Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cotton, the fabric of our lives...

Forgive my sounding like a commercial for cotton, I couldn't resist!

I've gotten a lot of very complimentary feedback on my last post (thanks everyone!!) and I wanted to clarify the no blocking/no shrinkage issue.

All cotton does shrink, it's the nature of the fiber.

Mercerized cotton is specially treated with Sodium Hydroxide, sometimes referred to as "gassing" to increase strength, luster and shine, affinity to absorb dye and resist shrinkage.

Mercerized cotton will shrink slightly, mainly in length rather than width but in a garment like a cotton shawl, the difference is negligible....altho I HIGHLY recommend swatching and washing/drying the swatch so there are no surprises!

Pure Cotton is a fiber with no memory, resiliency or elasticity. This is why it can cause wrist pain in some knitters because the "give" of animal fiber is missing. Because of these properties, cotton doesn't benefit from blocking in that it won't gain in size but a good bath will certainly even out the stitches.

Every lace knitter knows and anticipates that the true beauty of knitted lace is revealed in the blocking, when the stitches are opened to their true lace capacity - but this is ONLY true when WOOL(and alpaca to a lesser degree) is used. Because of the inelasticity of cotton, pretty much what comes off the needles is what the finished product will be! If you look at my Diamond Fantasy Shawl in progress, you'll see that the yarn overs are quite open and the shawl almost looks blocked already.

When I finish a cotton shawl, I give it a good soak in cold water with some baby shampoo to even and smooth out the stitches, then a trip thru the spin cycle to get rid of most of the moisture, toss it in the dryer on low heat and voila! Perfect shawl with NO BLOCKING!! Here is an example of another shawl I knit with Blue Heron Cotton,
Cotton Faroese Shawl close up and Not so close up

More good news is LINEN and HEMP have the same properties as cotton so shawls with all these plant fibers, altho not the easiest to knit with (linen!) do have the benefit of saving many a back with no blocking!

I've also been asked where I get this lovely laceweight cotton. My source is Carla at
Chez Casuelle - good source for Blue Heron Mercerized Laceweight Cotton in tons of colors and what she doesn't have, she will order for you...and 10% off for first time customers plus free shipping and a 20% preferred customer coupon on your next purchase! (NAYY - altho I wish I were, hehe)

Thus ends today's lesson, Everything You Wanted to Know About Cotton But Really Didn't Care Enough to Ask! :)

So why not expand your horizons and knit with something unexpected?

On a much more jovial note,
I totally nicked this from Lorette because it gave me the best chuckle I've had all week! Place your name in the box, click GO, and find out some little known facts about yourself too!

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Debi!

  1. The only Englishman to become Debi was Nicholas Breakspear, who was Debi from 1154 to 1159!
  2. Worldwide, Debi is the most important natural enemy of night-flying insects!
  3. A chimpanzee can learn to recognize itself in a mirror, but Debi can not.
  4. Red Debi at night, shepherd's delight. Red Debi at morning, shepherd's warning.
  5. Debi has often been found swimming miles from shore in the Indian Ocean.
  6. Debi can fly at an average speed of fifteen kilometres an hour.
  7. Debi is the world's tallest woman.
  8. If you lace Debi from the inside to the outside, the fit will be snugger around your big toe.
  9. Debi kept at the window will keep vampires at bay!
  10. Debi once lost a Dolly Parton lookalike contest.
I am interested in - do tell me about
Enjoy your chuckle and keep knitting!


Agnes said...

Wow ... I learned a lot! Thanks for the lesson! ;) Especially thanks for the link to the shop ... there are lots of Malabrigo there!

chris said...

Thanks so much for all the info on cotton- I learned a lot!! Actually, I was really wondering about cotton and blocking after your last post, (but felt too dumb to ask) so I'm really glad that you posted about this! I clicked on the link to your other shawl, and I'm amazed at how cotton just naturally looks blocked and wonderful in the lace pattern. I will definitely keep that in mind for future lace work. And your trivia box is too funny! I'll keep #8 in mind next time I try to lace you around my big toe. ;-) Take care, Debi!

Carole Knits said...

Thanks for the links and the tutorial. I think a cotton shawl would be ideal for summer in New England. So, are you going to tell us about the time you lost the Dolly Parton lookalike contest? Hmmmm?

Jes said...

Thanks for the links. Though, I need not add to the stash, I might add some cotton anyway. It's just too pretty =)

The trivia thing is great! Made me smile. I'm doing one for my blog too hehe.

Anonymous said...

Woman - you are the worst enabler I've run across in a long time! First I had to order some Trekking and now you've gotting me drooling over the cotton. I don't think I would have given the cotton a try, but now I will. Your pictures are beautiful. I really don't mind blocking lace because of the "magic", but it would be nice to be done when you're done! Dorothy (Missouri Star)

Vicki said...

Oooh, the look of blocking without the...blocking! I may just have to try it.

Leslie said...

You're done with that shawl already? Speed knitting??? It's gorgeous. And a great teaching piece - thanks.

However Perry and I missed the obligatory P-man photo - I told her you'd give us 2 your next posting though :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lesson and for the link. Cotton is perfect for Brisbane and now a link to a supplier, thank you so much. The shawl will be just beautiful, as usual when it is finished. Your mum will love it.

Catherine said...

I wish cotton would get over the shrinking in length but not in width. I hate that.

Tag! ;-)

alltangledup said...

thanks for sharing that. I foundmyself nodding when I was reading it because it all makes and it was nice just seeing it all put down in words.

Tropic-Knitter said...

Hey Debi...You certainly know a lot about a lot! Hope to see you soon! Marianne/aka/Tropic-Knitter

P.S. The shawl is gorgeous, and your favorite cotton yarn website looks like a good buy.

Lolly said...

Such an interesting read! Thank you for all of the great information ;)

Catherine said...

I'm so slow on the uptake, I finally followed the link to Chez Casuelle - a 407 area code? How did I NOT know of her existence? Leesburg? Oh, I'm so going to check this out! Thanks!