Tried and tested: Super-chunky yarn

Posted by Suzie on Tuesday, 24 March 2009 at 13:06
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Please note that article was published in 2009, and some of the yarns suggested as substitutes are now themselves discontinued. Read our updated review of Rowan Big Wool substitutes Tried and tested: Super-chunky yarn part 2, dated November 2015.

Chunky goodness

Rowan Big Wool

I love fine gauge yarns, but it’s always nice to see the instant results that you get knitting super-chunky yarn on big needles. Chunky yarn gives you the freedom to experiment, knowing that you can re-knit in no time if it doesn’t work out.

There are some lovely patterns around for Rowan Big Wool, but it’s not the cheapest, or softest, or most hard-wearing yarn in the world, so I decided to check out the alternatives.

I’m normally a bit of a yarn snob. I hate the idea of a synthetic fibre festering for eternity in landfill when its life is over, and, if I’m going to go to the effort of making something, I don’t see the point of using cheap-looking, synthetic yarn. However, because of the cost of super-chunky yarn and the fact that it’s often loosely spun and delicate, acrylic blends are worth considering for their value and hard-wearingness.

yarn fibre content weight / yardage RRP best price recommended needles / tension Suzie recommends overall rating
Rowan Big Wool 100%  wool 100g / 80m £7.25 £3.50 12-15mm
7.5 sts to 10cm / 4in.
10mm
10 sts
4/5
Rowan Biggy Print 100%  wool 100g / 30m £6.75 £2.95 20mm
5.5 sts
12-15mm
~6-7 sts
3/5
Sirdar Bigga 50% wool, 50% acrylic 100g / 40m £3.99 £0.99 15mm
6 sts
12mm
7.5 sts
3.5/5
Sirdar Big Softie 51% wool, 49% acrylic 50g / 45m £2.49 £1.89 10mm
9 sts
10mm
10 sts
3/5
Debbie Bliss Como 90% wool, 10% cashmere 50g / 42m £4.95 £4.49 10mm
10 sts
10mm
10.5 sts
5/5
Colinette Point Five 100%  wool 100g / 50m £5.75 £4.74 12mm
7.5 sts
12mm
7.5 sts
4/5
Twilleys Freedom Wool 100% wool 50g / 50m £2.99 £2.49 10mm
10 sts
n/a n/a
Classic Elite Twinkle Sort Chunky 100% wool 200g / 75m USD 19.99 USD 17.00 12-15mm
6 sts
n/a n/a

Rowan Big Wool

Rowan Big Wool on 10 mm needles

Rowan Big Wool on 10 mm needles

Big Wool comes in a typically Rowan range of gorgeous colours. It is spun 3 ply and has an even, springy texture, but goes a bit fuzzy with wear and I find it a little itchy. Big Wool is not as super-chunky as it makes out – the recommended needle size of 12-15 mm produces a fabric that’s too open for my taste. I knitted my sample on 10 mm needles to a tension of 10 stitches to 10 cm / 4 inches, although I think 9 mm needles might be better.

Big Wool is available from LoveKnitting.

Rowan Biggy Print

Rowan Biggy Print on 15 mm needles

Rowan Biggy Print on 15 mm needles

Biggy Print is a bit chunkier than Big Wool with a recommended needle size of 20 mm, but again, I feel that this gives a fabric that’s too open and almost lacy, I prefer it on 12-15 mm. Because of its uneven, lumpy texture (and this is just my personal taste) I’ve hardly ever seen it turned into a wearable garment, Kim Hargreaves’ ‘Bitter Berry‘ and ‘Forest Fruits‘ cardigans being the exception. I’m generally very unimpressed with Biggy Print – I made myself a scarf from it which was itchy and wore badly.

Sirdar Bigga

Sirdar Bigga on 12 mm needles

Sirdar Bigga on 12 mm needles

At as little as £0.99 for 100 g this is a great value yarn and comes in some beautiful, earthy, heathered shades. As it is spun 3 ply, it’s very similar in appearance to Big Wool but it is a bit thicker (and shorter on yardage). It has a soft feel and the acrylic content helps it wear well despite some shedding while knitting. When knitted up on the recommended 15 mm needles it’s quite open; I knitted my swatch on 12 mm to a tension of 7 stitches to 10 cm / 4 inches.

