Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Curling scarf rescue mission--part three: transforming stockinette into ribbing

Here is today's problem: a tightly rolled stockinette dark blue scarf.

The previous post in this series showed how to transform a curling stockinette scarf like this one into a lacy and delicate drop-column fabric which lays flat.  However, this dark blue scarf is intended for a (not very fashion-forward) man--lace would not do in this case. Instead, this curling scarf was cured of its curl and transformed into a robust fabric, neutral enough to suit everyday fashion by all genders--a ribbed scarf.

The basic method begins just like the drop-column fabric of the last post: a ladder is dropped lengthwise down the scarf.  However,  instead of leaving the ladder in the fabric, we are now going to latch the ladder up again as a column of knits against a purl background.  Like the drop-column method, the ribbed scarf which results lays flat.  Unlike the drop-column fabric, the ribbed fabric is sturdy and can be worked in any fiber at all, from acrylic to merino to yak.

Stockinette curls because it is wider on the front (knit) side than on the (purl) back side. It therefore follows that if there were a more even number of knits and purls on BOTH sides of the fabric, the fabric wouldn't curl.   In fact, when you look at non-curling fabrics, you see this is the case: ribbing, garter stitch, welted fabrics, basket weave, seed stitch--it doesn't really matter in what arrangement the knits and purls are: as long as there are knits and purls on both sides of the fabric, the fabric won't curl.

Although many knitters may not realize, it has long been known that a 50-50 distribution of knits and purls is not necessary to break up the curl of a stockinette fabric.  Many years ago, Meg Swanson (that knitting guru) introduced the "purl when you can" method for starting a color pattern right from the edge of a sweater.  The idea is that working even a relatively few purls "when you can" operates to counteract curl.  Applying this insight toward transforming a stockinette scarf into a ribbed one, it turns out that it is not necessary to have a 50-50 split of knits and purls on both sides of the fabric; luckily, because dropping and latching all those columns would be a lot of work.  Experimentation has established that transforming every fourth column is sufficient to defeat the roll. Here is a closeup of the fabric front after the ribbing has been formed.

 Here is a comparison of the fabric front to the fabric back after the ribbing has been formed. 

 As stated above, the loose ladders are latched up using a crochet hook.  The work proceeds from the back (purl) side starting with the loose stitch at the column bottom, and the ladder rungs are hooked up as a knit column against a purl background.

 You might find it easiest to hold the fabric folded in your hand, then latch up the loose ladder rungs which stick up at the fold by drawing each rung through the one below it.

As far as spacing of the columns, this is the same as for the drop column scarf--the three edge stitches are never touched to avoid tension issues, then every fourth column is dropped.  If your stitch count does not fit neatly into this system, no worries.  The excess stitches are put between the scarf edges and the first dropped column where they will never show.  If working out the column distribution gives you a headache, click over to this chart. which shows the best possible distribution of dropped columns across all stitch counts from 15 to 50.

Some other points:  The idea for getting live stitches onto your needle, dropping the columns and binding off after reworking the fabric is identical to that for the dropped-column fabric.  There are, however, three important differences in the work.

First, unlike the drop-fabric scarf,  the ribbing transformation of today's post does not require the cast on to be removed.  In other words, to transform stockinette into ribbing, you need only remove the bind-off, getting all the stitches of the scarf top onto a knitting needle or stitch holder, but you need not touch the stitches at the scarf bottom.

Second, it is best to drop only 1 column at a time, then latch it back up before going on to the next column, and this is especially important if your scarf is made in any fiber other than sheep's wool.

Third, the ladders are dropped to within FIVE stitches of the bottom, rather than two as for the drop-fabric scarf.  Then, at the top of each latched up column, the crochet hook is taken to the knit side of the fabric and the last five ladder rungs are latched up as knits against a knit background, rather than against a purl background.  This makes the top and bottom match, and gives a neat little width-wise curl at both ends of the scarf.

One final and very important point remains: blocking.  A stockinette scarf being reworked is an item already quite set in its ways, the more so if it has previously been worn and/or blocked.  As you'll see when you drop the ladders down, the yarn has taken on a strong set, as shown by the evident kink.  While a scarf originally worked in a k3, p1 ribbing would not curl, a scarf re-worked into this ribbing will, until you change its ways by blocking.  Originally, I tried steam-blocking the model scarf of this post, but that was insufficient.  Only wet-blocking with some pretty severe tugging succeeded in changing the yarn set.  The scarf does now lay flat, but it did not until it was blocked.

* * *

Still to come:  Not every curling scarf can have its fabric reworked:  a lace scarf on a stockinette ground, or a color work scarf, for example would be ruined by reworking, and it would be hard to rework a scarf which has a special bind-off.

Two down, one to go

In the last post of this series, we'll flatten a scarf with a special bind-off: that last model scarf hanging all curled up in the middle, between its two now-flat siblings.  'til then, good knitting!


Addendum 2011: Have a look at this post on the blog site "Completely Blocked" to see how blogger Cyd rehabbed her stockinette scarf to lay flat by converting ribbing.

ADDENDUM, January 2016:  If you like the look of a drop-column scarf, you can take it to the next step with PINSTRIPING!  Have a look at this post and see what you think.
You have been reading TECHknitting blog on rolling scarf rescue, part 3


Rose Fox said...

