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From The Frog Pond: Questions And Answers

Nov 2, 2007

There were so many good questions and comments from The Frog Pond post on straightening curly yarn by skeining, soaking, and hanging to dry, that I decided to answer a few of them here.

Bethany H: This is actually the process used to set the twist in hand-spun yarn. So it makes perfect sense that it would work for yarn that's been frogged. :)

Sandi: Ha! You caught me. I learned to spin about a dozen years ago from my friend Keena in California. I've discovered that knowing how to make yarn has added immensely to my understanding of how best to knit with all the different yarns, as well as how to care for them before and after knitting. And for this article, I also consulted Liz Gipson, managing editor of Handwoven and former managing editor of Spin-Off, just to make sure I had all the facts straight!

Elizabeth K: My Granmma taught me to steam the yarn by pulling it in through the spout and out through the vent hole in the lid of a boiling teakettle. The water level must be low enough so the yarn doesn't actually get wet. After pulling it through the steam, wind the yarn into a skein to dry well before rolling it into a ball. This has to be done carefully to avoid scalding oneself, but it works!

Sandi: Yes, this is a variation on the the soak-and-hang method. I usually use the steam method for woolly yarns, and the soak-and-hang method for everything else. I actually tried the steam method with the 100% wool yarn used in the tutorial photos, but it did not smooth out all the curlies as much as I wanted; my second try with the soak-and-hang gave me the results I wanted. Sometimes a yarn likes one method better than the other :)

Remington4: I took all of the steps that you suggested for reviving curly yarn (even putting a weight on the skein's bottom while drying)—IT STILL ENDED UP BEING VERY CURLY!! I tried using it to knit a scarf, and it looked just awful. Any ideas?

Sandi: This can happen, particularly with a wool yarn with lots of lanolin in it. Try the steam method mentioned above. The particular yarn you are using may require the extra heat to help the moisture "unlock" those curls completely.

Sally H: This is great and doesn't seem too much to ask for lovely fresh straight yarn. My question is, what happens if you don't straighten—I've often had to frog huge chunks of projects and have just reknit them without a problem. Is it a timing thing? I'm wondering if something has been knit up for say less than a week, then it's OK to frog and reknit, but longer term knitted stuff needs the bath and hang treatment?

Sandi: Again: It depends on the fiber content and the properties of the yarn. No two yarns are exactly the same— each has been treated or dyed or spun in a particular way that gives it unique properties; these unique properties combine to give that yarn a certain amount of memory. Some yarns just plain forget the stitches once the knitting is unravelled; other yarns get curly right away. If you like the way the yarn comes off the unravelled project, then go ahead and knit with it. It's your knitting, after all!

Mary B: Since the yarn has memory, why doesn't just reusing the yarn from the ball work? It seems like it would eventually take the shape of the new project?

Sandi: Basically, you'd be piling a new memory on top of an old one. If the old stitches were a different gauge, or different shapes, then you will get the old kinks worked into new shapes and a twice-kinky fabric. Do a gauge swatch. If you like the way the fabric looks, then cast on and go for it. If you think the fabric looks like it has too many old memories, then go ahead and give the yarn a bath.

Korinthe: Just one question...Does this change the GAUGE of the now comfortably relaxed yarn?

Sandi: It depends on the yarn. (I sound like a robot: It. Depends. On. The. Yarn. Beep!) Personally, I would swatch again with the newly-refreshed yarn, just to be sure.

Connie G: The only question I still have is where do I find a frog trained to do the raveling, winding, soaking and hanging of the yarn for me?

Sandi: Ah. Cap'n Frog says that you have to kiss a lot of swatches to find your Fairy GodFrog.

Cap'n Frog appears courtesy of Barbara Naslund.

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? Mwhaaaaa...FOURTEEN UFOS! The pullover for my husband is nearing the armholes, and I am considering the best way to proceed with a certain pair of lace socks. And yes: I wore knitted wings for Halloween.