Sirdar Big Softie

Sirdar Big Softie on 10 mm needles

Sirdar Big Softie on 10 mm needles

Another low cost acrylic blend from Sirdar, and although soft, it does have a noticeable synthetic feel and I don’t like the predominantly pastel colours it comes in. It is spun single ply and sheds more readily than Bigga. It is thinner than Bigga and so is more versatile as a low-cost substitute for Big Wool or Como. It knits up well on the recommended needle size of 10 mm to a tension of 10 sitches to 10 cm / 4 inches.

Debbie Bliss Como

Debbie Bliss Como on 10 mm needles

Debbie Bliss Como on 10 mm needles

This is a beautiful, soft, luxury yarn in an array of subtle, stylish colours. I have fallen in love with it, it is a pleasure to knit with, but sadly you’d need to take out a mortgage to knit anything sizable with it. As it’s a relatively new addition to the Debbie Bliss range, I couldn’t find any deals. It is spun loosely, single ply, but holds together very well and doesn’t seem prone to shedding or pilling. It knits up well on the recommended 10 mm needles to a tension of 10.5 stitches to 10 cm / 4 inches.

Colinette Point Five

Colinette Point Five on 12 mm needles

Colinette Point Five on 12 mm needles

This is a roving type, thick-and-thin yarn that you just have to pick up and squish. It is soft, and is available in Colinette’s unique hand-dyed, semi-solid and variegated colourways. Like Rowan Biggy Print, I’m not convinced of its practicality – its extreme variation in thickness gives an uneven appearance to knitted fabric and makes it a bit unpredictable. As it felts fantastically it requires a delicate wash, and would be my first choice for a felted winter coat… in fact I might have a go at designing one.

Untested alternatives

There are a couple of yarns I wanted to try but couldn’t get locally.

Twilleys of Stamford Freedom Wool

This is a no-nonsense, all wool yarn, spun single ply. It knits on 10 mm needles to a tension of 10 stitches to 10 cm / 4 inches. At around £2.49 for 50 g / 50 m it’s an affordable alternative to Como and Big Wool for anyone wanting to avoid synthetics. It comes in a good range of popular shades. It felts very easily so I don’t expect it would be hard-wearing.

Classic Elite Twinkle Soft Chunky

Although popular in the US I couldn’t find this listed on UK websites (if you find any let me know!). It is single ply, 100% wool, with a recommended needle size of 12-15 mm. The RRP is USD $19.99 for 200 g, with just 75 m per hank it’s probably the bulkiest listed here. It comes in 41 shades and has great pattern support in the shape of Twinkle’s Big City Knits by Wenlan Chia.


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31 comments

  1. Laura says:

    FWIW, i used Rowan’s Little Big Wool as a sub for Como, and was very impressed indeed. Not quite sure how it differs from Big Wool though!

  2. Michelle says:

    Hello! This is very interesting. Where do you think the Mirasol Sulka range lies?

    • suzie says:

      Hi Michelle,
      Sulka is a pretty standard chunky/bluky weight, not as thick as the ones above. You could knit it on larger needles for an open effect, but the silk makes it a fairly heavy yarn so it would stretch a lot and end up a bit mis-shapen.
      Suzie

      • mummygoth says:

        Hi

        Have a pattern for Rowan big wool and may have to use a cheaper alternative as you suggest. Notice that you have shown a best price of £3.50 for it though. Could you tell me where you found it at this price please if still available? I have never done cabling before and don’t want to waste a lot of money if I can’t manage it. Thank you

  3. Michelle says:

    Thanks Suzie! I’m just knitting your staggered rib scarf in sulka which is looking great and everyone loves it! I’m just wondering about its durability – does it tend to look as good with time (apart from the misshapen part) i.e. will it get bobbly with time? It looks like it might…

    • suzie says:

      Hi Michelle,
      My Sulka scarf has fared very well this winter and I expect to be wearing it for many more winters to come. It has fluffed up (in a nice way), but no pilling. It has stretched a bit, I did not take that into account in my size calculations, so if you want a wide scarf, best to cast on more stitches. Thanks for choosing my pattern, I’m really glad you like it!

      Suzie

  4. Michelle says:

    Thanks Suzie! This is good to know. Luckily I wanted a super-wide scarf so I’ve doubled the width. There are so many people who wanted the pattern and I’ve directed them here. It is an absolutely beautiful scarf. Thanks so much!

  5. Rachel says:

    Hi Suzie, where did you buy Sidar Bigga from? I have had a good search around but i can only seem to find a few shades here and there? Thanks. Great blog by the way.

  6. suzie says:

    Hi Rachel,
    I got mine from Kemps but they’ve run out now. I think it’s been discontinued, but you should have no trouble finding some on ebay.

