Tape yarn (also known as ribbon yarn) isn’t like the yarns that we’re used to – it’s not made up of strands of fibre that have been spun together, instead it’s a narrow strip of fabric. In fact, a lot of the tape yarns that you can buy are actually long narrow tubes of fabric that have been made on special circular knitting machines. Cotton tape yarns are very popular but you can also find a variety of other materials used. Tape yarns that are a blend of cotton and synthetics are a good choice because the man-made fibres will help the finished knitting or crochet hold its shape – and because of their construction, tape yarns are quite stretchy.
Tape yarns are often made from recycled materials. The original inspiration for these types of yarn may well have come from crafts people who were repurposing old T-shirts and other jersey fabrics by cutting them into strips to use in crochet and knitting. In fact, you can have a go at making this type of tape yarn yourself. Take an old T-shirt and, starting at the bottom edge, cut a spiralling strip of fabric from the body. Cut off the sleeves and turn these into separate strips, then cut strips from the front and back above the sleeves and either sew or stitch them together.
Like a more traditional chunky type of yarn, tape yarn is thick and has a distinct texture. You’ll need, therefore, large size knitting needles or crochet hooks. Tape yarn also twists as you work and so you’ll need to embrace this as a feature of your work, rather than worrying about producing a flat and smooth finish.
Generally speaking, tape yarns will be too heavy to use in most garments. However, lighter versions of this yarn can be used to make items with an open, mesh-like finish – such as a summer vest top. On the other hand, tape yarns can be turned into some interesting accessories – such as belts, bags and even jewellery. Where it really comes into its own is for homewares – you can make an amazing range of cushions, rugs and other accessories. Why not have a go at the knitted pouffe from Knit & Stitch Creative issue 1 or the bath mat from issue 17? There’s also a great crocheted log basket in issue 43 you can make.
If you’re unsure about trying a new material like tape yarn, why not start out with something small? Knit or crochet a square in the yarn to see how it feels – you can always use the finished piece as a table mat, trivet or even a pot holder. Then when you feel confident in handling the yarn, you can have a go a bigger project. Whatever you do, don’t forget to share your makes with the rest of the Crea community on Instagram and Facebook!