Have you ever visited a craft store and seen a soft, pillowy-looking mass of fibers for sale? This mass of unstructured, unspun fibers is known as roving.
If you have never used, or even heard of roving yarn, it might seem like just another bag of fibers that doesn’t have too much use.
But what is roving wool? Roving is a sheet of fiber that has been cleaned and then carded. This ends up as an unstructured batt of fibers, which can be dyed or left as is. Roving is often spun into yarn, but roving can also be used in various crafts and for other purposes.
Knitters and crocheters use roving to for creating needling felt, thrummed mittens, and supersized blankets. Roving might seem a bit odd at first, but once you know what to do with it and how to use it, there are so many things you can create!
What Is Wool Roving?
Roving is typically wool’s last form before becoming yarn (unless it is died at the roving stage).
Wool roving is a long sheet of fiber (sheep’s wool) that has been cleaned and carded. A carding machine works to loosen the fibers, and removes particulate matter, preparing the fiber for spinning. This leaves an unstructured batt of fibers which lie parallel, and which can be left in their original state, or dyed different colors.
Roving can be made from many different fiber mixes, such as viscose and even linen, but the most commonly used is merino or wool.
With roving, a slight twist can be applied to hold all the fibers together, which is then packaged and sold as very chunky yarn for crafters. Otherwise, it is spun into a “normal” yarn.
Roving is also sometimes used as a jumbo weight yarn, though most use “roving yarns,” which is roving that has been processed into yarn, but lightly, so it looks like roving. Roving yarn is very thick and bulky, helping to make chunkier items like arm-knitted blankets.
What Is Roving Used For?
Roving has a few different uses and can be used in a few different styles of crafting.
In spinning, roving is used in its continuous sheet format straight from the carding machine and is then spun into yarn. This is perhaps the most common usage.
Knitters, crocheters, and fiber artists all make use of roving in different ways. Here are the other most popular items made using roving:
Many like to use roving to make thrummed mittens, which are traditionally made from unspun sheep’s wool which has been separated into small pieces. (A thrum is a short length of roving yarn.)
While working with regular yarn, knitters also knit these small pieces into their stitches. This can create the speckled pattern these mittens have. This can be done by contrasting natural undyed wool (because sheep’s wool comes in different colors, just like human hair), or by contrasting differently dyed wool and roving.
The ends of the roving inside of the mitten form a cozy pillow for your hands. Thrummed mittens can also be crocheted in the same basic way.
Either way they are wonderfully warm and insulated for the colder months.
If roving is matted, tangled, and compressed, it turns into felt. Felting has often referred to the process of applying heat and moisture, and agitation to wool, which forms a matte and dense fabric.
However, needle felting is a newer technique, which works to sculpt dry roving into different objects such as felted miniatures or used to decorate a textile such as a pillowcase or a scarf.
A sharp, barbed needle is used to felt roving wool. You will also need a felting surface to work off of, such as a foam pad. This surface helps to prevent you poking yourself.
The needling technique you use for felting will depend on the type of project you are creating. If you are making a simple felted ball, you will roll roving into a ball, place it on the work surface, and poke at it repeatedly with a barbed needle, until the fibers all bond together and form felt.
You can also wet felt roving wool, but that’s a story for another day!
Many people attempt to use roving to create giant, chunky arm-knitted blankets, but this does not always turn out so well.
Knit fabrics turn into beautiful projects because of the structure of the yarn; the twisting of the yarn provides cohesion, durability, and strength.
The problem with roving is that it is unstructured, compared to true yarn (even roving yarn). It is just a mass of soft fibers. Once you have finished the blanket, the fibers can pull apart easily. The wool has no structure like a real yarn, so there’s not much holding any of the fibers in place.
Roving will also absorb dirt and break apart easily. It is also not a great idea to keep a roving blanket if you have pets – it will land up a big ball of mess very soon. A roving blanket is also quite heavy unless it is made with a fiber such as merino or wool.