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SigridS wrote
on Nov 12, 2007 6:32 PM
I recently frogged a 10 year old lump of UFO, lost pattern, errors in the pattern etc. The yarn didn't want to unkink, no way, no-how. I put some lanolin wool rinse in the water, hung the skein up in the shower & put a plastic hanger on the bottom, it took a bit to dry, but was fine & soft & knittable when it did. It is now a lovely pullover that I can put to use this winter. That is, if I ever get it sewn together.I guess it's still a UFO. ;-)
DoloresS wrote
on Nov 6, 2007 5:49 AM
I'm new.....the wings must have been before my time ! Sure would like to get a pattern. From what I've seen in the last few postings the wings must be great.
JoanneH wrote
on Nov 5, 2007 11:03 PM
What would be the best way to frog Lopi, which doesn't have much twist. One of my UFO's is a yoke sweater made of Lopi. I finished it entirely, but then couldn't get it on over my head! My gauge tightened up in the stranded colorwork and I've had to rip it part way down. Joanne
JoanneH wrote
on Nov 5, 2007 10:52 PM
Straightening circulars -- I heard at a Cat Bordi workshop to straighten the cable and sit on it for a while. The combination of your body heat and the shape of your backside smooths the tight curve of coiled circs. Joanne
Ladyspring13 wrote
on Nov 5, 2007 1:18 PM
For the lazy, I recently frogged the back of a cardigan (made in 100% alpaca)and reknit the back of the cardigan from the same darn yarn (curling and all). The result was a lumpy, bumpy back of the cardigan UNTIL I wet blocked it (I wet block everything except silk and bamboo). After I wet blocked it, of course, the lumps and bumps went away and I still had the same gauge that I had with straight yarn. So, if you are lazy, like me, you can knit with the kinked up yarn and wet block. I don't guarantee the results but it worked for me.
JoanS@2 wrote
on Nov 5, 2007 10:25 AM
My rule of thumb for "reviving" yarns after raveling is to do it only if they've been wet-blocked while in the previous project, especially if they were stretched in the process, eg lace shawl. Otherwise, I just loosely ball up the kinky yarn and knit with it again. Once it's wet-blocked into the new project, all previous kinkyness is gone. I see no line of demarcation between prev. knit up yarn and "new" yarn. Now I knit with natural fibers only, so that may impact the results.

When I do "dekinkify" my yarn, I loosely hank it up and if it's clean, I hold it on the handles of wooden spoons over a frying pan of boiling water (more surface area) until a good portion of the kinks disappear, let dry, then rewind.

Joan in Eugene, OR
Anonymous wrote
on Nov 4, 2007 5:59 PM
I have a question about gauge and tension. The other day I started on the sleeve for a sweater I'm knitting. About three inches in, I realised it looked a looser than the body. Not a lot, just a bit. I measured it, and the guage was off by only about one stitch per 3 inches. But the fabric felt a bit looser, not as compact. When I pressed into the underside of it I could see my fingers, which wasn't the case with the body. When I came back to it the next day, it seemed to have sort of set into itself, and both sleeve and body felt the same. As I knit further, I noticed the same effect, the next inch was looser, but after a few hours, seemed to 'set'. Is this usual? I was working in the round, would this have anything to do with it?
LenaB wrote
on Nov 3, 2007 9:05 AM
Anther thing to do with kinky yarn is to use it for the hair of a doll. I was going to post a picture but there doesn't seem to be any way to do that.
LisaS@10 wrote
on Nov 3, 2007 7:04 AM
I hve found that after frogging and bundling up the kinky yarn, a good steamy bath is good for both the yarn and the frogger. I hang the loosely bound up yarn in the bathroom, turn on the hot water and either take a good long shower or bath. The steam does wonders for the yarn and for meto dream up a new project. Yarn is the new pantyhose hanging in the bathroom!
Meeb wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 8:36 PM
a la kathi, above, the teakettle spout works great for straightening out needle cables, too. i usually only bother to do it with the long cables...but i keep my needles in a wooden box big enough for anything 24" or shorter to be relaxed all the time.
Slbroz wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 8:12 PM
I just did this technique and it wasn't the worst thing I have ever done. I heard that you had to weight down the skein so I hung a can on the yarn. All that did is make a big crease in the bottom. I don't think I would have had to do that.

