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) fellow--lace would not do in his particular case. Instead, this curling scarf was cured of its curl and transformed into a robust fabric, neutral enough to suit everyday fashion by all--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 removing the cast on 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 wet-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!


 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.

Did you know that you can actually insert an afterthought cable into a stockinette scarf? It's even reversible! Have a look at this post: Afterthought reversible cable-ette border (April 27, 2016)
You have been reading TECHknitting blog on rolling scarf rescue, part 3