Thank you so much for these posts, TK. They're perfectly timed for me: I actually just started a scarf that has a pattern in cabled knit stitches over big swaths of purl-side-up stockinette, and am holding off on doing more on it (I'm about 40 rows in) until I see your final post. The anticipation mounts!

revknits said...

Yes, I did figure out where you were headed with this. Thanks for all you do with this blog.

Fibercrafter said...

Thank you so much for these articles. I've been playing with scarves on my very basic knitting machine, and this was to be my next try at re-forming stockinette scarves for charity. Sally

Highland Monkey's said...

Thanks for that I always wondered why it curls. Especially at the edge of a cardigan thats been stocking stitched.

tutmarie said...

Thank you so much for this series of tips - very instructive and very interesting!

Now, my partner has a striped, curly, acrylic stockinette scarf that was bought in a clothes store a couple of years ago. Thus, I presume that it was machine knit (I don't know how to identify this). Would that give rise to any concerns, or could I just go ahead and transform into ribbing (assuming that he'll allow me to make this daring attempt instead of lining it)?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Tutmarie--it really makes no difference whether stockinette stitch was hand or machine knit, the fabric is the same. However, there are machine-knit items which cannot be duplicated by hand, and which cannot very well be fixed by hand either--these are a sort of knitting called warp knitting.


As long as you are sure the scarf is ordinary stockinette (also called "weft knitting" )you are good to go.

esther said...

Does yak yarn act in the same way as wool when trying to fix the curling problem?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Esther--unfortunately, I have never had the honor of working with yak yarn, and so, cannot answer your question. Thus, I have no idea whether it this product can hold the ladders in the drop-ladder method, for example

However, any yarn anywhere, even the smoothest and slickest, will CURL if knit in stockinette, if that is what you are asking.

Maybe ask further on Ravelry--in the yarn forum.

nadia said...

Thank you so so so much for these articles! You explained everything very well so I'm sure the process will be easy by the way you described it. Thank you again! I'm bookmarking your blog c:
keep on stichin!

Lalla Belle said...

I really like the look of this scarf. I'm not sure if you still check your blog or not, but I was wondering if you have any idea how one would create a similar look on a knitting loom?
My hands aren't always very coordinated so knitting with needles is out but I've gotten pretty decent with a loom and... well, as i said i really like the look.
Thank you for any help.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Lalla: Yes, I still check the blog frequently, and have every intention to return to it at some point, but just now, I am taking a time out to write a book (or booklet??) about color knitting (which is going very very slowly...)

Anyhow, the good news is that you can transform stockinette into ribbing regardless of how the stockinette fabric was made--whether on a knitting loom, a knitting machine or by hand with two knitting needles. Stockinette fabric is the same regardless of its method of creation, and dropping a rib (called "converting" a stockinette fabric) will work.

Best regards and thanks for writing. TK

northmelbournemum said...

No more curling scarves for me! So glad to have stumbled across this blog - it is a wealth of knowledge - and while not the full replacement for my long since passed away Aunt who could knit, crochet, sew, the list goes on..., a pretty good substitute

Amber said...

THANK YOU for providing the solution to save my knitting project! I could already tell a difference after fixing my first column!

TECHknitter said...

You are welcome, Amber!

Anonymous said...

Do you know if there is a video of what to do anywhere. I'm too much of a beginner to do this based on the description, but I'd love to uncurl what I've just knitted. I'm thrilled, though, that there's a fix Thanks!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--I do not know of a video, but perhaps you can google this? The term is "dropping a stitch."

If you're not finsing anything, I do have an idea for you: Knit a small scrap--10 stitches wide and 20 rows high) and experiment. Nothing can teach you the attitude of "being the boss of your knitting" better than knitting a scrap and having at it. Simply knit 5 stitches, then drop stitch 6 all the way down to row 2, stretch the fabric and work the column with a kniting needle until you have a ladder, then, hook it back up again.

Anonymous said...

Thank you !!! So simple and works so well. I'm making pretty red scarves for the homeless and they're curling up - ugh. I haven't bound off yet and will have fun turning the second one into ribs. BTW, the first used a crinkly yarn that didn't curl.

juliac said...

Thanks for the great explanations and solutions to curling! I'm in the middle of a gorgeous, soft wool scarf (read: expensive) for my daughter and am just noticing the curl action. It's in a waffle pattern K one row, P one row, K2/P2, P2/K2, repeat. I'm using size 8 needles. The width was to cast on 30, which I was worried might be a bit narrow and now with the rolling, it's even more narrow. The pattern suggests blocking it after it's done, but I can see how that would be just a temporary solution. Because of the narrow width already, I worry that dropping a column to make it lacy would leave even less warm for a nice winter scarf (for her first NYC winter).

Because it is already a bit narrow, would a crocheted edge help in this case, do you think? The wool is so gorgeous and soft and luscious that I hate to line it with fleece - I think it would make it too bulky to go around a neck at that point.

Thanks for any suggestions you might have. I'm loathe to start the project over!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Juliac: The thing is, with that much knit/purl action, there really shouldn't be a problem with curling. Can you take this discussion to Ravelry? Go onto the techniques forum there and post a photo and a linky to the pattern, and then the hive mind can take a look at what's up--you will come away with much better suggestions if you provide a photo and a link to a pattern. So, hopefully, I will see you on the techniques forum at Ravelry, very soon. (If I miss you there, send me an email with the link to your post, my e-mail address can be found by the profie, in the R sidebar of this blog.)