Monday, 6 June 2011

Look back in angora

Dear Knitters, this is the story of a near death experience... I could well have entitled it "blockers beware!"  However I am pleased to say that it has a happy ending...
Some may recall me blogging overexcitedly back in January about this crazily luxurious Absolu Angora yarn that I had ordered from France...

Well - after a minor dither about what to use it for, I eventually cast on for the Cedar Leaf Shawlette by Alana Dakos.  Left to my own devices, I would never have thought of  this pattern, but I got the idea from someone else on Ravelry and it turned out to be very well matched indeed.  Two balls of the Absolu is *just* enough to complete the project, with the main part of the shawl taking one ball and the lace border using up almost all of the second.  

The knitting proved to be rather a delicious sensory experience.  Although the yarn did shed a little during knitting, it was not as bad as you'd normally expect from angora - (e.g. it didn't shed as much as the Sublime Angora Merino blend that I've used in the past, or waft constantly up my nose).  On the whole it is simply very very soft and as light as air as it slips through your fingers.
I finally bound off the edging a few days ago and spent an hour or so wafting around the house draped in it, pre-blocking, before declaring it to be the softest, finest and most beautiful thing I'd ever made...  and then I almost ruined everything with an act of crazy hubris.  
Here is the cautionary tale.  Because I fancied blocking the lace edging, I decided to risk putting the shawl through the handwash cycle on my washing machine.  I've used this cycle many times before on fine yarns, including cashmere, wool and angora blends - effectively it simulates the act of hand washing and has never let me down before.  In this case I even double-bagged the shawl inside a pair of lingerie bags for safety.  And then I tried to ignore the niggly voice in my head questioning whether I really wanted to press the 'start' switch...
Suffice to say, when it came out of the machine - it felt like a moment of tragedy.  I was convinced that I had felted the item to oblivion.  The main symptom was that it appeared to have shrunk, and the stitches in the main body of the scarf had melded together into a more tight fabric than before.  As for the lace edging... lets just say that it didn't look as lacey as I remembered it.  The only glimmer of hope was that the shawl seemed to have retained its softness and mobility, and hadn't become stiffened or thick.  So I went into damage limitation mode and blocked it as vigorously as I dared, stretching it as far as possible and trying to open out the lace edging again.  
After a night on the boards, I am pleased (or make that delighted) to say that it seems to have survived by the skin of its teeth.  It is a pheonix risen from the ashes!  Yes - it has shrunk a little bit and is probably now more of a scarf than a shawl.  However it still flops and drapes as softly as before - and, best of all, the lace edging is still lace!   
As a finished scarf, it remains extremely soft to wear - as light as air and not remotely itchy.  In fact I have even discovered a small bonus from the shrinkage...  thanks to the closer melding of the stitches, the scarf no longer sheds and can be worn over my black clothing!   
So here are a few pics...

More pictures and full project details can be seen on Ravelry, here
If you'd like a moral to the story - then my suggestion to anyone using this yarn is that you might want to refrain from washing it at all - either prior to blocking or afterwards.  I suspect a light spritz with cool water would be sufficient for blocking, and then perhaps resort to dry clean only.   (Unless you want to felt it, of course... in which case, um, I don't think you'll have to try very hard!)


  1. Even if the end result isn't what you originally anticipated or set out to achieve, I still think it's beautiful.

  2. Thanks Tink :-)

    I'm definitely choosing to look on the bright side... and thanking lucky stars that I didn't bugger it up beyond all salvation.

  3. It's very beautiful. Actually, I like the effect on the main body of the shawl :)

    Just out of curiosity, if you were to attempt this again, would you pin it out first then spray it to block it? Or would you just allow the knitting to soak naturally (e.g. in a bowl) and then pin it?

  4. If I were to make it again I think I would pin it out while dry and then spritz gently with water to set the blocked portions.

    I have a feeling this stuff wants to meld together as soon as it gets wet, so if you were hoping to achieve that effect, then I guess soaking it would be the way to go.

  5. I've always been afraid of blocking for this very reason. However, I've taken the plunge and blocked some 'robust' yarns, and can appreciate how blocking transforms each piece. Delicate yarns will follow once I'm feeling a bit more confident :)

    Incidentally, have you tried knitting with unspun Lopi? I love the idea of splicing broken threads...

  6. Ooh, don't be afraid to block - it's so worthwhile, especially for anything involving lace - and shaping of berets. It's like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon.

    I think you just need to take a bit of extra care when working with yarns that "want" to felt... (like 100% angora and pure mohair). Probably safer to spritz.

    But in general, I've had no problems blocking pure cashmere, pure wool, angora/merino blends and mohair/silk blends - all using the handwash cycle on my washing machine before pinning out. (Pure cashmere is amazingly forgiving - you can even tumble dry it with no ill effects).

    I've never knit with lopi, but I have occasionally used wool that is very lightly spun... (I would probably treat lopi as a yarn that "wants to felt")

  7. Well I don't think you did it any harm, it look beautiful!

  8. Чудесные превращения великолепной пряжи!!!!

  9. How is the lace edging added. Did you pick up stitches along the edge? I want to buy the pattern, but don't relish picking up all those stitches. Many thanks!

  10. Hi Sherry, you don't need to pick up any stitches - the shawl is worked on a long circular needle and all of the body stitches are left on the needle when you start the edging. The lace edging is knitted at a slight angle to the main body of the shawl and joined to the main set of stitches by knitting two together at the end of every second row of edging.

    (If my description sounds confusing, rest assured that it makes perfect sense when you get to that bit of the pattern!)

    Hope that helps,
    Susie F