Friday, April 17, 2009

Misadventures in Knitting: Frogging Fun

By fun I mean (insert your favorite expletive here).

This is what has happened to the ocean cardigan after I blocked it and loosely pieced it together to check the fit. Apparently, I could not get away with the extra stitches like I thought I could. If you'll notice, one side is 2 inches longer than the other. No, it's not supposed to be like that. No, I do not like asymmetrical cardigans.

How did this happen, did you ask? Somehow, I added extra yarn overs near the front right button hole strip. I haven't a clue how I added them in. Instead of having three little lacy legs, I had four. And then, I had five. How I added that next one, I don't have any idea. Anyways, I thought I could get away with it. I thought quite wrong. I decreased back down to three lace legs, and thought I was okay to block. All those extra legs translated into two extra inches of length as you can see. I was absolutely stumped as to how I could fix it.

The most reasonable suggestion made was to frog the right front piece, which was much better than my idea to frog the whole thing. I'm still tempted to frog the whole thing and write a new pattern. However, reason ruled and the cardigan is cooling while I ponder what to do next with it. Which brings us to the whole reason for this post.


Every knitter I know lives to avoid this most dire of fates for their finished objects, but sometimes it's just inevitable. If, like me, you can't possibly figure out any other way to save your project, start by picking out your bound off edge. I like to use a thin but not sharp yarn needle to pull the loose end through the loops until I've gotten back to a row where it's purely knit stitches and not bound off stitches. Then I can pull on that sad, kinked end to unravel my stitches until I've reached a desired point - in this case, the other end of the front right bodice.

However, that sounds like a much smoother process than it really is. Some yarns, like cashmere and alpaca develop a halo either as you work with it or after it's been washed and blocked. True to form, the argosy yarn developed a lovely soft halo with form fitting drape. While I want that in the finished garment, it makes frogging difficult because some of that halo wraps around the yarn as you frog it. It forms something like a fabric bead that can almost knot one strand of yarn to another. As you might imagine, this is not a desirable thing for a piece you are frogging. When that happens, the smooth pull of the frogged yarn stops, and you'll probably have a long piece of yarn dangling from a loop with something that looks like a knot.

Stop pulling the yarn at this point, it will just make it worse. Remember that thin but dull yarn needle I used earlier? Bring that back out again, and use it to pull part the "bead" formed by the halo wrapping around the yarn. Sometimes, you can hold both sides of the frogged yarn in the front and back of the bead and pull it apart from the loop. Hold onto the loop while you pull apart the bead of halo, otherwise, you'll continue frogging the yarn below the loop and that makes for a tangled mess. Sometimes you may have to pick apart the fiber bead quite a bit to pull it apart before you can continue frogging.

I've found that the more halo a yarn develops, the more likely it is to form that fiber bead that makes frogging so different. That's why frogging yarns like mohair and angora is so difficult - they have halo in the skein, and the halo just gets fuzzier with knitting, washing, or frogging. These are the least forgiving yarns for mistakes that have to be ripped out. It's a lucky day if you can tink back a few rows in mohair, much less frogging more than that.

Other yarns that I've found difficult to frog include alpaca and cashmere. Both yarns knit up well, but their halo really comes out when you block or wash the knitted fabric. If possible, frogging is best done before you get them wet. Sometimes, that's unavoidable, especially if you're doing lace, where the pattern really doesn't appear until after it's blocked. Lace yarns are delicate to begin with, and frogging them must be done carefully. Sometimes knitting is enough to bring out a halo and that seems to make the yarn a little weaker and more prone to breaking when you pull the yarn out for frogging.

Wool tends to forgive frogging, at least the first time around. Depending on how tightly its spun, wool can be knitted and frogged several times before the fiber beads appear to make frogging difficult. However, single ply wool does NOT frog well at all. Cotton, even thread weight cotton, almost always forgives every frogging attempt. Silk, particularly the smooth silks, present a different sort of challenge. The slipperiness of silk practically allows the stitches to fall out from one row to the next, making it prime knotting territory. Bamboo can be prone to this problem as well, because it makes a notoriously slippery yarn. Acrylic forgives frogging almost as often as cotton does, and that sums up my review of different fibers and how well they frog.

A quick note on how to get rid of the kinkyness of yarn after it's been frogged, wind it up into a skein. Tie lots of figure 8 loops around it to keep the strands from getting tangled. Let the skein soak in a sink or bowl full of cool water, before gently squeezing out the excess water. You can roll it up in a towel and hop up and down on the towel to get rid of the water. Then, hang up the skein on a plastic hanger to dry. You can weight it down with more hangers hanging off the loop to pull the yarn straight if you so desire. Dyers and spinners will be completely familiar with this process. Give the skein at least a day to dry before you wind it up into a ball, and this should take most of the kink out.

In other news, I should have some exciting updates and news about the shop tomorrow. If people want, I can do a frogging tutorial with pictures to illustrate the process of frogging.

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Welcome to Crazytown, where my friends have proclaimed me queen. Why did they do that you ask? For some reason, there's very little that I fear about knitting. Hmm, a dress in laceweight done in lace knitting written by vogue? Sounds great! I have very few inhibitions when it comes to knitting, and that sometimes ends disasteriously. Apparently, other people think this signifies a level of crazy that only the royalty can attain. Follow along with my escapades as I dive head first into all sorts of insane techniques and projects without much more than an "Oh! That looks pretty, I can make it!"

Those will probably be my famous last words.