Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What to do with discount acrylic yarn

As you all know, I am cheap. So when I saw gigantic 100g balls of acrylic yarn on sale for HK$5 each, I bought 10. I intended to make a poncho with it, but as it turns out, I vastly over-estimated the amount of yarn needed. I've made a poncho and a skirt, and I still have 5 balls left.

I like acrylic because I can dump it in the washer and dryer and not worry about it shrinking. In a house with parrots - messy, poopy, fruit pulp flinging parrots - it is pretty much the only way I'm going to wear knitted garments. My clothing gets much abuse.

But isn't acrylic stiff and scratchy and uncomfortable and ugly? A double knit weight acrylic garment can practically stand up on its own. Not if you block it. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I found out that you can in fact block acrylic, once.

After you've knitted your piece, you lay it out on a towel, spritz it damp with water, stretch and pin the edges down to the desired shape, shield it with another towel, and then press it with a hot steaming iron. Not actually iron it back and forth, but press the iron down, pick it up, move it, and repeat until you've done the whole surface. (Don't press too hard though, you'll flatten it.)

I'm no industrial chemist and I don't know how it works, but it "kills" the bounciness in the yarn. It will stay in the blocked shape more or less permanently. It gets a lot softer, drapier, and takes on a slight sheen. It won't be as warm anymore, but it becomes quite a pleasant material to wear.

There's my poncho. I didn't work from a pattern, I saw a similar poncho in a store and figured that it was just a big rectangle attached to a smaller rectangle. And then from the neckline I knitted straight up about 6 or 8 inches, enough to create a floppy mini-cowl. Unfortunately I haven't been able to wear it out much. This winter was so absurdly cold that the poncho was pretty much suitable for indoor use only. Also, I haven't figured out how to wear a poncho and carry a backpack simultaneously.

And there's my skirt. It's a slight modification of this pattern from I resized it smaller, lengthened it a bit (I don't want people to see quite that much of my thighs), and sewed a lining out of an old Boyfriend T-shirt. It is probably the most patterned garment I've knitted this far. It's certainly the most feminine.

The original pattern called for cotton yarn, and for good reason. In acrylic, it's not terribly practical. Too cold for winter unless you wear a thick pair of tights underneath, but too hot for summer. And in Hong Kong, spring and autumn last all of two weeks.


Michelle O said...

Your skirt and poncho are lovely!

Lana said...

That's a really cute skirt! Good job, Kea. Btw, I've been wearing the gloves/mittens that you made me, and they're great!

Kea said...

Hey Lana, glad you're getting some use out of those mitts. I was worried they wouldn't be able to withstand upstate New York winters.