Writing the blog post about the new Chimera we have in the shop has got me excited about marling and marled yarns. I cast on with some Chimera straight away and loving knitting it up. Marled yarns are fun to knit with and unlike speckled or variegated yarn they play with colour in their own unique way.

I thought I would take a look at all the marled yarns that we stock here at Knit With Attitude and also various ways you can introduce marling into your own projects. There are lots of yarns that will marl for you but you can achieve a whole host of marled effects yourself by holding two, three or even four strands of yarn together.

So what is marling? Put simply it is just two strands (or plys) of different colours twisted together to create a two coloured yarn. Unlike a lot of hand-dyed yarn which dyes over the finished yarn, marled yarn is dyed before it is twisted or plied into the finished product. This creates a whole different effect in the knitted fabric. Colours appear and disappear randomly depending how the yarn sits when it is knitted and can give a subtle or high contrast knitted fabric depending on the contrast between the two plies. High contrast plies would give you an effect similar to white noise on a TV screen, random in appearance but defined. Subtle contrast plies would give a more blurry effect especially if the colours are similar leading to a fabric that has an impression of depth.

We have various yarns that come ready marled and would give you a marled fabric simply by knitting them. Some have more contrast and some less so where as some change colour along the yarn others are the same colour throughout.

Garthenor Snowdonia Sock - This 100% organic all British yarn is created by twisting together a blend of fibres from different breeds of sheep. This gives you an undyed yarn with a beautiful range of natural colours and good for socks. 4ply - 50g - 200m/219yds. (Colour pictured is Harlech).

Read more about Snowdonia Sock in this blog post.

Nomadnoos So Soft Yak and Sartuul - This hand spun yarn is mix of Mongolia Yak and Sartuul sheep with a focus on sustainability, the use of natural resources and the craftspeople who make them. 4ply - 50g - 240m/262yds. (Colour pictured is Rainbow Yaka).

Read more about Nomadnoos in this blog post.

Garthenor Preseli - Preseli is a dyed range of yarn from organic producer Garthenor. Sturdy but still soft and great for a whole host of projects. Made from a blend of Polwarth, Romney and Hebridean yarn all sourced in the UK. 4ply - 50g - 200m/219yds. (Colour pictured is Harbour).

Read more about Preseli in this blog post.

Riverknits Chimera - This Bluefaced Leicester yarn is created by hand dyeing two different strands before then twisting them together. Creating subtle colour changes along the skien. 4ply - 50g - 195m/213yds. (Colour pictured is Rainforest).

Read more about Chimera in this blog post.

Garthenor Beacons - Beacons is the thicker cousin of Preseli produced in the same way but at a heavier DK weight . It's sturdy but still soft and great for a whole host of projects. Made from a blend of Polwarth, Romney and Hebridean yarn all sourced in the UK. DK - 50g - 135m/148yds. (Colour pictured is Sunrise).

Garthenor Number 3 - Like Snowdonia Sock, Number 3 is all undyed. Focusing on the natural colour of the sheep, various fibres are blended and plied to gather to create range of solid and marled yarns. Some with high contrast and some with subtle ones. DK - 50g - 90-115 metres / 98-126 yrds (depending on shade). (Colour pictured is Guillemot).

Read more about Number 3 in this blog post.

To give you a sense of how marled yarns knit up you can see a couple of examples below.

Garthenor Preseli - Here the colour Harbour has been knit into a pair of Hilja Mitts. Notice how the different colours randomly distribute themselves over the fabric creating a dynamic a lively stitch. You get no pooling or colour clumping with this yarn and it tends to distribute evenly.

Riverknits Chimera - Here the colour sea breeze is been knit up into a colourwork design. Chimera has different colours that make up each ply so it shifts between them. As both strands that make up this yarn both are changing colour at the same time the colours blend and shift between each other rather than being distinct stripes as you would see in self striping yarn.

Of course you can create your own marls and have fun playing with colour with what you have. A classic example is holding two strands of 4ply together and getting around a DK/Worsted weight. You can have a lot of fun here as it allows you to blend between small scraps of yarn and is great for leftovers. Alternatively you can be very bold and choose two contrasting shades for the whole project. Or if you want to subtly change how a colour looks you can choose two similar colours. If the colours are similar it will be harder to define each individual strand so will read more like one colour from a distance. Marling can also be a way of shifting gently between various colours snd creating a smooth transition between them. For the above project I arranged my yarns from purple - pink - yellow - orange - brown. I created a rule where each colour was only knit for 10 rows. It went like this: 5 rows A+B, 5 rows B+C, 5 rows C+D, 5 rows D+E and so on. Each colour overlapping for 5 rows to help shift between them.

Marling for texture is a fun way of playing with colour while introducing different fibres. There are lots of projects out there that ask for a 4ply weight yarn held together with a fluffy lace weight silk/mohair or silk/alpaca. There is a tendency to go for the same shade to create a more harmonious knit, but why not go for something more contrasting. The fuzziness of the orange yarn in the above sample fills out the stitches and dominates as a colour, but because the blue is also such a strong colour it comes through in an exciting way creating a rich and unusual fabric.

Marling for gauge is another possibility, when you don't quite have the right thickness of yarn. It is a possibility to hold two or three, or however many strands together to get the thickness you need. That way for example if you have a 4ply you love and want to knit something that is written DK you can hold two strands together, of course much swatching is advised. But you don't have to hold two strands of the same yarn together, you can have fun and mix colours up to create something funky. The only thing to bear in mind is that different fibre types might block or wash differently and might be more plump or more dense, but if you are willing to experiment anything is possible. Take the example above. I wanted to knit an aran cable jumper but like a lot of people my stash was just full of single skeins of 4ply and odd bits. So I managed to hold three strands of 4ply together to get an approximate aran weight and got gauge for the pattern. I piled all my yarn together that worked within a family of colours and changed them as I felt like it, completely randomly. I love the result and its incredibly warm!