The Art of Detangling

There is a secret society in our midst and apparently very few of us are even remotely aware of it.  Imagine a place where you can mail in or drop off your tangled, tousled bowl-of-spaghetti-like yarn, and magically it appears one day in your mailbox neatly-wound into a plump cake, ready for knitting.  Who are these white knights who gallantly take charge and restore a measure of calm and order to our knitting world?

A group on Ravelry known as Knot A Problem, consists of close to three thousand detanglers from twenty-seven countries, all eager to offer their invaluable services at a moment’s notice.  Suzie Larouche from Toronto, Ontario, also known as ‘Gloxie’ on Ravelry, is one of these detanglers.  Having knit for over sixty years, Suzie has experienced more than a few of her own snarled skeins, “I never really chose to detangle for others, it just happened.”  Being inclined to help others, she remembers her first real assignment taking place at her lys, The Purple Purl, when a lumpy tangled bag of lace weight silk arrived, showing obvious signs of being tossed around like a salad during shipping.  “That was the beginning of a full week of very painstaking detangling” sighs Suzie, “ten kilometres of it in all!” 

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Suzie explains, “A tangle is essentially a piece of fabric that needs to be unwoven and one of the most common causes with commercially prepared skeins is careless handling.”  There is a right way and a wrong way when it comes to winding skeins and Suzie shares her secret for success.  “To avoid the woes of a tangled skein,  first find one of the ties and hang the whole skein on your finger from that tie.  Make sure that the tie goes around all the strands and that they do not cross over it.  Next, loop the skein around both hands, holding them as far apart as the skein will allow.  Give the skein a good shake, as if to place your hands even farther apart.  This will settle the strands neatly in order.  Now the skein is ready to place onto the swift for winding into a cake.”

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Detangling is a complex labyrinth (not for the faint of heart) and requires the utmost in patience and perseverance yet those who choose to do this task for others seem to find it meditative and relaxing.  Anyone with a background as a sailor or fisherman just happens to be naturally good at this, having a knack for loosening knots.  Yarns spun with either silk or mohair can be a real nightmare, they tend to be clingy and much more prone to matting and tangling easily.  Suzie recalls her biggest challenge, a skein of lace weight merino that came apart while being dyed in a pot.  “It should have been left to die a natural death, but I loved the shade of red I had obtained and decided to give it a go.  It took me from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, doing nothing else except eat and feed the cat.”

Should you find yourself in need of a detangler, contact Gloxie on Ravelry or check online at Detanglers By Location.  All it takes is a request for help and then a short wait for a reply from your nearest detangler.  You will be required to pay postage both ways and include a self-addressed envelope for the return trip.  A little thank you goes a long way and is always well appreciated.

(images courtesy of Suzie Larouche)

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