ADVICE: Blocking acrylic?

OK, so I made this scarf of Red Heart Super Saver, all stockinette stitch, and it rolls up on itself something fierce. I hung it on a peg thinking it might relax after a while, but that's been weeks ago. I soaked it with hot water and hung it to dry, but it curled right back up again.

Any advice how to get it flat? I've heard you can't block acrylic, so I haven't tried the pins approach. Would that work?

steve kadel's picture

as far as i know, you don't get much results blocking acrylic. the curling is due to stockinette stitch. you could add a non-curling stitch, garter, moss, etc to the borders

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murfpapa's picture

Stockinette will curl, it's a fact of life. The knit stitch exerts a force to the back, purl to the front. Stockinette will tend to curl to the back, reverse stockinette to the front. With garter stitch, one row puts pressure to the rear, the next row balances it out by trying to curl to the front. One row cancels out the force of the other so the problem of curling disappears. Including a garter border will lessen the tendency to curl but it needs to be a few stitches wide.

It's true that acrylic doesn't block but the careful application of moderate heat can relax the yarn. I tried to use a steam iron with an acrylic scarf with bad results. Heat will melt the yarn at the worst or cause it to go very limp and lifeless. An iron also will give spotty results because the iron is closer at some points and further away at others. However, I have several acrylic afghans, both knit and crocheted, and after washing I toss them in the dryer on moderate heat. The tumbling prevents uneven heating and it seems the more I wash and dry them, the softer and cuddlier they become. You might want to try to wet it somehow, either in the washer or just get it good and wet, then toss it in the dryer on moderate heat. If it's still being obstinate, repeat with a bit higher temp. I also use a dryer sheet because I like the gentle scent it provides.

You can relieve the problem but you cannot eliminate it.
A severe ironing, short of melting, will tame the curl. You will "kill" the fabric, a term used to describe a permanent alteration like this. If it is for the good and is intentional there is nothing wrong with this, but will still not completely eliminate the curl.
A border also will help, but probably not alleviate the problem unless it is so wide that it becomes a different scarf altogether. Perhaps not a bad thing from the different point of view but the size might be a problem.
As mentioned already, garter stitch (or seed stitch) borders are good.
The problem will be how to get them on.
I suggest crocheting instead. A combination of rounds of single, double, half double crochet--remembering to make 3 stitches at every corner, will be an easier way to add a border.
You could also just chalk it up to experience and leave it alone, or you could rip it out.
Just think of how much you've learned.
I think this is a very positive experience.

Tom Hart's picture

If you really, truly, deeply want naturally flat stockinette without borders, without blocking, without ironing, and without washing and drying; double knit it. Go to YouTube and type in double knitting; you can learn it from there. It blew me away when I started doing it (it still blows me away). Purely and utterly flat stockinette, right off the needles. Not a whisper of a curl in it. Ya juss can't beat it. And the double thickness of the final product makes it impossible for me not to keep squeezing it and feeling it up. (That is actually starting to feel a little perverted but I can't help it.)

Tallguy's picture

Very simply -- you can't.

You have two questions there. Blocking is one thing, and it can't be done with acrylic.

Making it lay flat is another thing altogether. You used sticking stitch because you wanted it to roll, correct? And now you want it to lay flat? Seems to be poor planning there.

As others have said, you need to use a stitch pattern (for the next time) that uses the same number of knit and purl stitches to balance each other out. At least a border of balanced stitches will help -- sometimes only 3 rows/stitches is enough.

You can fold your scarf lengthwise, and sew it into a tube. That will prevent the curl from forming. Make another scarf the same size either in knit or other fabric such as acrylic fleece, and sew them together, essentially making a tube as well. Adding a border in crochet or garter may help too.

You can use heat to melt the yarn into submission, but then you don't get a nice soft fabric but melted plastic! I don't see why anyone would want to use that stuff anyway. I suggest starting over, and use a real yarn this time. ymmv imho

michaelpthompson's picture

OK, so there's actually a bit of history to this question. Several years ago, when I took up knitting AGAIN, I bought some cheap yarn and a couple of needles at Wal-Mart and went to town on making a scarf. It was garter stitch, and I started and stopped and fussed and messed up, and finally got pretty good, but after picking it up and putting it down for three or four years, it was getting pretty long, which is what I was aiming for, but it was beginning to be obvious that I had made it too wide for that length.

