Product Review: Say “No” to the Super Chunky Arm Knitting Blanket

Don’t those pictures of the super chunky arm knitting blankets look cozy? They’re all over Facebook and Instagram. They have a great sales pitch about how fast and easy they are to make. All these pictures online are making people think about how great it would be to cuddle up in one with a cup of hot cocoa in front of a fire on a cold winter’s day — or, in the case of this sultry lady, snuggle seductively on a sunny summer day outside on a hard garden bench.fake wool blanket chunky arm knitting bulky blanket fail

JUST SAY “NO!”

There are many reasons I’m speaking out against this strange fiber art craze. Giant chunky arm knitting with fake wool roving is just a bad idea, and I’ll tell you all the reasons why, but I’m going to start with my recent disastrous purchase from Amazon. 

I’m a fiberholic. Once I discovered that I could buy fiber over Amazon, resistance was futile. I could get wool from favorite companies like Paradise Fibers but also get the vitamins I’m out of and an extra bag of birdseed for the obnoxious parrot, without paying extra postage.

I’ve been on a rampant wet-felting kick — the blog posts about it are only the tip of the iceberg — and I was all out of black Merino wool. I love the “Raven” Merino roving from Paradise Fibers, but it only comes in 4 oz. packages over Amazon. When I say I’m on a rampant wet-felting kick, I mean that 4 oz was not nearly enough. I did a search for larger packages, and I found this great sounding product promising a 1.1 lbs ball of “Giant Wool Yarn Chunky Arm Knitting Super Soft Wool Yarn Bulky Wool Roving!” for the same price as a pound of undyed Merino roving from Paradise Fibers!

WOW!

I’m kind of single minded when I’m shopping for fiber. I want lots and I want it NOW. I really, really should have read the reviews.

Here’s what came through the mail:

Notice the exceptionally even crimp in every fiber, and the intense color?  I should have recognized the color as unnatural. True black is hard to get on dyed wool. As soon as I touched it, my fingers screamed “PLASTIC! Danger, Will Robinson! PLASTIC!” I decided to felt a sample before investing any time in this “wool” for a project. Huh. Guess what? Plastic doesn’t felt. Here is what plastic does do, though. It melts, and forms a little plastic blob, like this one:

When I’m shopping for wool and I see the word “wool” on the label, I jump to the crazy conclusion that I’m buying wool. I’d excuse this as a translation error, but they managed to get the word “roving” translated correctly so I’m not ready to believe that “wool” is harder to translate than that. The label on the package reads as follows:

If I had paid remarkably less for this stuff than for real, feltable Merino roving then I’d be less annoyed. I paid the same price for my disappointment as I did for the undyed pound of real Merino from Paradise Fibers through Amazon.  Here is a quick price comparison between real wool and this stuff. (The plastic stuff is shown in green– apparently they’re sold out of black fake wool.)


Is this purchase a total loss? Nope. Sometimes, fibers that DON’T felt make really cool texture when added to the surface of felt made with fibers that DO.  Just don’t count on any textile strength from polyester when it’s on its own. (For an example, see “Twenties” Nuno Felted Scarf. That’s silk, not polyester, but silk won’t felt, either.)

Oh! How do I know that it’s polyester? I did more digging. (That’s what I do. I spin and I read stuff.) The AliExpress website has this same product listed. (Click here if you want to see it.) Their package is only .62 lbs, but there is far more product information on their listing than there was on Amazon, including the description “polyester blended yarn.” If you’re allergic to wool or are vegan or are for any reason looking for a great deal on spinnable polyester fiber, they have far better prices than anyone on Amazon. Just don’t expect wool!

Still Interested in Why I Give the Thumbs Down to Giant Knitting?

It’s not just because I’m kind of a wool snob, or because I’m angry that the product that was advertised to make giant blankets wouldn’t felt. (The makers aren’t really responsible for my attempt at an off-label use for their product.) Here is a list of reasons why I think that super chunky arm knitted fake-wool roving blankets are a bad idea:

  • The stuff they are made from is called “Roving.”
  • Roving is not durable.
    • It will pill. Those are the little balls of trashy-looking fuzz that come to the surface on some sweaters. They are an invitation for strangers or co-workers to pick at your clothing at random moments.
    • Bits will pull away with every snag or sneeze.
      • Okay, maybe sneezing wouldn’t do it, but any rubbing or motion or folding or cuddling or wrapping or spreading or visit from your cat is going to pull fibers away from the blanket, and not in a pretty way.
      • …or attempt to clean it. If you use soap and water, you will end up with a stringy disaster that looks nothing like this blanket. Dry cleaners aren’t going to be happy with the size of this monster, either.
    • It is not yarn.
      • It has no twist. If you’re not a handspinner you might be unaware that the twist in yarn is what holds it together and makes it strong.
      • Roving is the stuff spinners twist in order to make yarn.
      • Blankets should be made with yarn. That’s just the way it is.
  • This roving isn’t wool.
    • Okay, I haven’t checked out every brand out there.
      • Some of these rovings actually claim to be made with Merino, which is a really soft, fine wool that comes from actual sheep.
      • After my recent polyester purchase I am skeptical.
    • The price of real Merino is considerably higher than most man-made fiber.
      • It is not an easy sheep to shear.
      • No sheep is easy or cheap to keep.
      • Cleaning, processing, and dyeing real wool adds to the value, and hence, to the cost.
  • Any blanket this bulky will be stifling hot in any weather.
    • Don’t believe the claim that it is “naturally cool in hot weather.”
      • Well, yes… real wool is, in a reasonable yarn thickness. This stuff is neither wool nor a reasonable thickness.
    • I can’t imagine putting two inches of plastic over my whole body and still feeling comfortable.
      • I can’t imagine putting two inches of ____________(Fill in the blank) over my whole body and still feeling comfortable.
  • Where would you put it when you’re not using it?
    • I don’t know about your house, but I have absolutely nowhere to put a blanket so large it wouldn’t fit into a Volkswagen.
  • My final reason: That much fiber is meant to make a lot of yarn.
    • Learn to spin. You’ll love it! It’s relaxing, productive, creative, and provides great birthday presents for everyone on your list.

Just don’t succumb to the Bulky Blanket craze!


UPDATE:

I promised pictures if I used some of this polyester product for a felt project. My experiment was quite successful. I think the results were beautiful, but I only used about 1/3 of an ounce, and I have 2 pounds of this stuff! Also, it really does pill and bunch up where it wasn’t “tied down” as part of the felt, so use sparingly as a felt embellishment. Here is the Black & White Scarf, made with white Merino, white Mawata silk, and black polyester fiber marketed for bulky knitting:

handmade felted wool scarf with polyester and silk embellishments

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