Friday, 21 January 2011

A Guide to Super Funky, Bulky, Chunky Yarns - Tried & Tested

I'm an impatient knitter - I like to see results quickly (It's all about the instant gratification...) - and for me the best way to achieve this is with using thick, heavyweight yarns from the Super Bulky / Chunky category.

I've been using a lot of different yarns from this category; here is a run down of some of the yarns in this weight:

Rowan Big Wool

This is not a cheap yarn - 100g is usually priced at around £8 (approx $13), it is 100% Merino wool spun 3 ply. It suggests knitting on 15mm needles, but this leaves a very open knit - for closer knit work I'd recommend 10 or 12mm needles. 

Plus points: It comes in a great range of colours, and 100g is about enough to make a good sized cowl or hat so you don't need lots of balls for a small project 
Downsides: It's expensive, a little itchy to start with (it does soften out with use) and is not as super chunky as "Big Wool" suggests...

Sirdar Bigga

This yarn really is super chunky - knits up on 12 -15mm needles brilliantly, is much cheaper than Big Wool at around £3 (approx $5) for a 100g wool (though with less yardage) - made up of 50% wool and 50% acrylic.

Plus points: On the bulkier end of the spectrum, comes in a selection of earthy tones, wears well with the acrylic content
Downsides: Getting harder to get hold of as Sirdar have discontinued a lot of colours (still available to buy on ebay in good quantities), 

Sirdar Big Softie

Available more widely, this acrylic blend is 51% wool and 49% acrylic, and softer than Bigga. It is spun single ply, so does stretch when knitting if knitted too tight. Knits up well on 10mm needles, and is a great low cost option for those on a budget at £2.50 (approx $4 ) a ball on average.

Plus points: Cheaper than most super bulky yarns, versatile, softer feel
Downsides: Limited colour options, sheds when knitting, acrylic content noticeable in finished product - fine for accessories, may make a very hot and sticky jumper...

Debbie Bliss Como

I've been raving about this yarn for a while - it has the consistency of cotton wool, and is 90% wool, 10% cashmere. It is not cheap at around £6 (approx $10) for 50g, but knits up on 10mm needles beautifully. I have made a beret style hat out of 50g, 100g would do a thin scarf or a bigger hat and headband. Felts great too!

Plus points: Feels gorgeous against the skin, comes in a wide range of colours, is widely available in store and online, and easy to work with.
Downside: It is really expensive! Look out for people clearing out their stash on ebay if you are on a budget, and is not hard wearing.

Twilleys of Stamford Freedom Wool

I found this one a little harder to get hold of in store, but is available on line. At £2.50 (approx $4) for 50g and 100% wool content, it felts well, knits up on 12mm - 15mm needles, and would be a cheaper alternative to Como.

Plus points: Felts well, good value, comes in a good range of colours
Downsides: Not that hard wearing (but nor is Como really!)

Jiffy Thick & Quick Lion Brand Yarn

This popular US brand is available widely in the US, but I have found a European supplier too! Jiffy is a mohair type 100% acrylic yarn - a good vegan alternative to wool, and knits up on 12mm needles

Plus points: Great choice for those who can't wear wool, harder wearing than some yarns tested
Downsides: Only comes in 8 shades, all multi coloured - not much choice

Wool Ease Thick & Quick Lion Brand Yarn

This acrylic / wool blend of 80% wool and 20% acrylic is available in over 30 colours, and knits up on 9mm needles, so not as bulky as other yarns, but at £6.50 for 170g of yarn it is a good choice for larger projects. 

(Note: It seems more expensive in Europe than in America, where I can purchase from Lion at $7.80 (approx £4.80) a ball...)

Plus Points: Versatile, comes in a wide range of colours, larger balls so better value
Downsides: I don't like paying more for the same yarn just because I live in the UK! 

Deborah Norville Serenity Chunky
This 100% acrylic yarn is great for those who can't wear wool - it is soft and won't split when working with it - it is a 2 ply spun yarn. Retailing at around $4.50 in a good range of colours, but is difficult to get outside the US. Knits up on 8mm needles.

Plus points: Great alternative to wool, knits up well, durable
Downsides: Hard to get here in UK - more expensive again to buy here at £6 a ball, not as bulky as some of the yarns reviewed

There are also lots of homespun bespoke yarns out there locally and online from artisans spinning and dyeing yarns which I've not covered here as they vary so much between suppliers - but I urge you to seek out your local spinners for special yarns!

There are patterns available for all of these yarns - I am useless with patterns and tend to make up what I'm doing as I go along! A lot of the time you can substitute yarns from the list above (for example you can substitute Como for Big Wool to good effect on some projects)
My Big Wool cowl & hat set using 200g wool
And as a final tip - for those of you on a tight budget, or have found your dream yarn but it's too thin - you can double or even triple the yarn up and work with it this way. It may take a tension square or two and a bit of trial and error to get it just right, but it's something I do a lot!

Giant Scarf - Sirdar Bigga doubled up for extreme knitting!
*** 15% off in store finishes 12 midnight GMT on 31st January so get shopping! (NEWYEAR15) ***


  1. I am like you a big fan of bulky yarn, especially the Rowan Big Wool and the Debbie Bliss Como. That's what i use for most of my creations...
    Thanks for this post...

  2. Very informative! I'll be keeping an eye out for those. I've been doing tiiiiiny crochet lately. I could do with some big ol' projects I can whip through quickly!

  3. Where can I find online free knit pattern for Twilleys of Stamford Freedom Wool? Thank you

  4. Here is a link to Ravelry where people have made projects out of Twilley's Freedom yarn:

  5. We are producing 100% cotton yarn of several counts ranging from 10/s up to 40/s for knitting and weaving.
    yarn exporter in Pakistan
    standard textile Mills Pakistan