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Thursday, December 9, 2004


A most marhvelous thing has happened.
Actually, two marvelous things have happened!

The Shazam Aran Cardi Fronts are done! They and their brother Back are resting comfortably BLOCKING on the ChicKnits Blocking Rug. It appears they are the same sizes. All is well!

BUT what’s even better is that a miracle has happened.

Last night, I just couldn’t constrain myself. I wasn’t going to wait for the sleeves to get the party started. I decided to block the pieces I had by throwing them into the washer with a couple of dirty sweaters I was cleaning. My usual way to wash woolens is to fill my washer with warm water on the gentle cycle. I add a couple of drops of Dawn Dishsoap (just basic liquid soap, ma’am). I swish the water to dissolve the soap, then add the knits, pushing them into the water to make sure they don’t just float.

No mechanical agitation has taken place thus far.

Now, on the Gentle Cycle, I let the washer agitate for 5 counts. Then I turn it off and let it soak. I come back after about 10 minutes and agitate for 5 more counts, then drain the tub, spin the knits, fill to rinse, and repeat my 5 counts.

The difference last night was that I added to the Rinse Water: one cap of Infusium 23/ mixed with 2 caps of Tresemme – both Hair Conditioners, as suggested by many who wrote when I initially bemoaned my Stiff Yarn Problem…

When I put my hands on my freshly washed pieces to take them out of the washer, I almost fainted. THEY WERE SOFT, fluffy even.

Now I had been BUGGED for, ahem, years now with the nature of this yarn. It was dense. It was DRY! It was tight. It was like a BOARD. I would knit on it on the #66 and it would flap around and spank me until I was ready to scream.


Cut to Theme Music – OPEN Episode #1:
Yarn History Detectives
This stuff was just saturated in Spinning Oil! As I understand it, this oil is used on fiber to tame it during the spinning process (people – is this half right?). Age the oil on the yarn for a couple of years (maybe 3 – who really knows when it was made?) and you get: HARDENING OF THE ARTERIES!

Even though this yarn was already made into a sweater, washed the same way as above, frogged, re-skeined, washed again and then re-knit, it was never really soaked and washed COMPLETELY. Now, the yarn has been released from the PRISON of it’s commercial beginnings and can become –

OK, you get the picture.

Now all I have to do is frog the earlier sweater’s sleeves to get enough yarn to finish the whole piece…

18 responses to “Thursday, December 9, 2004”

  1. peggy says:

    Ooh!! Thanks for the conditioning tip. Not that I’ve knit a sweater (or much at all, really) in the past year or two. Something to file away For Future Reference though.

  2. Jean says:

    Absolutely beautiful!! That one’s gonna be a classic! Thanks for the tip on the conditioners!

  3. maggi says:

    Yes! There you go again with the invaluable info! I have several 1-lb. cones of Bartlett wool gifted to me by a no-longer-knitting friend who once had an xmas-stocking biz. Darn scratchy stuff, because it’s old. Now I think I’ll skein some up and try your wash technique BEFORE knitting. (I’d only used it for Fuzzy Feet before, which took forever to felt . . .) Brilliant! Merci, Bonne Tricoteuse ~

  4. rachelkates says:

    Oooooo, I so love a happy ending!

  5. Ann says:

    Wow, that is one gorgeous aran-in-the-making. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

    Thanks for the conditioning tip, too!

  6. Cara says:

    Very, very nice. Your stitches humble me, truly. Thanks for all the tips. I’m off to Home Depot for a rug.

  7. Colleen says:

    What a great tip. Three questions:

    1. Does the conditioner “flatten” the wool as if softens? I’m thinking of how conditioner flattens my straight-as-a-board hair.

    2. Did you rinse out the conditioner, or leave it in? If you left it in I’m assuming, then, that it’s essential to buy a leave-in hair conditioner.


  8. Toby Wollin says:

    Bonne Marie — Well, of course a miracle happened — it’s Chanukah!! Small piece of Chanukah trivia. The Hebrew letters on the dreidel stand for the words which when translated mean A Miracle Happened Here. So, spin that dreidel and wash that yarn.

  9. Sylvia says:

    That dreadful processing oil is often spritzed on the clean wool to keep down static and make it behave during the carding/combing process. One of the nice things about handspinning is you can use a dilute solution of olive oil instead of the horrid petroleum based gleck used by so many of the big carding mills. I used to think I was allergic to alpaca, but it turned out to be the obnoxious processing oil, not the fiber!