The other thing I wondered is if a garment steamer could be used to straighten the fibers?
KathyL wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 8:05 PM
To the person wondering how you steam yarn with a tea kettle. Fill the kettle about half full of water and put the lid on it. Once the water boils, you pass your skein through the steam coming out of the spout. I generally do this slowly, making several passes when I am setting the twist in a freshly spun skein of yarn. You do not need to put tension on the yarn, simply hold it between both hands and pass a small section through at a time. Sometimes I may repeat the process once. When you are finished, hang or drape it over a doornob or hanger and let it along until it is dry. That's all there is to it! Just be careful not to burn your fingers in the hot steam!
TerriK wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 7:08 PM
I recently frogged a project that had been part-knitted for a couple of years. The yarn - pure wool - was very curly. I re-knit the curly yarn without soaking first. It did knit up into a krinkly looking fabric, but once the finished garment was soaked and pinned out for blocking, it looked as good as new. I know this is probably not the ideal way of doing things, but it worked for me.
EstherL wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 6:52 PM
Annas J--I use the hot water method of straightening my circular needles. Just fill a pan with hot water, dunk your needles for a few minutes and voila! To keep them from curling up again, I store them by hanging them over the swing arm of my floor lamp next to my favorite chair. It makes a nice conversation piece--my brother asked what they were and why they were hanging on the lamp.
MaryW@5 wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 3:51 PM
Oh, my! Sandi, I absolutely adore your knitted wings! Do you have a pattern? maybe if I start now, I might be done for Halloween 2010? (((hugs))) --Mary
SusanC wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 3:10 PM
I have a related question about yarn memory. I inherited a UFO from my grandmother. I think it was intended as a sweater for one of my cousins. It looks like it is about up to the armholes. Assuming I can figure out where we are in the pattern, I would like to take a stab at finishing it. My question is - do I need to do something for the row that has been on the circular needles for an unknown amount of time? I would hate to finish it and find a row of weirdness in the middle where it sat.

Thanks, Susan
CherylW wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 2:46 PM
Sandi: My husband and I are both lawyers and you sound like a lawyer. Almost every question asked of us starts with "Let me give you a lawyers answer: That depends ..."

I also love your wings! Is it your own pattern you are willing to share?
Mary AnnR wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 2:35 PM
Love the KnittingDaily postings. You have inspired me to frog a bunch of UFO's. Now what shall I do with all my stash? I may never have to buy yarn again (fat chance) Mary Ann R.
GraceJ wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 2:33 PM
I have unravelled & balled one of my 100% merino production swatches. next I'll need to skein it for the bath - 2 questions:
1) My yarn has lost almost ALL of its twist and is basically a bunch of plies at this point. Will bathing it help this?
2) Any suggestions for a skeining without a knitty-noddy or swift that doesn't involve a helpful friend or a chair back?
KathyR wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 2:32 PM
I'm not a very experienced knitter, and I've not tried re-using yarn but once (an immediate re-knitting that worked out fine). Now I've frogged a vest - have several balls of wool - and before reading this article I had decided to try using a steamer insert in a large pan and put the balls on the steamer as is! There is some tension on the yarn as they're wound, so I wondered if that would work? I thought I'd leave it wound & let it cool that way ...
Any thoughts?
Repels-72356 wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 2:13 PM
Hi, Sandi et al, I have been very interested in all the comments about swatching. I usually do swatch when I am making something serious that actually has to fit someone or something, but skip it for dishcloths etc. My method is to cast on enough stitches to make 4-1/2 or 5 inches of width, then knit in stockinette for at least two inches. At that point I measure the width, and if it correctly matches the given gauge, I stop without worrying about the row count. Every pattern tells you what the length measurements are supposed to be, and if it should happen that the given number of rows doesn't match what I have on my needles, I can just knit some more (or less) rows until the inches are right. I already know (from my swatch) that the number of stitches is OK. Now, I can see that there is a potential problem with this, since I haven't been in the habit of washing my swatches. So--now that process will need to be worked into my plans. Thanks for all the info! Caryl H.
ShelleyR wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 2:05 PM
Ha HA, just brilliant. But the best part??? NOW I can justify buying an umbrella skeiner! New toys. I'm a bout to frog not one, but two linen projects and I just couldn't face it. but now I have a new plan for that yarn and a skeiner is just the thing to get that linen unwound. Thanks!
Zaz wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 2:01 PM
nice wings, sandi, are they framed by hangers?
KarenK@4 wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 1:57 PM
I have had great luck with the hot-water treatment. However, one thing I learned: it can actually alter the color of the yarn! I learned this when I frogged a collar I didn't like a reknit it, and it doesn't quite match the body of the garment. Oops!
Marji.barks wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 1:38 PM
It is all very well to say, "Don't fear the sock." I am an experienced knitter -- sweaters mostly -- and my first sock (version 5) is kicking my fanny! if you don't believe me!
JocelynG wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 1:35 PM
This has been really useful. I wonder what you think the best method is for unkinking frogged 100% merino yarn. My DD started a project using Zara, and I don't think she will ever get back to it. There are so many better uses for that yarn.

