Let us all go a-roving in 2022! These fab super-size unspun yarns are popular with a range of crafters, from knitters to needle felters!

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Unless you have some huge needles, you won't be able to knit or crochet with roving yarns without an essential piece of kit that most knitters won't have in their stash – a spinning wheel. But don't let that put you off – you can also use a drop spindle which is a much smaller (and more affordable) way of spinning roving yarn into yarns that you can use for knitting and crochet!

There are other ways to make more of roving yarn in your craft – especially if you are not afraid of stabbing with very sharp, barbed needles. Roving yarn is the most commonly used form of yarn for decorative needle felting, where the fibres are stabbed and poked with a barbed needle to compress and matt them into different soft felt shapes – find out more in our beginners guide to needle felting.

Roving yarn is also used a weaving material for other fibre arts – check out our beginners guide to weaving techniques to learn more. But what is this magical material actually made of?

What is roving yarn?

Roving yarn is more than just adorably fluffy fibres. This natural fibre is commonly made of 100% wool, but angora rabbit fibres and alpaca fur fibres can also be treated to make them into roving yarn.

Really, roving yarn is not yarn at all, but a cleaned and combed natural animal coat that makes a fluffy, unmatted clump that is easy to pull apart, but has the potential to be quickly matted together to make felt. Spun with a spinning wheel, roving yarn becomes knitting or crochet yarn.

Though knitters may think of wool roving yarn as unprocessed, it is actually 2 stages further along the process line from raw fleece. The first process is to wash and clean raw fleece, removing all the bits of dirt and hay that may have gotten in with the fleece. Then comes the combing, where all the fleece fibres are pulled into one direction (and may be dyed at this point too).

Roving yarn is also called tops yarn in some parts of the world, although tops yarn can also have a further stage of process where the fibres are drawn out into a thinner length ready for spinning. Check out our best felting wool for needle felting to learn more about the processes and treatments different fleeces have to make them work for needle felting.

10 of the best roving yarns to buy

1. Corriedale Cross sheep natural wool roving yarn

  • Best undyed roving yarn

Best felting wool for needle felting

We do love an undyed wool roving yarn, and this fleece of Corriedale sheep naturally comes in a soft creamy sand shade and the more unusual mocha grey pictured here. Wool from this New Zealand breed is rarely dyed but is favoured for the natural colours of the fleece - from silver through to blacks, fawns and reddy-browns. For needle filters, this roving yarn makes a great core wool for quick and easy felted shapes or a strong spinning wool.

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Buy this Corriedale Cross roving yarn from Amazon UK

Buy this Corriedale Cross roving yarn from Amazon USA


2. Corriedale roving wool in subtle colours

  • Best pastel roving yarns

wool roving yarn nutwood

Keeping with fleece from the New Zealand Corriedale breed, this wool roving yarn from The Nutwood collection has been processed and coloured – all apart from the natural white shade. But the dyes used are subtle, to give a muted, natural finish that would blend in wonderfully with other natural fibres and undyed yarns. This roving yarn has had the tops treatment, to pull it into a ribbon about 8cm wide, with a length of about 2m in a 50g pack.

Buy this Past Corriedale roving yarn from The Nutwood Collection on Etsy


3. British breeds wool roving yarn bundle #1

  • Best British roving yarn

Best felting wool for needle felting

This bundle of roving yarns contains five natural shades from British breeds of sheep, including Manx Loaghtan (brown), Blue Faced Leicester (oatmeal), Blue Faced Leicester (white), Jacob (dark grey) and Swaledale (light grey). These natural shades are great for adding detail and colour - and with five different breeds in the pack, you'll get a feeling for which you like best for bigger projects.

Buy this British breeds roving yarn bundle from Hawthorne Handmade on Etsy


4. Pastels wool roving yarn bundle

  • Best colourful roving yarns bundle

Best felting wool for needle felting

If you want a wide rainbow of colours beyond the naturals shades, Hawthorn Handmade has a huge selection of roving yarn in their Etsy shop. This Merino roving wool collection comes in ten beautiful colours: candyfloss (soft pink), catkin (yellow), eggshell (pale pink), lavender (soft purple), mink (warm taupe), peach (pale orange), peppermint (pale green/blue), salmon (deep pink), seal (grey) and teal (green/blue).