    Btw, Synthrapol is an excellent cleaning agent for wool, especially if the dye is bleeding. One caveat on using leave-in hair conditioner: if the wool is dry it can absorb a LOT and can really intensify the fragrance.

    If I’m going to knit with coned yarn (mill ends…), I always wind it off into hanks, tie it carefully, and give it a thorough wash. Commercial yarn, especially the stuff put up for mills, can sometimes have more scunge (oil, grit, excess dye) in it than the high-end yarn marketed to knitters. Washing can also pre-shrink it and cause the yarn to bloom, which makes swatching relevant: no surprises.

    I must say, though, that the last batch of mill ends I bought from Paradise Fibers has been pristine, clean, no fading, truly lovely to work with, and cheap!

    Love what you’re doing with the cables — gorgeous sweater!

  10. Carrie says:

    Wow, Bonne Marie, the sweater looks AWESOME! how beautiful – colors, cables, everything. And thanks for all the great tips!

  11. Chelee says:

    It’s the simple things…

  12. Norma says:

    I love the Home Depot rug idea! Gotta have one. But are you not a fan of Eucalan for washing knits? It’s my favorite. I would have been afraid of Dawn as it’s a degreaser, and I thought wool loves/needs a little oil? But you can’t argue with success, I guess. Your method sure sounds a LOT more thrifty. Please dish.

  13. Bonne Marie says:

    The thing about Eucalan is that I don’t think it’s clean enough…

    I am a dirty girl. I wear my sweaters everday, and they get quite a workout. I’ve used Eucalan and it’s left me with dirty cuffs and collars, etc.

    I/my soiled sweaters need a little degreasing! I only use two very small squirts (almost drops) of the dishsoap and rinse very well. I don’t use hair conditioner as a rule in the rinse water because most of my sweaters didn’t have the HEFTY problem like Shazam. I DO use a little white vinegar in the rinse water.

    I have sweaters that are over 12 years old and soft and clean as a whistle!

    My ideas about the conditioner? Use sparingly – I only used two small capfuls for a full amount of water in my washing machine. If you think about it, you use, what, a half a cup or so with traditional fabric softener when it’s added? You don’t need to rinse it out when the quantities are that small – it’s kind of self-rinsing because it’s so diluted. I have not noticed any flattening either.

  14. Bonne Marie says:

    Wow, Sylvia – thanks for all the info! I actually bought some Synthropal the last time I got dye from Pro Chem. I used it to pre-wash my yarn that I was going to dye.

    DUH! Guess you could use it to wash dirty sweaters to :)

    Do you have a favorite conditioner you use on dry wool?

  15. Sylvia says:

    Favorite conditioner? For my crazy red hair I use L’Anza Urban Elements leave-in conditioner, and if I’m just doing a single sweater I’ll use it on the wool, too. Definitely do water it down, though, before using it on a sweater! If I have a large fleece that’s on the dry side, I get a bottle of mane and tail stuff from the feed store or a mild cheap brand like Suave.

    One of the reasons to do a serious scour of wool and use Synthrapol before dyeing is otherwise you end up dyeing the scunge and it bonds with the wool, muting the colors and leaving a permanent tacky guck (I can’t remember the scientific term, sorry).

    Pre-soak. When scouring non-virginal (slutty?) yarn, it’s best to fill a bucket with warm water, swoosh a little Synthrapol or liquid dish soap into the water, and lightly set the yarn on top of the water. Let it sink on its own, which for silk can take all night. If you push the yarn down into the water, you can end up with air pockets inside the yarn, thus residual scunge.

    Oh, the dirty cuffs and collars thing — use a mild bar soap, rub it lightly against the soiled areas, and rinse. Fels Naptha is the classic, but I prefer a homemade bar. Yes, you have to take care not to felt the areas, but it is amazing what normal plain soap will loosen!

  16. Marie says:

    Hair Conditioners?
    What a cool idea! I need to try this one.
    Those cables are beautiful!

  17. carolynhoe says:

    nice ideas about washing. the sweater is beautiful. will you be selling the pattern???

  18. Bonne Marie says:

    ze Pattern? Mayhaps this is one for my wardrobe and not at large – it is really complicated!

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