I was going to just finish it and then make another at a better width, but then my wife reminded me that I'd probably never wear this one anyway, so I ripped it out to start over instead. It wasn't easy seeing four years of my life reduced to a pile of yarn. :-)

I had just bought an Ultimate Sweater Machine on eBay and made a sweater on it, so I was thinking it would make quick work of the scarf, rather than turning the four year project into a five year project. Still had some problems, as there were a couple of times when the machine dropped a bunch of stitches, which is a real pain, but in one evening, I had this nice stockinette scarf, complete with end tassels. (I thought that was a nice touch.)

Now I knew that stockinette will curl, but in the back of my mind I thought I remembered that it would relax after a while or there would be some way to get it flatten. Apparently not.

I've still got a bunch of that yarn, as the new one didn't take nearly as much yarn as the old one, so I suppose I could do it again in garter stitch, but narrower this time. Or I could redo it in wool, but this is a soccer scarf, so acrylic is not so much of an abomination as it might be. But, like most things in life, it was a learning experience, so I've certainly gained that at least.

"All knitting is just one stitch at a time."

rmbm612's picture

I'm with Tallguy. Don't waste your money and your time working with Acrylic yarns. Your wasting your time trying to savage the scarf. Mark it off as a lesson learned. Nothing compares to the feel, versatility, the drape, the wearability, the durability, and the comfort of wearing natural fibers. You may pay more for naturals, but the odds are greater that you will be happier with the finished product. You saved nothing by buying acrylic because chances are good that the scarf will never be worn by you. And don't forget the time you invested too.
I'm surprised that so many knitters and crocheters use acrylic especially for baby, toddlers and childrens articles of clothing and afghans or blankets. These items are really dangerous in the presence of fire. Natural fibers like wool for example, do not support combustion and are self extinguishing. Natural fiber may require a bit more care but they are worth a handwashing and air drying.

2manyhobbies's picture

Although I only work with "natural" fibers these days too, there's some acrylic yarns and especially blends these days that don't seem so objectionable to me. Some of the new all-acrylic yarns are plenty soft (I think they now include microfiber), and although there's something about the feel of them that is almost too fine for me, they do have the advantage of being machine-washable. A lot of people prefer it for baby stuff. And, there's no potential allergy issue, imaginary or otherwise, if you're knitting for someone else. So, I think acrylic has a place.

And I admit to having a few skeins of Red Heart Supersaver around too ... I wouldn't want to wear anything made out of it myself, but I use it sometimes if i'm knitting a sample swath of a stitch pattern (it has good stitch definition), or if I'm trying something out just to see what it will look like.

I haven't done this, but maybe a quick solution for controlling the curl could be to make a turned hem on the sides, and if it's not too thick, run it through the sewing machine to stitch both sides of the hem?

WillyG's picture

Red Heart does soften and go limp, but as has been said, you kinda have to 'kill' it to get that to happen. I crocheted a chevron blanket for the nursing home where I work, and after being machine washed and dried multiple times, I was surprised how it had changed. It doesn't really look too nice, though.

A friend of mine has done a bit of work with Lily Chin, and tells me that Lily says that steaming does wonders for any fiber, even your crunchiest acrylic. That's only addressing softness, though, I'm afraid.

If you don't want to rip, I'd second Tallguy's suggestion of a backing of more knitted fabric, or some other kind of fabric. It could make for a very interesting scarf.

Crafty Andy's picture

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I believe there is acrylic envy , acrylic can properly be blocked .I usually wash whatever I make in acrylic and that is the extent of my blocking, along with a tumble dry in low heat. Stockinette will always curl, make it into a tube and you will have used the stockinette curl to your advantage. A swatch would have been helpful to you. Animal fibers are a lot better to block because it is hair, plant fibers you have to be careful about, blends are always better. If I don't know how something will behave it is worth the money to buy an extra skein and swatch.