Cap'n Frog, reporting for duty
a project has visited The Frog Pond, one is often left contemplating a
ball of rather curly yarn. The question is: How do you bring the yarn
back to life, sans curl, so you can re-use the yarn in a fabulous new
project? To answer this, it is useful to think about how the curl gets
there in the first place.
Yarn is spun under tension, meaning that when you buy that lovely
ball of yarn, it's a bit, well, tightly wound. When you knit or crochet
with unwashed yarn, those little fibers will put all their heart and
soul and wound-up energy into the shapes of your stitches. Leave the
stitches in place for months or even years, and add a little blocking,
and the stitches have relaxed into the curly shape of your stitches.
We knitters actually like this behavior, normally. We refer to yarn
that can remember what shape you bend it into as yarn that has
Some types of yarn have more memory than others—wool, for example, has
excellent memory; cotton, not so much. This is why wool sweaters keep
their shape and cotton sweaters, again: not so much. However, once a
yarn has been bent into lots of tiny knitted stitches and left to think
about itself in a ziplock bag for months and months, all kinds of
yarns, regardless of fiber content, Go Curly.
Have a ball, don't make a mess.
trick to resurrecting yarn from The Land of Curl is to give the yarn
new memories, and break the hold of the old ones. Fortunately, this is
easier to do than it sounds. Here's how to give old yarn a new lease on
First and foremost: As you unravel the knitting, wind the yarn into a ball!
Don't get carried away by the fun of ripping out and end up with a pile
of tangled, curly yarn. (You'll thank me for this, really you will.)
After the ripping is done, wind the balled yarn into skeins.
If you have a niddy-noddy or a skein-winder, those are huge helps. If
you don't have either of those, you can use a friend's hands, the back
of a chair, or even a thickish book. Just don't wrap too tightly—make
sure you can slip the yarn off when you're done winding it around and
Cap'n Frog and his curly mini-skein
Tie the skeins so they won't tangle.
I use scraps of white crochet cotton; some people use scraps of the
yarn itself. Lay the skein flat so that it forms a circle; wrap a piece
of scrap yarn around one side of the circle so it grabs all the yarn on
that side, and tie a simple overhand or lark's head knot in the scrap.
Tie the skein LOOSELY in at least three places—four is better, two will
do, but three is pretty safe. (If you pull the scrap yarn too tightly,
you'll just make more curly places in your yarn!)
Soak the skeins. Soak in enough lukewarm water to completely
cover the skeins. (You can add a little bit of soap if you feel it is
needed; if you do, be sure to give the yarn a couple of good cool-water
rinses after it has soaked.) Soak for at least twenty minutes, long
enough for the water to permeate all the fibers. Do not agitate or rub
or mangle the skeins! If you have a small sink, like I do, then you may
want to soak only one or two skeins at a time to minimize the chance of
Ahoy! A skein of straightened yarn!
GENTLY use a towel to pat/squeeze out excess moisture. I'm serious about the "gently" part, because you don't want to damage the fibers or risk felting woolly yarns.
Hang the skein to dry. Use a plastic hanger, and drape the
skein around the neck of the hook; let it dry thoroughly out of direct
sunlight. The weight of water and the yarn itself will straighten
things out nicely. (Some folks even put little weights on their skeins
as they hang to encourage the yarn to straighten its curls. Experiment
and use your judgment with delicate yarns.)
Once the yarn is thoroughly dry (and I mean THOROUGHLY), it is ready for its next adventure!
You and your yarn deserve to enjoy your time together. You
loved it enough once upon a time to spend money on it, right? If a
project has lived too long in the dark of your UnFinished Objects bin,
maybe it's time to call Cap'n Frog and give your old love a new chance
at delighting you.
Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.
What's on Sandi's needles? Cobwebs and witch hair and midnight clouds and ghosts of projects past...BOO! Happy Halloween!