Chenille is a wonderful and versatile yarn that produces soft and luxurious fabric when knit or crocheted. Unfortunately, working with chenille is not always a trouble-free enterprise. One of the most common problems associated with chenille is the tendency toward worming when knitted. Worming occurs when a loop of yarn pulls away from the knitted fabric and coils back on itself. We have encountered this problem every now and again with one of our favorite chenille yarns, Touch Me, and so we know how frustrating it can be.
Fortunately, if we understand what it is about chenille that facilitates worming, we can take steps to prevent it from happening. Chenille yarns are constructed of short tufts of fibers anchored into a central coiled core yarn, and it's precisely this coiled nature of the core yarn that gives rise to worming. It's like when you hold both ends of a length of string and then twist and twist and twist... eventually, if there is any slack in the string, it will coil up on itself. Chenille starts with some twist built into it, and the more twist you introduce when knitting it, the greater the likelihood that you'll get some worming.
So, here are a few things that you can try to reduce the likelihood of worming:
- Reduce your needle size -- a tighter gauge will hold your stitches in place and reduce the likelihood of worming. (Crocheting, which tends to produce a tighter gauge than knitting, is less likely to allow for worming.)
- Take steps to reduce the amount of twist that you are introducing. Every knit stitch introduces a small amount of twist to the yarn, and knit stitches twist in the opposite direction from purl stitches. This is why any piece knit entirely in stockinette stitch (knit stitches all on one side, purl stitches all on the other side) will roll at the edges. Balancing knit stitches with purl stitches, such as in garter stitch or seed stitch, can reduce the worming effect.
- Try knitting continental style. Continental-style knitting tends to introduce less twist to the yarn than English style (throwing the yarn).
- Knit from the other end of the yarn. If the twist that you are introducing is in the same direction as the twist of the core yarn, you'll be much more likely to have trouble with worming. Working from the other end of the yarn may balance the twisting of the core yarn and reduce worming.
- Remember that certain fibers have a higher tendency to worm. Slippery fibers such as rayon and microfiber and other synthetic fibers are more likely to worm than cotton. If your favorite chenille has a high percentage of slippery fiber, you may want to hold another yarn with it when knitting -- the other yarn may help to anchor your chenille in place.
A little knowledge can go a long way. If you're having trouble with worming, try experimenting on some of the points listed above. Don't be afraid to work with a beautiful yarn like Touch Me, and don't give up!! Keep trying until you find what works for you. Your reward is the plush, velvety fabric of knitted chenille.
If you have tips for working with chenille (or troubleshooting other yarns or techniques) we would love to hear from you. Post your tips as a comment on this article, or send your tips via email to support@JimmyBeansWool.com , and please let us know if we may use your tips on our site!
This article has been used with permission from the Jimmy Beans Wool November 2005 newsletter.