Hot Tip: Steam out the kinks

Hot Tip: Steam out the kinks

One of the hottest debates among knitters is what to do with the kinky-curly yarn that results from ripping out your knitting. If you just knit with it, will it affect your gauge? If so, do you soak and dry it in hanks (flat or hung?), or just knit a new kinky gauge swatch? Or none of the above. Like most knitting-related matters, everyone’s advice and experience is different. Romi Hill (you know her amazingly intricate designs, right?) says it does affect her gauge, and her favorite solution is to simply steam the kinks out of the frogged yarn before beginning again.

A hand-held steamer or travel steamer is also a handy tool for blocking knits when you don’t have time for a full soak, or just for freshening things up from time to time.

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Images courtesy of Romi

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23 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Steam out the kinks

  1. Steam is not always the safest alternative if a yarn has a high percentage of synthetic content. I know you are unlikely to be using those, but for those of us knitting for children, it is often the option of choice. Another alternative to the full soak is to wrap the well tied skeins in a very wet but well wrung out bathtowel for about 30 minutes, which renders them damp but not soaking, and then hang them to dry over a pants hanger. Hanging lets the air circulate better, and sort of re-balances the twist. (It is also a safe way to block those risky hand knits, like mohair, which put all their heart and soul into trying to felt)

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  2. If the item has already been blocked, I would also use steam to unkink it. Those kinks are not coming out without help. If not already blocked, I’ve knit on with no change to gauge or appearance. I might let the yarn sit for a day or two before knitting it, but it will smooth out on it’s own, and the heat from your hands while knitting will help, too.

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    • Good to know! I’ll be frogging a couple of unworn sweaters at some point in the future. So far, I’ve only knit with frogged yarn that was unblocked and have found that, depending on how tightly I hold my yarn, the impact on gauge is minimal.

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  3. I think the solution to this depends on several factors. Once, when I was knitting a sample sweater for a photo shoot for a magazine, I ended up having to frog a large section of the garment. A deadline was looming, and suddenly I had a half skein’s worth of squiggly cashmere/alpaca/silk yarn to deal with. Because I still had enough yarn to work with, I decided to re-skein the frogged yarn, hang it to dry and continue to knit with the remaining fresh skeins while the frogged bit dried. The end garment was going to be scrutinized by my editor and future knitters, a large chunk of exotic and expensive yarn was involved, and I had sufficient yarn to continue the work until the frogged yarn dried. Although I ended up knitting non-stop through Xmas and Boxing Day, I met my deadline.
    On the other hand, if only a few rows/rounds of frogged yarn had been involved and/or the garment was for my own (less critical?) eyes, then I would likely have gone the steaming route. Be careful when steaming, though, because it’s surprisingly easy to scorch wool, even when holding a steam iron several inches away. I write from sad experience.

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  4. Just this past weekend, I frogged a project (silk/merino) and started over with the kinked yarn. The project had been sitting for 2 years, and my knitting has improved drastically since then. I could see that I would run out before reaching my original end point, so I frogged again, this time giving my yarn a good soak, and letting it hang to dry. Since I don’t own a steamer, this is the best solution for me, and I’m happy with the results.

    I am considering investing in a niddy noddy, and may go the do-it-yourself pvc route.

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  5. I’ve always worried that steamed unkinked yarn might have a different gauge than virgin yarn, when combined in a project. Many yarns grow when blocked. Does that mean they will not grow more after unkinked?

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    • In most cases (most! not all), what’s growing is not the yarn, but the knitting. Meaning that generally speaking, knitting doesn’t grow when blocked because the yarn itself stretches, but because the loops of yarn relax, revealing that more length was put into (and between) each loop than you realized.

      Keep in mind, handknitting yarns have already been washed (scoured, even!) at least a couple times during the spinning and dyeing process (even more the case if they were hand-dyed). Even a yarn hand spun from dyed fiber will have been washed by the spinner to set the twist. Whereas when you initially block a finished knit piece, it’s the very first time that yarn has been set into that particular shape.

      (things are a bit different if you’re knitting with yarns prepared the way weavers like them, with the mill oils left on the yarn)

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  6. ….sock blanks always provide this dilemma. You purchase a sock block because you like the colors and are excited to see the mystery of the pattern unfold. We are told that you can knit directly from the blank. I tried, and my sock gauge was very wonky. I did reskein the project then soaked in warm water and then hung to dry.

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  7. I wrap the yarn in long skeins, tie them, then give them a good long soak. Afterwards I wrap in a towel, then hang to dry. Finally, I re-wrap into yarn balls. Its a time consuming process but I prefer knitting with yarn that does not have the kinks in it.

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  8. I unravelled a second hand tweedy sweater that attracted me to it because of it’s amazing colour. I intended to wash and hang it in hanks to knit but decided to weave it instead without washing and with all the kinks. It wasn’t until I took it off the loom and, free of tension, the shawl had the most incredible texture and the kinked yarn actually created a patterning. Being a plain weave rectangular shawl, and not a three dimensional garment, this amazing thing happened! Of course if I soaked it, all that lovely texture would vanish. Serendipity at it’s best!!

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  9. I broke the steam burst function on my iron doing this. Now I wind the yarn around a chair, put a thin towel over it and iron it lightly on the steam setting. It’s a pain to do, but I reclaim a lot of yarn and in the past I noticed if I skipped this step, the final result was visibly inferior, i.e. stockinette was very uneven-looking.

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  10. As a regular frogger, I see no issue with crinkled or kinky yarn (or whatever the proper name is). I simply wind the yarn into new balls and knit a swatch if needed to check my gauge. The final blocking takes care of the rest, as others have mentioned above.

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