Monday, November 2, 2009

Keeping an Organic Look After Washing Wild Knits

First off, a disclaimer: I am not an expert on this.

Secondly, this post will seem sacrilegious to those knitters who absolutely think that everything must be blocked. (For you non knitters, items being blocked are usually dampened or made entirely wet and then stretched out flat to dry.)

Most knit items need to be blocked. Otherwise they look funky. Sometimes, though, a design begs not to be. Take for example this organic-looking scarf design.

I just listed some knitting kits in my Etsy shop for this scarf that was a collaboration with the Knitting Mermaid. If you were reading my blog last year, you may remember the Knitting Mermaid who was taught to knit by an enamored sailer. This is her first scarf idea.

Imagine you're a mermaid who knits. Where in the heck would you lay something out to block it? And why would you want to? Even if you're not a mermaid but you want to keep this wild seaweed quality in your scarf, what would you do when you wash it and it stretches like crazy into a different style of scarf entirely?

Here's what I do:
  • Soak the scarf for 15-30 minutes in a bowl of cool water using a special product for fine woolens. Two great products are Eucalan and Soak because they do not require you to rinse the item after soaking.
  • Put the scarf in a colander as a big old wad and let it sit for a half hour. Most of the water will drain to the bottom. Then take it in your hands, still wadded up, and gently squeeze out more water.

  • Next find an old stocking or cut off one leg of a pair of pantyhose. Lay the scarf on a flat surface and bunch it in a manner that approximates it's original shape. Carefully fold it in half and then stuff it into the leg of the stocking. It should sort of resemble a sausage as in the next photo.

  • Pull the end of the stocking up to completely cover the scarf. Use a bread tie to close the top so the scarf won't come out. (For this step you can also use a small mesh bag used for laundering fine washables.) Throw the stocking sausage in the dryer for five minutes on a low heat setting. Note: if you are using a highly feltable fiber, skip this step.
  • Remove the scarf from the stocking and carefully lay it out on a bath towel. Scrunch it up a little. It might look something like this:

  • Now go away and leave the scarf alone for 12 hours or so. Then come back and pretty up the shape a little more. To get back to my original look, I added some soft pleats to the still damp scarf.

Once you wash the scarf it will never look completely the same as when you first knit it, but with a little effort you can keep that organic look and maybe even improve on it.

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