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Dear Ann,

As you know, I have an unstoppable drive to knit every single one of Cecelia Campochiaro’s charismatic designs in MDK Field Guide No. 19: Marls. I’m a fool for marling. It’s so fun!

My drive may be unstoppable, but I’m always open to a little detour. I was all set to knit up a couple-three Striped Marl Hats (Ravelry link), which would be awfully nice holiday gifts, wouldn’t they? I have the yarn, and the colors picked out and everything. I was going to start as soon as I finished my Marlogram Scarf.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, on a visit to MDQ World Headquarters in Nashville, two bright wheels of Freia Ombré Merino Lace (shades: Coho and Melon, because I love brunch?) jumped into my arms, and on my way home I cast on a second Marlogram, this time in the cowl format. Wait up, Striped Marl Hats! I’ll be right there!

Hello, Nubbins

The Marlogram, worked in two strands of laceweight, is a good amount of knitting—like, a lot. I was knitting and knitting, the wheels of Freia turning and getting smaller and smaller as I worked through the color shifts.

And then I was down to the nubbins.

The nubbins taught me a new rule of knitting physics.

I already knew the first law of knitting physics: if it looks like you might run out of yarn before you finish a project, you must knit faster. I think the way it works, from a relativity perspective, is that the yarn is so dazzled by your knitting speed that it cannot keep up. You sneak ahead and get to the end of the project before the yarn has a chance to run out. Or something like that.

The law of nubbins is the opposite. You get to the nubbins, so close to the end of the yarn, and you keep knitting and knitting, for days and days, and the nubbins Never. Get. Smaller. Nubbin size remains constant across time and space.  Like matter itself, nubbins are neither created nor destroyed. (Apologies to anyone who knows anything about actual physics.)

MDK reader Lucy told me that when she got to the Nubbins Phase of her Marlogram, she started weighing them after each knitting session just to prove to herself that they were in fact getting smaller. Science!

Enough About the Nubbins

Once you’ve defeated knitting physics and dispatched the nubbins, the Marlogram Cowl is finished by unzipping the provisional cast-on, and then doing a modified 3-needle bind off of the two ends of the knitting. The modification gives you a nice flat chain of bound-off stitches, with no vertical ridge as with the regular 3-needle bind off. Here’s a link to a video of the technique.

I’ve unzipped my provisional cast-on—which I don’t mind telling you is a fiddly little business—but I’ve got live stitches on both ends now, and I’m all ready to work the 3-needle bind-off!

Here are my two Marlograms, basking in north-window light.

When the nubbins (finally) are niblets, it’s time to bind off!

On the right, a scarf, using 2 wheels of Freia Ombré Merino Lace in the murkilicious blues and purples of the shade Squid Ink. And on the left, a cowl, in the shades Coho and Melon.

And look: a bonus Marlogram Cowl. This one is Cristina’s.

Cristina’s shades:

Nautilus and Chinook

Marlogram Shade Picking: Let Go and Let Freia

Picking colors can be challenging. Picking multi-colored skeins even more so.

Here’s the trick: don’t aim too hard. Tina Whitmore is an extraordinary colorist. Even the seemingly wildest—or seemingly tamest—pairing of two colorways of Ombré Merino Lace is going to be a pleasure to knit and yield up a gorgeous finished Marlogram. I’m having a ball.




  • We need that ‘how to save’ reminder attached to this column so we can find it as needed to explain knitting physics to the uninitiated. 😉

    • You must be signed in for the “save” marker to appear – it will appear on any Letter.

  • Law of Conservation of (Knitting) Matter- actually chem….

  • I am curious to see the finished cowl. The pictures look like a shawl to me.

  • I’ve been trying very hard to use up a whole lot of fingering yarn leftover from other projects. And it’s marling! I’m making bias knit shawls and using odd combinations that look pretty good together. I do try to make sure the combos are made of yarns that can be washed together with the same technique.

    Choosing the colorways can be nerve-wracking, but fun when they look good.

  • Kay, this letter is another gem. You and Ann should publish a book of letters in your spare time next year!

  • These are all just stunning. I swore I wasn’t gonna ask for yarn for Christmas, but DANG. Wowz.

  • In my dreams, I get to go to MDK headquarters and pick out bundles of yarn for marling! Bundles and bundles! Since it’s a dream, the yarn is also free! Dream big!

  • Can I do the marble gram cowl or scarf with regular Freia and not the lace weight?

    • I just cast one on with a Yarn Bomb and a box of Minikins–stay tuned. I think I cast on too many stitches so I’m going to phone a friend (Cristina) (Nell) and let you all know when I’ve got it worked out. It’s going to be a squishtastic wash of color!

      • Can’t wait to see that!

  • I’m sure I heard Neil deGrasse Tyson just talking about this in a recent chat with Anderson Cooper. Hilarious but true! I decided to put a dent in my super wash stash by knitting/marling a blanket for one of the kids, its endless and the bag o’yarn is not shrinking, what the ?!

    • Yarn is seeping in from another dimension.

  • I remember when I made my first marlogram cowl the nubbins never seemed to diminish – but I love the finished marlogram (I used Vintage and Dusk) and have yarn for two more. I’m making a enormous marled scarf for my husband (Tynd in black and a light grey) ( just knit 2 purl 2 ribbing) which is so soft but is taking forever. Once that’s done I plan to start another marlogram, swatch for a cabled sweater, and look at the color throw kits again.

  • Knitting faster….that cracked me up because it’s familiar to probably most knitters.
    It’s like driving faster when your tank is on E. Somehow, it’ll all work out if you drive faster.

  • I am drawing a line in the sand and will not – do you hear me I said NOT – buy the yarn for this until after the new year. I have too many Christmas presents and birthday presents that have to be bought and I have absolutely no business buying myself anything right now. Which translates into I will spend the next month obsessing on colors. I’m leaning toward Orchid and Coho or Dahlia and South Beach.

  • Thank you Kay! laughed and laughed. I read the whole article aloud to my non-knitting husband, showed him all the photos, then showed him all the shades of the Freia yarns… What a marvellous way to start Thursday.

  • Hi Kay, I think when you’re referring to the physics of nubbins you’re treading in the dimensions of string physics. Hahaha! Yes, I was a physics major in college.

  • Enter into physics things and find actual magic! Beauties.

  • Fun read! Thanks!

    • Yeah, it actually made me think I was being curmudgeonly by worrying about the price of the fun yarn. Life is to enjoy, Dad said. Surely he was thinking about yarn?

  • I thought it was only me! I always laugh at myself for speeding up when I near the end of the yarn so I can hurry up and finish before the yarn runs out!

  • Looking forward to knitting mine soon! Although I just started my Workshop-Picked-Colors Explosion throw, after finishing my Swarf. I was tempted by the hat next, since before the end of Swarfie I was oh my swooning over Tynd. Every one of this field guide’s projects are delightful. Cecelia is a genius!

    • I just cast on my first hat today and I know what you mean about Tynd…..I want it around my neck!

  • Hahaha, I always do the knitting faster thing, and I often weigh the nubbins to calculate how many more rows they’ll last, and then I still run out halfway through the cast off. This really made me chuckle today. Thanks Kay 😀

  • This is probably more psychology than physics, but you did get a lot of physics words in there. 😉

  • I loved this, and had to read bits of it to my engineer husband. He thinks this might be quantum knitting, not classical Newtonian knitting. Whatever, we know it works!

  • Love this. You inspired me. Need to get back to my marlogram cowl. Got sidetracked with sweater knitting. While I usually say, never too many WIPs, right now I am determined to complete a few before anything else gets cast on.

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