Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hot Steam and Cold Weather

Since the move I have been realizing more and more silver linings to our unexpected move.  This week I discovered just how absolutely amazing my new steam cleaner is.  Seriously amazing, I mean, how did I ever get through life without one before.
Steaming knits
I bought this magical instrument with the sole intention of killing little creepy crawlies that may be hiding in and around things that can't be either froze or cleaned in a washer and dryer and oh boy am I glad I did.  At first I was a bit miffed that I was spending about $50 on some tool that I probably wouldn't use (hoped I wouldn't have to use) again.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  I've happily used it almost every day since the move.
Originally I had planned to take all of my winter hand knits (cowls, scarves, gloves and such) to the dry cleaner to clean.  Usually, I hand wash them in the sink.  Unfortunately, I couldn't do this with any hopes of killing anything because I can't get the water hot enough.  Also, that would be extremely time consuming as my collection is in no way small.  After getting an estimate at the dry cleaners that made my heart stop dead and left me feeling dizzy and sick, I knew I needed to find another way.  So, this week I got out the steamer and went to town.
steam blocking knits
I can't believe how easy it was to steam clean all my knits, while at the same time, blocking (or reblocking) them.  Blocking your knit items serves a few purposes.  Blocking will make stubborn knits lay flat, evens out wonky stitches, can soften and relax the fabric, and create and hold the shape and size of a garment.  This is useful even if you aren't a knitter, its a great way to care for any items that others may have knitted for you.  For you vintage loving gals, this is great for any vintage hand knits you luckily find.
I hear that there are some yarns that shouldn't be steamed.  That makes since, it is over 200 degrees.  A few sources I found said not to steam acrylic, bamboo, or fine delicate yarns such as angora.  However, I found 10 times as many tutorials specifically for steaming acrylic and how it was so awesome.  Last week, I steam blocked a acrylic blend cowl and it turned out amazing.  I will say that it was very important to not hang it while steaming.  Acrylic and bamboo both will droop like crazy.  But lying it flat and smoothing and shaping it with my hands was awesome.  I didn't even have to pin it while it dried. 
My take away is to test it out on your gauge swatch.  Or knit up a little piece, it doesn't have to be big.  Just a bit to hit with the stream and see how it reacts.  Also, you are less likely to damage the yarn/garment if you hold the steamer about 1/2 inch away and always keep the wand moving slowly, never holding still in one place.  Basically,  all you do is lay your garment flat on a towel (or other blocking surface) and wave the steam wand over the garment, inundating it with steam, gently tug on the garment both width wise then length wise.  Turn it over and do the same.  Smooth it out with you hands an shape it into desired shape.  If you need to, pin it in place.  Leave it alone till it's completely dry.  For most of my knits I didn't even have to pin them into the shape that I wanted.
steam blocking knits
See the difference.  On the left is before, on the right, after.  I swear it's like magic.  I had another cowl that I wanted to block a little harder to really make the stitch pattern stand out.  So I pinned that one in place.
steam blocking knits
While I spent my day (really the whole day) going through all of my winter knitted garments (excluding sweaters) I thought a lot about my disdain for winter and the freezing temperatures.  As a knitter, I should be ashamed of how much I detest winter.  Especially because I've chosen to live my life in Alaska where we have some of the harshest and longest winters in America.  Steam cleaning all of these beautiful garments was a bit of a reality check.  All of these gorgeous pieces only get shown off in the winter.  These pieces of art so lovingly created for the harsh weather deserve the fullest appreciation.  Not only do they keep me warm, but they keep me looking great too.  In addition, the ones that were made for me are a constant reminder that I am loved an appreciated, especially when I am so far away from the person who knit them for me (thank you Mom!)  Always wanting a bit of style and glamour, I love choosing the perfect style, color, pattern to go with my daily dress.  Winter may be my least favorite season, I absolutely hate being cold.  However, as a knitter, a creator of things that are associated with keeping people warm, I really should be more at peace with these frigid months.  After all, I love to wear these beautiful works of art, like bangle bracelets, brooches, or earrings, they can complete an outfit.  I've been known to put outfits together with my winter accessories as the focal point.  So why am I hating on this dreaded season?  *steps outside to get another box to unpack, BRRRR* Oh yeah, that's why.  It's damn cold……. Well, I'm trying.
blocking knits
These are just a few of my collection laying out to dry (and Cupcake investigation).  I have no idea why I couldn't take a decent picture, the lighting in each one was just weird, but hey, you get the gist.
Back to the steam cleaner, not only is it a magic wand that I can wave over my knits to transform them, I've also used it on my dry clean only and vintage garments that I don't like to launder every time I wear them.  I really have no idea how I ever lived the life of a knitter and vintage lover without it.  It seams that this move to our new apartment really has been a blessing, I look forward to discovering what other silver linings I can find.
Until next time, look for the positives.  Although they may not be obvious, they are all around us.
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