Sunday, March 8, 2009

Keep Your Socks On! The Many Uses of Lycra

If you have read this blog before, then you probably know that I have the rare privilege of being friends with a knitwear designer. Without question her Designer Tips and Tricks have incalculably improved my knitting and so I figure it's about time I shared her with all of you! It is my hope that her sense of fun, creativity, and out of the box approach to knitting will open a gateway for you into new ways of thinking about your knitting. It is with great pleasure that I introduce Murielle of MurielleKnitwear and her first, of hopefully many, guest posts here on Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog.

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:

Technical Trick:

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 ( in Paterson, NJ 07522 (Phone: (201) 942-1100) or (800) 899-7455). Theirs is called Sting, and is a blend of 83% nylon and 17% spandex. A few online retailers also sell Silk City Yarns. Sting is quite expensive due to its yield: a whopping 32,500 yards per pound, so it will last you forever. Try to get a small cone when you order. It comes in 7 colors: white, ecru (cream), coral red, maroon (burgundy), dark brown, navy and black and you’ll want the color most closely matching your yarn.

Contact: 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


Monika said...

What an interesting and beautiful post! Love the irish blessing. :o)

Tracy said...

This was a sensational and educational post--I learned a lot! Thanks Claudia and Murielle! Break out the Irish song and beer--YES! Hubby and I have our wedding anniversary on March 17th...Not because we're Irish you know ;o)...that was the only date we could get at the court house for our winter wedding--LOL! Love that Irish blessing...Happy Day, my friend ((HUGS))

At Home Mommy Knits said...

What an incredibly helpful post! Soooo informative. Thank you so much.

We are an irish family so there will be lots of celebrating next week. Happy St. Patrick's Day to you!

amanda said...

Thanks so much for posting this! I've always wondered how using a stretchy material like lycra or elastic would make finished products hold their shape better. This definitely helps. Thanks!!

Channon said...

Wow! That was very informative. Loved the photos at the bottom to s-p-e-l-l it out for those of us who require visualization.

I never tire of that Irish blessing.

Hilary said...

What a great tip -- thank you, ladies! I had no idea lycra could be used in such a way, and how interesting that it only works when heat is applied.

Speaking of things Irish, I made the most amazing chocolate, beer, and whiskey (like an Irish Car Bomb!) cupcakes over the weekend...they were truly heavenly. If you go to and search for "irish car bomb", it's the first recipe that pops up. Yum yum!

Marie said...

Lycra would have been perfect for Dan's knee warmers. If only I knew back then. They are all stretched out now and never stay up for long. Next winter, I'll have to make him another pair - with Sting.
I'm so glad you featured Murielle on your blog. She has beautiful designs; plus I learned something new.

tiennie said...

What a great guest post! Thanks for sharing!

sue said...

That is one great blog post and what a wonderful tip. Thank you for sharing her with us. I am sure there are a few items I could have used that lycra in a while ago too.

Windyridge said...

Kissing the Blarney stone can be quite scary. It's a loooong way down!


Willow said...

Very interesting! Thanks to both of you.

I love St. Patrick's Day because it's my birthday! Luck o' the Irish to you!

the Casbah Kitten said...

How cool! My mom just started a summer sweater in a cotton yarn and used the lycra in the bottom edge. Hmmmmm, guess I'd better do the same!
Happy St. Patty's day!!


Danette said...

Great post!
I love the picture of Murielle knitting. Thanks for sharing your friend and her expertise with us!

Yarn It said...

That was a great post! I am so glad it was made available to us.

Renee said...

Thank you for sharing this lesson!! I'm definitely going to incorporate this into my knitting.

I'm not Irish either, but the blessing is one of my favourites.

raining sheep said...

What a great post. I did not even know you could use lycra in knitting. Happy St. Patrick's day. We drink a lot of beer in Canada on St. Patty's day... any holiday involving beer is very popular around here :)

knitting dragonfly said...

Excellent post, I will not be afraid to buy some lycra blend yarn now.

t does wool said...

excellent post, lucky to have a friend to offer such wonderful tips...and how wonderful of you to share :)!

t does wool said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Willow said...

I agree that in the spring Southern California's and indeed all of coastal California's new green grasses and rolling hills look exactly like Ireland! I have been known to pull out my Celtic music cds and play them as I drive through the green hills!

The Wooly Wumpus said...

What a great post! It solves the mystery of why the boleros I've knit in the past never laid quite perfectly!!

Hope you had a wonderful St. Patrick's day. Love the blessing!

Alison Boon said...

Wow what great information. Many many thanks, it explains why I like the cotton and Lycra blend from Spotlight to knit my skirts in and why they fit so wonderfully.

Firefly Nights said...

I looked at your friend's site and she has some beautiful items there. Thanks for sharing her info with us. I'm sure it will come in very handy.

Rachel said...

Thanks so much for sharing this! I had not considered using lycra before. I can see where it would come in handy.

Anonymous said...

How do we steam Lycra socks? can we soak it in warm water or are there any chemicals for it?