Knitting with Needles

Knitting Techniques: Magic Ball Knitting

How to Turn Yarn Scraps into a Bold, Vibrant Project with the Easy-to-learn Magic Ball Method

by Wanda Leibowitz

Magic ball knitting is a vibrant, frugal way to turn your yarn scraps into a beautiful finished project. From wearable knits like scarves and hats to objects for the home like pillows and afghans, the magic ball technique is as versatile as your imagination and skill set: anything that you can knit, you can knit with a magic ball! Simple enough for beginning knitters, yet attractive enough to appeal to experienced needle smiths, magic ball knitting is a knitting technique that makes a fun addition to any crafter's repertoire. Read on to discover a step by step guide to getting started with magic ball knitting, plus some specific tips and tricks that will help you create the visual effect you want, and master a consistent gauge while magic ball knitting.

Getting Started

The basic idea behind magic ball knitting is that you'll tie a bunch of short lengths of varied yarns together to create a single long string of bold, vibrant yarn that will yield a new surprise with every row. Before you head into a magic ball knitting project, you've got to make a magic ball! To get started, go into your yarn stash and grab all of the odds and ends of yarn; anything from a stray ball to a few stray inches can become a part of your magic ball. Then, throw all of it into an opaque bag or box. Close your eyes, and pull something out at random. Snip off a length of yarn, and wind it into the start of a new "magic" ball of yarn. Then, grab a new skein from your box or bag, snip off a length of that yarn. Tie it to your first snippet, and continue to roll your "magic ball" as though there were no join in the yarns. Keep going, adding lengths of new random colors to your magic ball, until your magic ball is the size of a regular ball of yarn. Then, start all over again with a new magic ball! Repeat until your box or bag is empty. Now, use your magic balls of yarn the same way that you would any other balls of yarn!

What Lengths To Add

The more varied the lengths of yarn you add to your magic ball are, the more bold and busy your finished magic ball knitting project will be. If you'd rather have something a bit more sedate, cut all the lengths of yarn to be the same size: that way, you'll end up with a pattern of even stripes. In general, it's easiest to aim for a length of two to three feet per segment. That way, it will be simple to tie and wind the ball. If you go for more variable lengths, it may be a little more work to make your magic ball, but your final magic ball knitting project will be quite eye-catching. Magic ball knitting that's very busy is often best for small items like a hat or a pair of mittens, whereas subtler magic ball knitting is well-suited to large projects like blankets or sweaters, where the sum total of the details creates a feast for the eyes.

What Stitches To Use

Regardless of whether you choose randomized or consistent lengths of yarn, simple stockinette stitch will best show off your magic ball knitting color choices. Plus, stockinette makes it simple to disguise the ends of the ties on the "wrong side," so that you have one smooth face of your work where the colors seem to magically change from one to another.

A Few Words About Gauge

When it comes to making sure that your magic ball knitting has a consistent gauge, you have two options. You can either start with yarns that are all of the same weight and thickness, guaranteeing that your finished magic ball will have even gauge throughout, or you can work from varied yarns and compensate for the different weights while you're working. If you decide to compensate for different thicknesses, there are a few techniques that you can employ. One is to work on very large needles, creating a lacy, airy fabric that won't be as sensitive to changes in the thickness of the yarn. Another is to work with two magic balls at once! Working double-stranded will help to balance out the quirks of your magic ball knitting yarn.

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