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Dear Kay,

The dictionary suggests that marled may be a shortening of marbled. I’d believe it, because as I’m blasting through this Shakerag Top, Marled Edition, I can definitely see that it has the striated look of stone.

Amy Christoffers’s Shakerag Top (from MDK Field Guide No. 6: Transparency) calls for stripes to be worked using one strand of yarn, then two strands held together. When using one color of yarn for both strands, the effect is subtle and sophisticated.

When the two strands are different colors, the marling is epic.

If you look at a word too long, it starts to look strange. Take marled, for example. I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon of knitting with two strands of yarns, differing colors, and I’m all marled up. The longer I look at my marled knitting, the more surprising it gets.

In the MDK Shop
With Making Marls, Cecelia brings us a book that sends us down a brand-new rabbit hole of fun and freedom.

From a distance, the stripes of my Marled Shakerag Top look clear enough. The Loam is appropriately gray and dim, the stripes less so. (The yarn here is Jade Sapphire Sylph from our Shop, a cashmere/linen blend that is surprisingly crispysoft.)

Move closer, and the lighter stripes begin to disintegrate.

Up close, you can see the capricious behavior of the cream yarn as it moves around each stitch as it pleases.

Randomly beautiful. Beautifully random!

The gray stripes (Loam, if you’re a stickler for a shade name) are worked with just one strand of the gray yarn, so there’s a bit of dimensionality in the texture of my Marled Shakerag Top.

If you’re thinking this looks like easy fun, you’re right. There are already Shakerag Tops appearing on Instagram at #shakeragtop.

One thing that strikes me about this marling is the way Hush, the cream color, lightens the Loam without overpowering it. Marling this Hush with any of the Sylph shades would work to good effect, I think.

Finally, if the notion of marling seems marlvelous to you, I suggest you spend time with Anna Maltz’s extraordinary book, Marlisle: A New Direction in Knitting. Anna’s inventive exploration of holding two strands of yarn together made my head besplode with excitement.



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  • I tend to think the term marling comes from merle, used for certain mixed-color dogs. They look just like the yarn mixes! Can you tell I’m a dog lover?

  • And there’s this great TinCanKnits post, too.

  • I made red and cream marled mittens in 1993…they are still my favorites! I used a single strand red for the cuff, two strands for the rest of the mitten. Marling made the mittens a little warmer and they have such a charming look to them. But that word…such an odd one! My non knitting friends think I’m geekier than ever when I tell them marling is the latest cool thing.

  • I second your recommendation of Anna Maltz’s Marlisle book. WELL worth it.

  • I made Brody, my Boston, a sweater using that technique. I held a turquoise and purple together. He really gets a lot of compliments on that sweater. Probably more than any other!

  • Of course, you’re listening to Bob Marley & the Wailers while knitting this, aren’t you?

  • I love the blended effect of holding different yarns together. It’s really my favorite form of knitting colorwork. Re: the definition of marl or marling. I looked a little further, and it does seem geology-related, but not to marble. “From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English marl /mɑːl $ mɑːrl/ noun [uncountable] 1. soil consisting of lime and clay 2. cloth which has pale threads running through another colour.” Also a Compare Rocks site says this: “Marble is a non-foliated metamorphic rock which is composed of recrystallized carbonate which is formed when limestone is exposed to high temperatures and pressures over a long time. Marl is an unconsolidated sedimentary rock consisting of clay and lime.” I don’t really know what that means, but I found the visual comparison of marble and marl to be instructive!

  • I love the term crispysoft. And I agree that marling is capricious! When I tried it with purple and cream, it was too much; the capriciousness resulted in spots that were all purple, or all cream. So I’m using soft blue, and the marling pleases me greatly. Even if the word marl makes me think of the word snarl. Which is not what this is at all. Knit on!

  • I recently knit a version of the Purple Gradient Shawl (on Ravelry) which uses two colors and two strands of lace weight yarn held together. The center section uses one strand of each color. It was a fun knit and gets lots of compliments. Shakerag top is on my list to try — I love the concept of the subtle stripes.

  • If I were to make the medium top with marled stripes would I order 3 skeins of one color and 1 of another?

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