When I wrote the original article Tried and tested: Super-chunky yarn back in 2009 I was looking for a soft and more affordable substitute for Rowan Big Wool. I had no idea that this would become one of the most popular articles on the website. Things have changed in the last six years; some of the yarns I recommended as substitutes back then are now discontinued, but luckily there are now so many more yarns on the market at the super-chunky gauge to suit every pocket. It felt like time for another look at what’s out there, this time focusing on natural-fibre yarns at the same price point as Big Wool or cheaper.
Prices are accurate as of the time of writing in November 2015. If you see a great deal please let us know in the comments.
|yarn||fibre content||weight/ yardage||RRP||Softness||recommended needles, tension||overall rating|
|Rowan Big Wool||100% merino||100g / 80m||£9.25||10-15mm,
|Lana Grossa Ragazza Lei||100% merino||50g / 40m||£4.25||12mm, 9 sts|
|Drops Polaris||100% wool||100g / 40m||£3.70||12mm, 8sts|
|Cascade Lana Grande||100% wool||50g / 45m||£5.90||12mm, 8sts|
|Lang Yarns Kim||68% wool
|50g / 42m||£4.95||12mm, 9sts|
Rowan Big Wool
I’m going to be a little harder on Big Wool than last time, in part because I’ve got experience of wearing a Big Wool cardigan now and I found it pretty itchy, but also because the Rowan colour palette really doesn’t do it for me any more and could do with a re-vamp. I can’t help feeling that Rowan have lost their place in the market a little over recent years.
They have changed the recommended needle range though; dropping it to 10mm, which I feel is right for the yarn.
There’s a silk blend version available now, which is a little more expensive at £11.95 but hopefully a bit softer. I haven’t tried it but I’m not sure how such a think yarn copes with the weight of silk.
Lana Grossa Ragazza Lei
Lana Grossa is arguably Germany’s biggest yarn brand but relative newcomer to the UK market. Ragazza Lei is a 100% merino single ply yarn. It feels soft and strong, as it’s loosely spun it’s going to go fizzy with wear.
This feels the thinnest of all those reviewed and to me looks too loose on the recommended 12mm needles. But it is available in an extensive colour range, including neons!
Polaris is a thick, substantial 100% wool yarn. Another singles yarn, this time fulled so is likely to wear better than Ragazza Lei. It’s a great price but actually half the yardage of the alternatives here, and not very soft.
Despite having the same recommended needle size I can’t see it working well as a Big Wool substitute because of its thickness, but it would be great for heavyweight projects. It’s also good for felting.
Cascade Lana Grande
With the same construction and feel to Big Wool, Lana Grande is the closest match to all those reviewed, and at a great price.
It’s made from the same Peruvian highland wool as the ever-popular Cascade 220, which in my experience is softer to wear than the hand-feel suggests. The stitch definition is super, and, as you’d expect from Cascade, there is a great colour selection with something for everyone.
An all round great choice.
Lang Yarns Kim
Lang is a Swiss brand and another recent entry to the UK market, having been popular on the continent for some time for affordable, great quality staples like extra fine merino in any gauge and colour you could wish for.
Kim has a completely different personality to the other yarns here, with an incredible loft for super-chunky garments that wont weigh you down and feels luxurious. It’s plied and has a small synthetic content for strength, which is no bad thing for a loosely spun yarn.
Although the price for weight is higher than Big Wool, yard for yard it’s actually better value, making it my first choice!