Over the next few weeks I will be added a series of blogposts with tips and techniques for working this bag in a special tutorial / knit‐along series.The blogposts will cover:
- Pre‐washing of yarns and why we would want to do that
- Selecting yarns & working gauge swatches
- Working Provisional Cast Ons
- Selecting alternative stitches and working selvedges
- Picking up stitches
- A new technique for working a 2-row SSK
- Adding handles to your bag
- Finishing ideas and suggestions, including adding a lining
So please join me as we work together to knit your very own BYOB Market Bag . . .
In the pattern, I have included the note: "Preferably pre‐wash your yarns as cotton yarns have a tendency to shed colour when first washed."
Now of course, this isn't absolutely necessary, but is something I've done ever since I first started hand‐spinning. Washing your final yarn is a vital part of hand spinning and helps to set the twist. It also relaxes the fibres that have been put under tension during the spinning process and brings out the best in your finished yarn.
Commercially produced yarns also suffer from the same tensions inherent in the production process, and this can lead to a slight stretching. Ever worked a tension swatch only to see the numbers of stitches and rows in 10cm/4 ins change a lot after washing? That may be because the yarn was just ever‐so‐slightly stretched in the ball and can now relax.
The opposite can also sometimes happen: the washing process can allow the fibres in the yarn to slide into a more comfortable position, causing the final item to stretch. Now you have a garment which might fit a large gorilla! So washing takes away possible tension surprises.
The photo above shows two balls of Zealana "Willow" yarn, showing how the yarn "bloomed" and softened on washing. On the left, you can see an unwashed ball with a slightly crisp finish, while on the right the washed yarn is now fluffy and soft.
Thirdly, the dyes may not have been completed washed off the surface of the yarn. You hope that most of the dyes will have penetrated the "core" of the fibre and won't dislodge as you work. However, some of the colour might not be firmly enough attached. Washing will remove this excess dye so that it won't migrate into the next colour band after the item has been completed. This happens a lot with cotton and certain dyes also have a harder time penetrating right into the fibre core.
And lastly, pre‐washing gives you a chance to "meet" your yarn. By the time you have finished, it will have passed through your hands not once but twice, giving you the chance to find out where the flaws are and to note down all the possible joins. Again, this just helps to remove some of those unwanted "surprises" that we all encounter when we are knitting!
Some yarns are already in a skein when you buy them, but many are in a ball or a cone instead. So to wash your yarn, you first need to wind it into a skein.
There are a number of ways of doing this. Starting with the most expensive (well, why not!), you can use a freestanding skein winder, such as the one in the photo above. The advantage of this is that it is fast, efficient and gives your dear husband an excellent excuse to buy you something beautiful for your birthday. (Thanks, Tim – you're a star!!)
Lastly, there is the free option of winding a skein around your arm. Just bend your arm and pass the yarn first around your elbow and then between your thumb and first finger. The skein produced is fairly short this way, but at least you always have this option to hand!
Once you have your skein wound, secure it in several places with figure‐of‐eight ties so that it will not come adrift. You will need about 6-8 of these around the whole skein to hold it securely in place. It is a good idea to use contrast coloured ties so you can easily find them later.
Then carefully hand wash the skeins using the product that you intend to use for the final item, then follow up by rinsing until no more dye comes out. Take the worst of the water out by rolling in a towel or giving the skeins a quick spin and then hang them up to dry, unweighted.
When you wish to wind the skein into a ball again, place it onto an umbrella swift and remove the ties.
If you don't have one of these useful devices, then ask the nearest passing niece or nephew to stand for five minutes holding their arms out while you wind a ball. Gotta love these free alternatives!
Then you're all set. It doesn't take as long as the foregoing spiel makes it sound! However, it is worth this extra step to ensure that when you do start knitting, the results will be just as you want them to be.
Next time we'll be looking at yarn choices and how to measure your gauge, so join me for the next in this tutorial series.
Happy Bag Knitting!
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