Buy this Pastels roving yarn bundle from Hawthorn Handmade on Etsy


5. Rainbow merino roving yarn

  • Best rainbow roving yarn

roving yarn multicolour

Having said that we love undyed, natural roving yarns, we're also crazy for colour! Our head has been rather turned by this brilliant rainbow merino wool roving yarn. Carefully felted with a small needle, this could give some great stripes to your needle felting creations, or be spun into a brilliant rainbow yarn for colourful blended knits with depth and different shades.

Buy the Rainbow roving yarn from Cyberlocks on Amazon


6. Baby alpaca roving yarn

  • Best alpaca roving yarn

Best felting wool for needle felting

"Baby" alpaca actually refers to the softness grade - not necessarily the age of the animal. Carded alpaca fibre is one of the most versatile types of roving yarn - it's naturally soft, non-itchy, silky and lightweight. It's a good option for needle felting as the fibres bond together well, but also has a good handle when spinning. Plus, UniquelyAlpacaVA have a large range of this fab roving yarn in a variety of colours, from natural hues to rich bright shades! Luxury roving yarn from the alpacas!

Buy the Baby Alpaca roving yarn from UniquelyAlpacaVA on Etsy


7. Merino wool roving yarn tops, pastel selection

  • Best value wool tops bundle

roving yarn merino

You get a mix of 9 different 90g bundles of carded merino roving yarn in this value pack from Pure Wool Hut. Some of the yarns have colour blends within them, which give extra depth when you are needle felting or producing a variegated yarn.

Buy the Merino roving yarn bundle from Pure Wool Hut on Amazon


8. Big box of roving yarn

  • Best budget roving yarn

roving yarn ramlur

Here is a roving yarn that is good pick for the spinners among you as it is great value for money and gives you enough fibre to produce yarn for a small knitted garment or accessory set. No odour, no knots just super-soft roving yarn in a soft red colour.

Buy the Big box of roving yarn from Amazon


9. Felter's palette Merino wool roving yarn

  • Best colour mix roving yarn bundle

Best felting wool for needle felting

This 19-micron felting wool is super fine, so it's silky smooth and perfect for adding small details to your needle felted projects, or for spinning into a super-soft yarn that won't itch next to your skin. The fine nature of this felting wool also makes it a good choice for other multimedia projects, such as incorporating it into embroidery pieces, or using for weaving.

Buy the roving yarn assortment from Divinity Fibres on Etsy


10. Light grey Herdwick wool roving yarn

  • Best natural roving yarn

Best felting wool for needle felting

Herdwick wool is much favoured among the needle felter and spinners. The Wool Emporium over on Etsy have a lovely selection sourced from British sheep, including this beautiful light grey undid natural roving yarn.

Buy the Herdwick roving yarn from The Wool Emporium on Etsy

What else can I use roving yarns for?

If you don't have access to a spinning wheel or drop spindle, or don't have needle felting or weaving supplies, there's one more area where roving yarns come in handy - arm knitting! Arm knitting is basically normal knitting but done on a huge scale - so big that you use your arms instead of needles!

Which are the best roving yarns for arm knitting?

While all roving yarns can be used for arm knitting, some are more suitable than others - factors like fibre content, strength and amount of yarn will make a difference. A roving yarn with a slight twist will also be easier to use than more loosely gathered fibres.

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If you fancy giving arm knitting a try, you can check out our handy pick of the best yarns for arm knitting for some great yarn suggestions!

Authors

Hannah BellisKnitting Editor, Gathered

Hannah has worked on Gathered for 3 years, since our launch in 2019. At school Hannah learned to knit collaborating on dorcas blankets – now she edits our knitting section. She inherited her love of stitching and embroidery from her talented grandmother, and her passion for thread led her to be Editor of The World of Cross Stitching for six years. Card making is a more recent passion, developing from her position as editor of Cross Stitch Card Shop. She loves using kinetic techniques to make cards that move – she was editor of Papercraft inspirations magazine for over four years, creating loads of card making video tutorials at www.youtube.com/PapercraftTV.

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