One other thing to consider is that roving can be very expensive, and making a blanket from roving could cost you a significant amount.
It’s better to use roving yarn and other very chunky yarns instead of true roving. Roving yarn has the bonus of looking like roving, giving you the best of both worlds.
What Is Roving In Weaving?
Some modern weavers like to use roving accents in their weaving, especially in wall hangings.
While roving makes a strong bundle, the individual fibers can pull up easily, and it can be pulled apart by hand. Because of this, you need to be very gentle when weaving with roving.
It is also a good idea to weave with the roving first, and then lift the warp threads up and pass the roving between these with little disturbance to the fibers. Many like to weave a few rows with loose roving or felted roving ropes to prep their loom for a different project.
The bulk of roving makes it great to work with, but it can also make it difficult to finish off the end pieces. You have to find a way to sort these end pieces out to secure the weave down while looking neat.
3 Best Roving Yarns
If you are wanting to try using roving, here are the 3 best roving yarns available for you to work with!
|1.||Glaciart One Merino Wool Roving||20 colorful wool pieces, 10g each|
|2.||Wistyria Editions Wool Roving||8 colorful wool pieces, 12”|
|3.||Desert Breeze 100% Natural Wool Roving||Undyed Corriedale wool, 1/2lb|
We’ve got more on each below, too, so keep reading and good luck on your next roving project!
1. Glaciart One Merino Wool Roving
This is the ultimate roving wool pack for you to start with. There are 20 colors included in the kit, all roving wool made from merino. The roving is ready to be used, so you can start crafting felt projects straight out of the box.
Glaciart One’s quality control ensures that the merino roving is kept between 21-22 microns thick, giving you roving that feels like a dream. It arrives soft and ready to be used for needle felting, wet felting, or hand spinning.
It is a no-shed, no-smell colored wool. AZO-free dyes are used, which are hypoallergenic and colorfast, keeping the colors for longer, but without any harmful chemicals.
Every last fiber is 100% ethically sourced merino wool, and is only the best quality!
2. Wistyria Editions Wool Roving
The Wistyria Editions Ultra-Fine Wool Roving contains 8-12 pieces of different colored roving to suit your different felting or crafting needs!
The roving balls come packaged in a handy, reusable zippered pouch for easy and safe storage. You can choose between quite a wide range of different color combinations, to best suit the project you are working on.
This top quality roving has a stunning luster finished and is very refined, so it does not contain lumps or darker areas.
It is a high quality, 100% wool roving that works well and finishes beautifully in many different projects. With the variety of colors, you have the opportunity for some truly beautiful variations in your work, too.
3. Desert Breeze Distributing 100% Natural Wool Roving
This natural undyed roving wool comes from Corriedale Cross sheep and is incredibly soft. Measuring 29.5 microns, the roving is great for quick felting, but it can also be used for many other projects.
It is eco-friendly wool which has been processed in Australia. It has a natural cream color, and no dyes are added to the roving.
The pack contains a ½ pound of wool, and it is the most natural roving you will find!
How Do You Join Roving Yarn?
Roving yarn joins well using a wet felting or spit splice technique.
To do this, you unwind and tease out the end of the roving into a fan shape. Do this to the last inch or two of the old yarn and the new yarn you want to join.
Thin out the fans gently by removing fibers from each end, so it won’t be thicker where joined than the rest of the roving. Then dip each end into a glass of water to moisten the fibers. Use a paper towel to squeeze out any excess liquid.
Overlap the fanned ends and place them between your palms. Rub the strands together vigorously and they should join together. Squeeze out any excess water and then leave it to dry fully before knitting with it.
How Much Roving is Needed For a Blanket?
For a standard blanket, you will need around six or seven pounds of unspun roving. This shows how heavy roving blankets can be.
But because of the problems with roving blankets we mentioned above, you’re better off using roving yarn instead.