As you know, I really like knitting with alpaca. Just love it. Alpaca has many many fine qualities which make it the superlative knitting yarn, but for one teensy little drawback - alpaca is very slippery. This is what makes it have such a wonderful "hand" but it makes it difficult when it comes to finishing your project, as the woven-in-tails don't stay put. Of course, when they worm their way out, they always poke out to the right side, don't they? So... I decided to figure this out once and for all.
This is what I came up with. Do you see my yarn tail? Look really closely on the purl part of the k2p2 rib in Grace's Dalmatian mittens. I've turned the cuff back just a bit, because, of course, she's hidden the tail on the inside of the cuff. See it?
Here is the worked-in-tail on another pair of alpaca mittens. Look at the ridge which runs right through the center of the photo. See it?
Here is the inside of a pair of striped alpaca thrummed mittens. Hooo wee, what a lot of tails were in *this* pair of mittens, with all of those stripes. Do you see all of the tails? Look closely...
Here, I've pricked one out with the knitting needle - see it now?
I've solved my "ends" problem very simply - I've needle felted in the ends! Soooooo simple, soooooooo effective. Really - try it!
Here is a quick demonstration - I'm showing you on a worked-in-end which has already been worked-in, but you can figure out the details. First, you weave the tail in over a few stitches in your favorite way - I generally duplicate stitch if it's thin yarn - and then you lay the yarn across a stitch which you think will be suitable for this method - a rib works well, or a purl bump.
Then, just poke away with your needle felting needle.
Just poke poke poke, from one direction, then from the other, until the yarn begins to snag the yarn below it. This particular alpaca yarn is sooooo slick that it was hard to get it to "start" but once the felting process began, then it sort of snowballed. This whole process takes something like 10-15 seconds, so I'm not talking about all afternoon here, lol.
Once the yarn began to felt to the yarn below, I clipped the yarn and continued to needle felt on the clipped end, and it felted beautifully. As you can see, in the photo above, I kept my needle felting action completely on the wrong side of the mitten. In other words, I didn't poke through from one side of the mitten (wrong side) to the other side (right side) but kept the needle on the wrong side at all times. In this way, the right side looks like perfectly plain knitting with none of the "rats nest" appearance that you can see on the wrong side.
It leaves a soft little tangled and matted area which is not the least bit "lumpy," but just a little felted area. It holds the ends down VERY nicely! The ends are secured, and all is right in the world.
Now, I use it on *ALL* of my knitting. I just finished two acrylic scarves and I successfully needle felted the ends on those too. I couldn't believe it, but they felted just great! One was a scrap scarf - great way to use up stash, even if my friend, Annette, says that this is the ugliest piece of knitting that she's ever seen in her whole entire life - I had fun knitting it just the same. It's for a KID and I hope that this kid likes it, even if Annette has no taste whatsoever...
I also finished a superwash merino scarf, and needle felted the tails (even though superwash isn't supposed to felt!), and another scarf out of a wool/silk blend, and it felted beautifully, too. The photos at the start of this post are on the insides of the mittens, so I really didn't pay much attention to the "beauty" of the needle felted business, but with scarves, of course, both sides have to look nice. It is really pretty easy to do it neatly and prettily and in such a way that the felted down end doesn't show AT ALL. I'm telling you - try it, you'll like it!
Anyway, I digress.
Below, you can see one needle felting needle, and below that, you can see two of them, duct taped together. Actually, I always use them this way - two of them, taped together. Twice the felting power, half the time, and all that.
See those little barbs along the length of the needle? (Click the photo for a larger version) You will probably, at some point, jab yourself, but let me tell you - you'll only do it ONCE. It hurts more than you could ever dream possible, so you are not likely to repeat that little trick.
My friend, Allie, taught me a much better way of holding two needle felting needles together - you clip a short bit (1 inch? 1.5 inch?) of one of those double, plastic, coffee shop coffee stirrers - and you stick one needle down one side, and the other needle down the other side. I tried it, and it works beautifully. Since the needles are fatter than the coffee stirrer, you really have to jam them down in there, but once they are stuck in there, they are stuck for the duration.
It also keeps the needles parallel so you don't get the crossed tips as you see in the photo.
If you can't find felting needles in your area, then contact my LYS at Colorado Fiber Arts and they'll fix you up with what you need. (You'll also see that I'm teaching two classes - thrummed mittens and swirly blanket/shawl, but I'm not "named" as the teacher.)
Like I said, I've used this technique on alpaca and it works great. I've used it on pure, unadulterated acrylic (Simply Soft, Home Spun, Eyelash, Red Heart, and more!) and shock of all shocks, but it works with that, too. I still can't believe that I was able to felt acrylic, but I did.
Years ago, when I began knitting, and we didn't have a wonderful local yarn store, and I had to do all of my yarn shopping at big box stores, and acrylic was all I could find, I used to hand sew the ends down. Yup - with a bit of sewing thread. That Simply Soft is actually pretty decent acrylic yarn, but the ends just don't stay put. One of my first "big projects" was a tropical colored poncho for my daughter, Emma. I sewed down each and every one of 10 million yarn tails and nearly lost my mind. How I wish I had learned this little trick back then!
Now, I know the secret to well-behaved yarn ends, and you do, too!