  7. Anita says:

    Really useful info here! Got some Patons Symphony (what do you know about how it knits?) It’s a lovely pink / lilac mix and am keen to knit something for my grand-daughter (only 6 months) Is this a silly idea? Perhaps I need to wait till she’s older & bigger? What do you think?

  8. Alison Mohammed says:

    I’ve just bought 25 50g hanks of Sulka yarn (because I couldn’t resist it and it was on special offer) I haven’t got a pattern though – I’d like to make an Arran jumper for myself with it – any recommendations for a (cheap) pattern?

    • suzie says:

      Hi Alison,

      Wow – 25 hanks, lucky you! It might not be the best thing for an aran style jumper, because of the high silk content it may not hold cables in the way intended. I think it could look fantastic as a substitute in this cardigan by Norah Gaughan though: http://www.berroco.com/ng5/ng5_heron_pv.html

      I have no idea how it compares to the suggested yarn weight wise so be sure to swatch!

      Suzie

  9. sarita says:

    Hi!

    Where can I find Rowan Big wool for £3.50????
    Thanks!
    sarita

  10. Lucy says:

    I’m looking for an alternative to Big Wool and this is so helpful. Thank you so much!

  11. Tess says:

    Hi Suzie, thanks for the comparisons. I have HUGE problem! I’m highly allegic to wool! I have been trying to source different synthetic “yarn’s” and have found what I think might work to make my daughter a ‘Rowan Coat/Jacket called Beth which uses Big Wool. It is made by Cygnet called Seriously Chunky. I know you don’t like synthetics, but I don’t have a choice. Have you or any of your readers used this ‘wool’? I love knitting (particularly Aran style patterns) and have been using Patons, Sirdar, Stylecraft and Berroco, as they make yarn in acrylic. Any other suggestions.

  12. Emily says:

    Hi Tess, I’ve been crocheting with Seriously Chunky lately, as my mum bought some for a project and changed her mind and donated it to me. It is very wool-like and I found it easy to work with. My item (a beanie) turned but quite stiff to start with but with a bit of wear it is softening nicely. I have found it difficult to find patterns, and most of the ones i tried on ravelry within the superbulky section worked up too big with this yarn. So it is chunkier than most chunky yarns. I personally don’t like the effect of crocheting with this and think stitches look too big and kind of ugly. Hope this helps.

  13. Kimberly says:

    Hi Emily, that’s really helpful advice, thank you – just a quick question, any advice on what needle size works best with this wool?

    Thanks,

    Kimberly

  14. sam thorpe says:

    i would like to know if there is a similar wool i can use , i have a pattern for a poncho in sirdar wow could you recomend anything
    thanks

  15. Mary Baldwin says:

    Hello where can I purchase the rowan big wool?
    thamk you
    Mary B

  16. Elizabeth says:

    The Debbie Bliss Como wool is available at A Right Good Yarn for next to nothing, also some beautiful luxury yarns at affordable prices . They were very good to deal with too def worth a click !!

  17. Sarah says:

    I really like Drops Eskimo and Polaris for a cheap, 100% wool alternative. They’re both very chunky 1ply yarns, Eskimo knits up on 10mm needles and Polaris on 15mm.

  18. katie says:

    I too have knitted with Cygnet Yarns’ Seriously Chunky. 100% acryilc and oft to the touch, there are some fab solid shades and they are bringing out some bold prints.

    I’ve knitted on 12mm needles and it knits up really well, 4 balls for under £10 PEREFCT!!

  19. marj says:

    I am about to start a cardigan with cygnet seriously chunky. Will let you know how it fares. Am restricted with budget which is why i have chosen this one!

  20. Gini West says:

    Does anyone know which yarn would work on 20mm needles?

  21. jaxx says:

    Hi can you please tell me where I can find patterns any kind really more choice the better, for these kind of Chunky wools?

    Thanks

  22. Emma says:

    Hi, I was wondering whether you’ve had any experience with any of these yarns: Serenity Super Chunky by Wendy, Rico Fashion Super Chunky or Hayfield Super Chunky. I am hoping to make a blanket (pattern suggests Cascade Lana Grande for the yarn, which is much too expensive for me) and I wanted to know if this would felt easily, because I don’t want that to happen!

    Thanks :)

  23. alison says:

    Please can some one help me i want to crochet a blanket with seriously cygnet chunky could any one tell me what size hook i would need thank you so much

  24. sara says:

    Hi I am after some yarn that I can easily use my 20 mm needles with or even arm knit I can’t seem to find any. Thanks sara