Keep Your Socks On! The Many Uses of Lycra
By Murielle Hamilton
Lycra is one of the home knitter’s most underused resources. If it ever figures in their stash, it is in a ready-to-knit blend. Yet in industrial knitting, it is used frequently, usually with another yarn. This is because:
• It works wonders with legwarmers, socks, armwarmers and tube tops; really, with anything you wish would stop falling down!
• It is a great addition to the bottom of sweaters or sleeves, which, especially when knit in cotton or linen, tend to become wavy and loose.
• It gives the yarn memory and your knit will snap back in place, even after being stretched on the body for hours.
• It allows you to knit with bigger needles, if you wish, since the final product will shrink. That is also true of knitting thin yarns on bulky hand looms.
I have incorporated it into many of my designs: for example, the deep V neck sweater shown here has 2 ends of lycra blended with one end of alpaca in the bottom ribbing, so I can get that forgiving blousant look. Of course, you can wear it stretched out as well if you, like Claudia, are lucky enough to have a flat tummy!
Another example is the bolero jacket, which would not fit and stay around the body like it does without the addition of lycra. I added it only to the edge band, and it always looks impeccable.
For a fast and easy summer top, I added lycra here to make a chic tube top:
To graphically see the power of lycra, look at these pictures:
The swatch is knit on needles size 13 US (9 mm) in stockinette and garter stitches. The only difference between the top and the bottom of the swatch is that at the top of the swatch I added a strand of lycra along with viscose yarn for about an inch.
Lycra being very elastic, I had no problem stretching out the top portion of the swatch which had the added lycra. To give you a sense of how thin lycra is, the following picture is a shot of lycra next to the viscose yarn (a sock weight yarn) used in the swatch:
Lycra only works with applied heat. When you press or steam the area containing lycra, it will visibly shrink, gathering the texture together. Try it on swatches first: you won’t believe the result. If your garment looks a little stretched after a while, just apply a puff of hot steam to the lycra area and it will be like new.
Lycra is also called Elastane, Elite or Spandex depending on the manufacturer.
You can use it stranded with wool as well as with all cellulose fibers (cotton, rayon, linen, tencel, etc…) and silk. Do not change your gauge if you are only using it on a limited area. With wool, you will need to be cautious when applying heat, as you will want to shrink the lycra without felting the wool. I have used it most successfully with mohair and kid mohair, which don’t felt, although the alpaca in the sweater above does not seem to have suffered… ;)
Sometimes, especially with a bigger or heavier yarn, you may want to use two ends of lycra alongside it, to give it a stronger elasticity like I did in the bottom ribbing of the sweater.
If you are using lycra for more than a small part of the garment, do recalculate your gauge based on your pressed yarn/ lycra swatch. Adjust your needle size up until like what you see.
So where do you find this magic fiber? I get mine from Silk City Fibers (http://www.silkcityfibers.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her Etsy shop to see more of her beautiful designs.
After reading Murielle's article, Mr Puffy helpfully noted that it might have been a good idea to have added lycra to those Fetching mitts of mine that have stretched out so badly. Exactly so. Thank you Puff. I would also add that it was a mistake to use a silk based yarn for something where I needed the yarn to have memory. Live and learn.
St. Patrick's Day is Just Around the Corner!
Don't forget that St. Patrick's day is next Tuesday. I'm not Irish but I love this holiday because it's a great excuse to enjoy Irish folk music and beer! So this St. Patrick's Day kiss the Blarney stone , hoist a tankard of Guinness Extra Stout, and sing gustily along to your favorite Irish ballad (Roger Whittaker singing Danny Boy is one of my favorites). Have a hankie nearby, though, as some Irish folk songs are quite sad.
And until we meet again, on my next post slated for March 24, 2009....
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.
Traditional Irish Blessing