Roving yarn is a thick, bulky yarn that is not twisted or plied like many types of yarn. It is a fun style to create quick, bulky, and admittedly heavy projects and gives the knitted piece a rather rustic look.
Yet, the term roving has a slightly different meaning for spinners than it does for knitters. Since the two crafts are related, it is important to understand each definition.
Roving for Spinners
In the spinning world, roving refers to a continuous sheet of fiber that's produced by a carding machine.
The individual fibers are typically more or less parallel to each other after being combed or carded, but they haven't yet been spun.
The term is most commonly heard in the phrase "wool roving." However, roving can be made out of any kind of fiber or a mix of fiber and other elements the spinner desires in their finished yarn.
Interesting Fact: In some countries, the word wool is used to mean any kind of yarn, no matter the fiber content.
Roving can also be referred to as sliver or slubbing.
Roving for Knitters
In her book The Knitter's Book of Yarn, Clara Parks defines roving as above but mentions that it also has a slight twist applied to it.
"Consider it a well-yeasted bread dough that's risen several times and is finally ready to be formed into its final loaf shape and put into the oven," she writes.
But some people do knit with something like roving as well.
In the world of finished yarn, roving is sometimes used to refer to super bulky weight yarn on the Craft Yarn Council of America's scale of yarn weights (that's a number 6 on a scale of 1 to 6).
You will also hear the term roving used when referring to a singles yarn that is lightly spun and varying from thick to thin (or just thick). This yarn is basically just a drawn-out version of what the spinners call roving.
"Pencil roving" is another common phrase because this type of roving is often about the thickness of a pencil. Pencil roving can be further spun into yarn or it can be knit as it is.
Some yarn companies call this type of yarn roving or unspun yarn, but there's usually some small amount of twist in it to hold the fibers together.
Working with Roving
If you're knitting with roving yarn, the considerations are much like with any kind of bulky or super bulky yarn. Knitting with roving is a lot of fun because the projects work up so quickly and the personality of the fiber really shines through because it's so loosely spun.
You need to take special care to not split the yarn as you knit. It's often best to use needles that have a duller tip. Choose bamboo needles rather metal.
Projects worked with roving can get heavy really fast. Even if you don't need a circular needle for the pattern, you might want to use one to knit back and forth. This will take some of the weight off your wrists as you knit.
If you dabble in crochet, roving is a very popular choice for finger crochet and really quick, bulky projects.