Also - a variation on the steam thing you mentioned is one that I got from Joan Schrouder. Wrap the yarn around a cookie sheet and put it over a pot of steaming water.
AnnetteK wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 1:32 PM
Does the book Getting started
Knitting Socks by Ann Budd show you how to knit on one needle? I thinks it's called a magic needle.

LindaM@2 wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 1:24 PM
Thanks, Sandi, for the clear instructions for straightening out curly frogs - er, yarn. That's how I have been doing it - not sure who taught me but I'm sure I didn't make it up. I have a related question: I recently frogged a knitted poncho that I had purchased from Talbots and didn't wear. I now have a nice skein of straightened yarn, but I don't know the yardage. Since I am not a spinner and don't expect to do this often (though I can see myself prowling the Goodwill for old sweaters as a cheap source of yarn), can you suggest a low tech, low cost way to measure yarn? I saw something called a niddy-noddy on the web. How does that work?
LauraW wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 1:18 PM
Do you think that this soak/rehang adding a little extra weight/leave to dry method would work for me? I have a few old memories I'd like to get rid of, too!! No wonder the "experts" are always advocating a nice, hot bubble bath after a long, hard day!!!
Korinthe wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 1:05 PM
Thanks for answering my question!

My curly yarn is from unraveling swatches. I guess I should cut it off the main ball and save it for just-in-case, rather than knitting up the next swatch with it, since it's not enough for the whole project.

Now I can get the curly yarn off the endtable and dealt with in the appropriate manner :)
BarbO wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 12:51 PM
Hi, just wondering if those straightening shampoos would work? Has anybody tried using this as a method?
sulitk wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 12:50 PM
This was very interesting this week. Thanks.

Annas J - I have friends that use warm water or just hold them until they become straighter. Personally I discovered add-turbos and the cords straighten out immediately. I hear the knit picks options do this as well.
ayraramya wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 12:45 PM
I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around steaming "the yarn by pulling it in through the spout and out through the vent hole in the lid of a boiling teakettle." Is this a single very long strand of yarn that's pulled through BEFORE skeining? I don't see how a skein would fit through these holes, but I also wouldn't want to see a heap of yarn on either side of the kettle, as it got fed in from one heap and came out and landed on another. Can you clarify? Thanks!
AnnasJ wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 12:35 PM
I would like to know how everyone straightens out their circular needles for a project.
SharonC wrote
on Nov 2, 2007 11:08 AM
More good stuff, Sandi. But where is the pattern for those wings? I'm sure we'll have a lot of little Angels for Christmas plays...