I recently saw a friend who has always been a great appreciator of handknits, and I decided (when she hinted) that it was time to make her something new and fancy. She is petite and wears a lot of light neutrals, and she definitely enjoys the finer things in life, so I landed on the idea to make her a light but warm scarf using undyed luxury fibers. Luckily, I had participated in the knitspot Bare Naked Club for the second time, and so my stash is appropriately enhanced.
While I LOVE Anne Hanson’s e-books and the patterns she provides with the yarn club shipments, I really wanted to crank this gift out quickly and simply (no keeping track of rows, no careful reading of a super-smart pattern,) so I chose to knit my simple and flexible Esna Formation.
The stitching is within the grasp of an adventurous beginning knitter, and my friend will not know that garter stitch and yo, ktog are not very tricky to execute.
I set out with the intention to use up every last drop of the 2 oz of fingering weight Pura Bella Mongolian Cashmere,
but then I entered some sort of cashmere-induced trance and forgot to pay attention to how much was left. So I ran out. I ran to my stash and found some undyed cream Mountain Meadow Wool Dubois. Hooray!
The loft, lightness and softness was a pretty good match to the cashmere (a testament to Mountain Meadow Wool Mill’s fine Wyoming wool and spinning) so I just added it on to the edging of the scarf and kept going until I
was over it thought it was done.
Here are some photos of the piece unblocked. This scarf is going to get the royal treatment in the finishing because…cashmere and fine wool! And also because I want my friend to be pleased with her gift. So Unicorn Fibre Wash and Rinse it is!
When I have fluffy, fine fibers like merino and cashmere, I don’t want to weigh them down with residue from my wool wash. In this case, I also want to preserve the bright cream of the undyed Dubois and I would be nervous about using products that deposit lanolin, which could turn that cream kinda yellow. Since both products are gentle and low sudsing, and they both get rinsed out, this finishing process is perfect for the delicate scarf.
Here is what I do:
First, I clean my sink, and grab a glass bowl and plastic colander. Typically, I use a bigger bowl, but my normal one was full of potato salad on this day.
I run the hot water from my kitchen sink. It is usually between 135-140º F, but really the temperature is a matter of your preference. Warm, or even cool water is fine. I just make sure not to agitate the yarn to prevent felting. See how there are some suds, but not a ton, like you might have if using dish soap or something else that is not specially formulated for animal fibers?
I gently coax the shawl to submerge it in the wash. If you have sensitive hands, like my husband, you may want gloves on. I, apparently, have hands of steel. I can grab a baked potato out of the oven without a mitt. I promise, I eat food other than potatoes, but you can’t tell from this post!
I realized that with this smaller bowl, the colander is just kind of in the way, so I dumped the whole thing directly in the bowl.
Next comes a clear water rinse/soak. In each of these steps, I leave the piece in the water for 10-15 minutes. Usually I will go
fry up some potatoes check email and come back, so even though this is a multi-step process, it is easily sandwiched between other tasks.
Now comes the Fibre Rinse. I swish it around in the water and then submerge the shawl again. It is like using shampoo and then conditioner on your own hair. One removes dirt and the other softens, and both get rinsed out, leaving behind only a slight fragrance.
Another plain water rinse/soak.
Nothing is left behind to discolor my yarn or to weigh down the individual strands of fiber. At this point, I pour the shawl into the colander, gently press out some of the water, and let it hang out and drip for a while. Next, I grab a clean, light colored–just in case–bath towel and move to the deck or to the bathtub.
I roll the whole thing up and step on it to squeeze out the rest of the water.
Then it is time to take things inside and pat the shawl into shape and let it dry. My old cat, Sonny, who took his leave of us last spring after 16 years, liked to “help” me block handknits. He was a water-loving kitty who could often be found sleeping in the bathroom sink or chilling between the shower curtains while I showered. I often had to raise my blocking boards up off of the floor or place an extra towel on top, so he would not walk or sleep on the pieces as they dried. It was no fun having them covered in cat fur, or worse, caught on his claws and then end up with stitches stretched all to heck.
Our remaining kitty does not have this attraction to wet wool, although sometimes my old puppy likes to supervise.
So nowadays, the floor is relatively safe for blocking and I find that a yoga mat works just as well as my more expensive blocking boards.
This will be a pretty long scarf once blocked, and the whole thing only weighs 3 ounces.
I expect a somewhat frothy halo and miraculous warmth from a scarf that will not overpower my tiny friend. Stay tuned for part two in which I will show my results and finish some more knitwear, this time with hand-dyed and handspun yarn.
See you then!