Cap’n Frog, reporting for duty After 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 “memory.” 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.
The 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 life:
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 strings into a skein of yarn. 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 around.
Cap’n Frog and his curly mini-skein
Tie the skeins of yarn 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 tangling.
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 yarn 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!