Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mostly utilitarian: on washing and steaming

The air was deliciously chilly this morning. It felt brisk as I stepped out of the shower, and as I drove my guy to work I was delighted to feel the need for my fingerless mitts and sweater vest. The sky was gorgeous, traffic was hampered by the addition of school buses, and it was the beginning of my day off. But something felt ironic, or even bizarre. As I drove with so much to look forward to, I drove with the awareness that this day marks the anniversary of another spectacularly beautiful day -- a day when the world seemed to be ending.  For some people in America, it did. And they, in turn, remind me of the way each of us lives in the shadow of the unknown, our future. Much like the proverbial "rock and a hard place," we're made to live between the shadows of the past and the mystery of the future. And while there are some pretty large spectres looming at either end, we also do well to remember the beautiful and hopeful scenes we have already encountered and may yet face. That is how we live every day, and that is the place from which I "natter about knitting" -- and other "stuff."

Last week I set about photographing some projects that need fixing, and proceeded to make some headway.  One of the projects was a little pair of toe socks that I needed to revise and make normal kiddie socks.
Kiddie socks
Eek!  Toes.
I took them with me to the laundromat, and had a rather fun time exacting punishment for my own failure to knit them in a timely fashion.
horror at the laundromat
Don't worry; all was remedied, and no knits were really harmed in the making of this post. I took a few pics of the socks after tossing them in the washer and dryer in this weeks laundry, since I've always wondered about this yarn's claims to washability. The socks came out as I expected, with a bit more halo, but otherwise unscathed. I feel pretty confident knitting gifts for children in this yarn.
kiddie socks washed 1
For inquiring minds, the yarn is Spud and Chloe Fine, a wool and silk blend.

I finished up a manshawl for a friend of the family whose father just was admitted to a nursing home. Since I know firsthand how the laundry is done at such establishments, I wanted to be sure it would launder adequately.  So I bit the bullet and found some Plymouth Yarn Encore, a 75/25 acrylic/wool blend. At first the high percentage of stockinette was a problem as it curled right up, but I applied a couple techniques to counteract it. First, I tried killing the acrylic by steaming it, but it didn't seem to "kill" too obviously. I think that is a testament to the wool content. However, the steaming relaxed the curling and seemed to add a bit of soft touch to the fabric. Still not convinced that the edges would not fold over, I doubled up the rather abundant length and added borders at the new ends, finishing it off with a single crochet to bind the layers together. I took pictures at different stages to examine the effects of washing and drying the yarn.
manshawl 4
Steamed the first time

manshawl washed 8
Machine washed delicate, dried on low setting at laundromat

manshawl washed 3
closeup after wash and dry

manshawl steamed 2
after a quick steam the second time around, all ready to go!

Before, it stood on its own.
I had better success "killing" the acrylic in a hat I knit in the very early days of my Ravelry adventures. The yarn is Red Heart, and I knit it at too tight of a gauge... at least I thought so before steaming it a couple times. Now it still squeaks, but it is at least passable for a person who does not have texture hangups.

My conclusion is that I would use Encore again for gifts that I am pretty sure would need machine washability. It feels respectable and seems to hold its appearance fairly well. I feel very justified in my disdain for classic Red Heart, though. That said, I am a new convert to the magic of steam blocking; it captures some of the thrill I associate with lace blocking, and can even work wonders with the most awful acrylic.

Chullo 2
After agressive steaming the brim uncurled with very little prompting
and the fabric is drapier.  It even looks like a hat.

As my time with you today draws to a close, my thoughts go out to you a little differently than usual. Keep your head down, knit with ferocity, and may you find those bits of hope and beauty to keep you going.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post. I've recently invested in a relatively cheap handheld steamer from Target for all of my knitting needs. I love using it and it is sooo much easier than steaming with an iron.