How to Rescue an Acrylic Cardigan from Accidental Machine Washing

I have already outlined how to rescue acrylic knits from a hot spin cycle, but I did not think that the method could save anything more intricate than my garter blanket.

How wrong I was! Using the same methods, I have rescued a lovely handknit cabled cardigan my Nan accidentally put on a hot wash. I took some pictures and thought I’d share, as I now have access to a bath, which made the whole process a lot more streamlined and photogenic.

The primary problem with the cardigan was the squeakiness, which was beyond even my tolerance, and the tightness of the partially melted fibres. The first thing to do was to soak, so I mixed some lukewarm water with shampoo and hair conditioner (might as well clean at the same time!). Then I gently pushed the unbuttoned cardigan into the water and left it for 10 to 15 minutes.

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When thoroughly soaked, I poured neat conditioner onto the fabric near the surface and massaged it gently into the wool, rubbing in short motions from collar to hem and back again. Then I opened the cardigan up, applied more conditioner and rubbed it into the other side of the fabric (the inside of the cardigan), finally I rolled the whole cardigan over and applied and massaged into the back.

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Then, after a five minute soak, I put my palm on the fabric, fingers spread, and agitated the stitches from side to side. I did this all over, to every square foot of fabric, for about 20 minutes in total. Then, 5 minutes more soaking, and a lukewarm shower to rinse out excess hair products.

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Then, I rolled it in a towel to squeeze out excess water, and lay it out flat to dry. The result is a much softer, more relaxed fabric that is significantly more comfortable to wear, and one which feels a lot closer to the fluffy fabric that went in the fateful washing machine than the cling film that came out.

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Baby Foot Measurements for Knitting

I’ve been knitting a lot of socks, recently, and I know quite a few babies – so naturally baby socks have been on my mind. However, I have no idea what the average 18 month old’s foot measurements would be, and it would be useless gifting ill-fitting socks.

Some Googling found this very handy download, it’s all the information a baby sock knitter needs, with sources cited for good measure!

http://media.wendyknits.net/media/babyfootsizes.pdf

I take no credit for these measurements, I just had to share them.

How to make your own mannequin

I have been knitting for my shop and I realised that I needed a model who would stay still for long periods of time, work in any space and weather conditions and didn’t need paying. Someone suggested a taylor’s mannequin, but I don’t know anybody who has one I could readily access. Buying one was an option, but internet shopping has that pesky wait for delivery.

So I made my own. I used an old t-shirt, an old bikini bra top, a coat hanger and some leftover wool batting I had hidden away.

First, I sewed the armholes of the t-shirt shut, then put the coat hanger in the neck opening and sewed the neck shut around the hanger. I had a t-shirt that had a low cut split neckline, which when sewed created a line down what my mannequin would call her cleavage. When stuffed, this line helped define a bust. This line could be achieved in a high neckline by sewing a pleat where you’d like the cleavage line to be.

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Despite this line, she needed more support – the fabric was very elastic – so I used an old bra from a bikini to define her shape more sharply. I then stuffed until she had the bust and waist measurements I wanted.

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Then, I tied the bottom shut with a ribbon. If I ever want to model bigger, smaller or differently proportioned clothes, I can just undo this ribbon and alter the stuffing accordingly. This feels like an advantage over a store bought mannequin, it can be personalised to the exact proportions you want very easily.

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Finally, I put a nice shirt on her – a turtle neck hides the neckline stitching perfectly – and pinned it into a good fit. Et voila, a model who will never mind being dangled precariously from a branch for a photoshoot in deepest winter, and is easily stored in the wardrobe.

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To make men’s or children’s versions of this mannequin, you just leave out the bust defining stitching and use the appropriate size and style of shirt. For the stuffing you could use anything: plastic bags, tissue paper, the innards of an old pillow, or even a towel. The more your stuffing material is like commercial toy stuffing, though, the easier it will be to get a smooth, less lumpy surface.

And here she is, modelling like a pro:

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My First Pattern Design!

I’ve been designing a lot of knits recently, but the only one that’s ready to share is this lacy little bookmark. I made it out of some handspun I had recently plyed.

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This is my first pattern so if you try it out please let me know how it went, if you liked it and if you encountered any problems – basically, any feedback is welcome!

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/horseshoe-bookmark

How to rescue arcrylic knitwear from the Accidental Spin Cycle.

I mentioned earlier that although slightly hardier than wool, arcrylic can be destroyed just as completely with the wrong care. It can, in some circumstances, be rescued. I shall now recount one such circumstance.

After feeling pretty ill, I did all the laundry on a 60 degree (centigrade) wash to make sure that any bugs were properly killed. Unfortunately, my handknit arcylic patchwork quilt was killed, too. Well, not quite. The fibers fused together and the spin cycle pulled all the stitches (previously a nice, thick garter stitch) into a thin, misshapen material that ressembled cling-film in its aesthetics, comfort and insulating properties. I was not amused.

However, I was not willing to give up (it is a lovely blanket) and I searched online – it was at this stage that I realised that there are not so many sources on the internet of advice on arcrylic knitwear and how to save it.  How to handwash, yes, but not how to undo the damage done.

Adapting advice aimed at vintage wool knitwear owners, I soaked the blanket in lukewarm water in which I had dissolved the leftover dregs of an assortment of hair conditioners and three capfuls of fabric conditioner (I have since realised that synthetic fibers probably don’t get all that much out of hair conditioner, but hey – I could certainly do no more damage than was already done). I then spread it out in the shower (new-builds don’t have baths, but I would have prefered to have put it in a bath) and left it soaking in its shallow pool of highly scented conditioning goo for a few hours.

Next came the rinsing, which consisted of turning the shower on it (cool water setting) and leaving it to rinse thoroughly for about half an hour, with occasional light swilling and massaging so that the slightly fused fibers came apart. Then I turned it out onto a few towels, rolled it up like a Swiss Roll with the knitwear as jam and stood on it, forcing out the excess water. Finally, I laid it out on the hallway floor and spent a good hour lining up the rows of garter stitch so that it was thick and fluffy feeling again.

And I waited.

Three days later, it had dried completely and I was amazed. It had regained most of the springiness and fluffiness that garter stitch has pre-spin cycle and it felt much, much softer. I believe that the heat had not been the issue, but the spin cycle on the washer had been the main culprit – pulling all the stitches tight and drying them like that.

So as for advice, I suggest that if you need to wash arcrylic at a high temperature, 60 degrees (centigrade) is the absolute furthest frontier, and that so long as you handwash it in a bath and don’t agitate or pul the stitches too much, then it will survive such treatment. Of course, if you can avoid it, not machine washing or hot-washing knits is always the best way to do things.