. The variety of colors, textures, and sheens gets my creative juices flowing! Whether I am weaving twill, color and weave, monk’s belt, or overshot, knitting yarns bring these classic structures to life in a new way.
The pursuit of the perfect drape for scarves and other wearables initially drew me to knitting yarns. In pursuing harmony between yarn and structure, I discovered that fingering-weight knitting yarns perform wonderfully for twill scarves and shawls. The gauge of fingering weight yarn is well suited for various twill structures, from broken and plaited twills to M and W variations, because it showcases the detail of the structure. I tend towards merino, silk, and cashmere blends for these pieces because they are strong and have an unbeatable hand.
Nancy Peck doesn’t let the title of knitting yarn stop her from throwing it on a loom. Fantasy Twill Scarf, Handwoven January/February 2023. Photo by Matt Graves
Mixing knitting yarns with themselves or traditional weaving yarns in one piece is a wonderful—and endless—way to add texture and visual intrigue to handwoven cloth. When combining fibers in the warp, use yarns with similar stretch to get the correct tension on the loom. An exception to this rule is working with a double back beam. The double back beam is excellent for blending fibers since the warp can be simultaneously tensioned at two separate levels. I enjoy mixing fibers in my warp when working color-and-weave effects such as houndstooth plaid, simple stripes, or pick-and-pick. Bringing together unexpected yarns, like a merino and a shiny novelty yarn, creates surprising results that spice up more basic but beautiful weave structures.
Carla Jeanne Hubbart’s Wrap Me in Houndstooth is a lovely example of a hand-dyed knitting yarn combined with a classic pattern. Handwoven May/June 2021. Photo by Matt Graves
Combining perle cotton or cotton carpet warp with a variegated novelty or knitting yarn in monk’s belt and overshot brings just the right flair to these classic patterns. Using cotton as the ground fiber provides structural stability, but shaking up the supplementary weft creates an unexpected pop. I was surprised by how well ribbon yarn works as the supplementary weft in monk’s belt. The crisp blocks juxtaposed with the sheen and flow of the ribbon create a wonderful collision of traditional and modern. Similarly, variegated knitting yarns are pleasing accent yarns in monk’s belt and overshot. Because the weft floats shift more frequently in overshot, the supplemental fiber needs more structure than a ribbon yarn to uphold the patterns’ detail. The weight of the supplemental yarn may be fingering, sport, or worsted, depending on the ground fiber weight and desired overall look.
Marcia Kooistra’s Monk’s Belt for Texture, Handwoven January/February 2023. Photo by Matt Graves
These are just a few of many structures that shine with the addition of knitting yarns. Regardless of the structure I am using, I have found sampling is key to working with knitting yarn. Sampling reveals the yarn’s strength under tension and how the different textures, colors, and fibers come together as one cohesive whole. Ultimately, I seek the yarn that best brings my projects to life. Therefore, I don’t classify yarn as knitting yarn or weaving yarn, just yarn!
Sara Goldenberg White has been teaching weaving along the Front Range for over a decade. Her passion for weaving and teaching started during her graduate study at Colorado State University. She teaches a variety of fiber techniques, but sharing her love of weaving with others is one of her greatest joys.