What is marling?! A marled effect is created when you have two different colours or textures. You can achieve this by using a marled yarn, OR holding multiple yarns together. Let’s explore this excellent technique!
- Commercial marled yarns
- Creating your own marl
- Marling and ombré
- Gauge and marling
- Marling and colour
- Pattern pairings
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Speckly, pebbly, lovely marls
A marled yarn typically has two, but sometimes more, plies of different colours. Knit up, it creates a delightfully speckly fabric with delicious texture and interest.
Creating your own marls
You can create a similar effect by holding yarns of different colours or tones together, without the need to purchase a marled yarn. We’ve done this in a few different projects, most recently the Snap hat, but also in the Marley blanket, and the Sea To Sky blanket. We’ve also been playing a LOT with holding a strand of sock weight yarn with a lace weight mohair. Read all about layering with mohair here.
The joy of this technique is that you can use lighter-weight stash yarn that you don’t think you’ll end up using knit singly (like lace weight skeins) by holding them together with other yarns, creating a marled fabric at a gauge that knits up more quickly. You can also use up lots of odds and ends this way, especially if you are ‘moving’ from one colour to another like in the Snap hat.
Marling and ombré
Also, when you’re creating a marled fabric with two or more yarns, you can easily create ombre and blending effects and make use of odds and ends of stash yarn, because the continuity of one of the yarns throughout can make the changing of colours quite subtle and beautiful. So holding yarns together to create marled fabric is a very practical and adaptable technique.
For the swatch above I cast on holding together 4 strands of coral and worked as follows:
6 rows holding 4 strands coral
6 rows holding 3 strands coral and 1 strand poison
6 rows holding 2 strands coral and 2 strands poison
6 rows holding 1 strand coral and 3 strands poison
6 rows holding 4 strands of poison
You can see how lovely the blending effect is using only 2 colours!
Gauge and needles with marled fabrics: where to start
When you hold two yarns together, you need to use a larger needle size than you would for a single strand of the yarn. How much larger? Well one typical rule of thumb for doubling is that if your gauge in a single strand is, for example 26 sts / 4” (this would be a typical sock-weight garment gauge), then multiply that number by 0.7 or 70% and you will get 18.2. So your doubled gauge will be approximately equivalent to 18 sts / 4”, which is typical for worsted / aran weight yarn which you might knit on a US # 7-9 (4.5 to 5.5 mm) needle.
Based upon my swatch tests (this is the very unscientific sample size of one):
2 strands sock weight held together:
18 sts & 26 rows / 4 inches on a US 7 / 4.5mm needle
3 strands sock weight held together:
16 sts & 22 rows /4 inches on a US 9 / 5.5mm needle
4 strands sock weight held together:
13-15 sts & 19-20 rows / 4 inches on US 10.5 / 6.5mm
This should give you a starting point, you may need to go up or down a size or 2, depending on your personal gauge, and the gauge at which you achieve a fabric you like for your project. Holding 4 strands together for the pink-to-purple swatch above I used a US 10.5/6.5mm needle. You may want a slightly denser/tighter fabric for a hat, but something a little looser for a blanket.
Of course your stash might not be made up of sock yarn scraps, you can substitute a worsted for 2 sock strands, 2 strands of worsted for about a chunky weight, throw a lace weight in with a worsted for an aran weight, the list is endless! The most fun thing is a little play!
What about colour? ALL THE COLOURS
As you can see, the level of contrast between the yarns used has an impact on the effect of the finished fabric.
I find marling is a nice way to use variegated and speckled colourways that might be too much of a ‘dog’s breakfast’ when knit on their own. Speckles are so hot right now… but that doesn’t mean they will always shine, or shine in every project. Holding a speckle or variegated colourway alongside a kettle dye or solid colour yarn can tone down the crazy and add a level of sophistication and polish to the finished fabric.
What about pattern? KISS
I’m a big fan of garter and reverse stockinette stitch in marled fabrics. I think they look better than plain stockinette, because they break up the dots of colour even more effectively than stockinette does. They look more pebbly and speckly rather than striped.
The Bottom MARLED Line? Cast on and start experimenting!
Just like knitting with speckled yarns (which are SO MUCH FUN), making marled, scrappy versions of projects is SUPER FUN. You’re going to have a great time, and learn through experimentation. All of the above info is just to inspire you to get started and experiment on your own.
It’s a SNAP
This popular snappy little hat that is the perfect project for experimenting with marling!
Some great TCK patterns with marling
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