When I bumped into Cecelia Campochiaro at STITCHES Salt Lake, I mentioned how much I loved her 2015 book Sequence Knitting. I asked if she was working on another book that would explore lace sequence knitting with yarn overs and other maneuvers. She enthusiastically replied she was working on a book about marls and was having a great time with it.
At that moment, I was a little disappointed. Marls? That's just holding two colors together to make a third color. I've done that in counted cross-stitch for years. How could anyone write a whole book about that? And it's such a simple concept. What could you find to say that would fill up a book?
For most of us, the subject of marling could hardly be longer than a magazine article. But, of course, in Cecelia's hands, the subject has unanticipated depth, complexity, and design possibility.
Making Marls is a large affair of the coffee-table book variety. There are plenty of photographs and charts. Most are large and easy-to-read. And there are many pages in the book where a 2-page spread explains one concept. Turn the page and the next two-page spread explores the next logical concept. The first few chapters set up marling — its history, how best to work with multiple strands coming from multiple sources, figuring out needle sizes, calculating how much yarn, following a pattern, and the like.
Where the book takes off is the thoroughness of thought given to the design possibilities. Chapter 3 "The Marled Look" goes into detail about contrast between strands. There are pictures of different effects with high-contrast and low contrast. The chapter also covers other considerations like should you ply the strands before you knit or just carry them together? It turns out, the look is not identical. How does an even marl (1 strand of color A with 1 strand of color B) look different from an uneven marl (1 of A and 2 of B). Does a 2 and 2 look the same as a 1 and 1 of the same colors? And then the book launches into a significant dive into color and value. By this point, I could see why Cecelia had been so excited! Making marls is similar to mixing paint colors.
Chapters 4 through 8 deal with different types of marling sequences (some of these we might call gradients or fades). Each chapter is a deep dive into the possibilities, illustrated with plenty of examples and explained with both text and tables. Cecelia proceeds logically through the possibilities, illustrating the Vulcan concept of complexity through simplicity. And the appendix contains tables to help you assess the possibilities if you have a dozen random skeins sitting around.
The projects are mostly simply — hats or scarves, often enlivened with a sequence knit pattern. Of course, if your fabric has plenty of color and value action due to the marls, texture and patterning would make the item too busy. Let's be nice to our eyes and not overwhelm them with action.
In addition to knitters, I would also recommend this book for spinners and weavers. Marling is basically optical mixing. "Making Marls" is not just a deep dive into combining yarn strands, but also a deep dive into combining color and value optically. Spinners make marls every time we ply yarns that aren't solid colors.
If you do read this book, take your time. Read a few pages. Let it sit in your mind. Think. Consider. Read a little more. In many ways, this tome is as much about the surprisingly complex results you can get from mixing yarns as it is about good design practice in general. And at the this point, I would pre-order anything from Cecelia Campochiaro.