Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Garter Stitch Brain Cleanser ...or Can you Block Acrylic Yarn?

Baktus Scarf

Update: Project notes for a modified brain cleanser baktus are now available here.

Strikkelise's Baktus pattern  has been on my "to -knit-list" for quite a while, but I had never quite gotten into the right state of mind for a project knitted entirely in garter stitch until now. Knitting in garter stitch throughout can be quite a repetitive endeavour, which I highly recommend as a brain - cleansing activity. To incorporate a little more of a challenge, I decided to knit my Baktus in two colours and I wanted to use the most inexpensive yarn I could find in my cupboard (...and still achieve a presentable look).

The yarn for this project was a charity shop find. I was unable to ascertain the manufacturer and only have a vague idea on the composition. A label on the inside of the heather - coloured cone tells me that the yarn contains 30% wool, with the remainder being acrylic. I assume that the same applies to the grey cone, but I could be wrong. I also assume that  Yeoman's are the manufacturers of the yarn. (Yeoman's produce machine knitting yarn, which is sold on cones.) But I could be wrong on this, too.

Baktus Scarf

So, despite the pattern being blissfully simple, my challenge was to knit it in two colours, which for some bizarre reason I have not attempted so far. The second part of my challenge was to turn mediocre yarn into an aesthetically pleasing garment. Whether I have achieved the latter remains to be seen, as the scarf still has to be blocked. 

Baktus unblocked

This brings me to an entirely different, yet related topic: the blocking of acrylic yarn. The idea that acrylic yarn cannot be blocked is akin to being an axiom in the knitting community, propagated in most mainstream knitting guides. It is somewhat similar to the notion that swatching prior to starting a project is an absolutely must, if you want to get a clear idea of your gauge. Whilst the latter is undoubtedly true, the former appears to be a myth. - A myth, which deservers to be debunked and quite a number of bloggers have written on the very topic.

Baktus unblocked

I personally try to block every completed project - regardless of whether the yarn is 100% acrylic or a blend, as I feel that the process of blocking tends to provide the garment with its final finish and thus boosts its appearance, no matter whether we have worked with acrylic or not.

Due to a rather harrowing experience in my early knitting days involving an iron and an acrylic project, I have resorted to wet - blocking my projects to date. Now, I feel it's time to step up a gear and try steam - blocking. Steam - blocking, it seems, yields the best results when finishing acrylic, and has been endorsed by a number of blocking experts.

For further instructions on steam - blocking acrylic, I recommend reading Jessica Johnson's tutorial as well as Beadknitters passionate plea for ending the myth that acrylic cannot be blocked. For all those, who would like some visual instructions, Crochet Ever After have produced an elaborate video tutorial on the topic: 


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