And let's face it, a fiber that is virtually indestructible does have it's uses. A scarf that can be readily thrown in the washer and dryer without impunity has a good chance of making it through a few winters, maybe even generations of winters. Sure wool scarves can easily last as long if cared for correctly, but let's face it, many don't or won't apply such care to a wool scarf. So those wool scarves end up felted and in the trash long before the acrylic one goes that way.
Why this outpouring of affection for acrylic yarns, you ask? Because I've been using some acrylics to knit up more super scarves. Why use acrylics in lieu of my beloved Cascade 220 and Alpaca with a Twist Touchdown yarns? A couple of reasons: 1 - I needed to test some new designs, and after visiting 2 local yarn stores, I couldn't find both the blue and white colors in either brand. (as an aside - that's really good news because it means that lots of scarves are being made here in Indy), and 2 - many of the new knitters I'm working with have elected to use the acrylics that are readily available in the big box stores they are more likely to frequent (until we can get them turned on to a LYS!), so I wanted to see how my scarf designs would knit up in these yarns.
And I'm really glad I tested in the acrylics because the slip stitch and mosaic stitches really do knit up differently in the acrylics. I've tested both RHSS and Lion Brand's Vanna's Choice. First, these yarns tend to be on the thicker side of worsted weight, so I went up a needle size in some cases to get the right drape. Second, these yarns knit up stiffly, and the slipped stitches tend to distort the fabric more. Therefore, blocking scarves made in acrylic is essential.
Blocking can be an intimidating concept for both new and seasoned knitters alike. I myself used to avoid it like the plague, but then I decided I needed to get on the band wagon for more professional results. Now I can't wait to block my knitting and watch the transformation as the knit stitches relax, bloom, and take the shape I had in mind all along. With animal fibers like merino wool and alpaca, I find that blocking is best achieved when I give these fibers a soak in warm water, then gently squeeze out the excess, pin into shape and allow the piece to dry. The transformation is magical, especially in lace.
Now, lay out your scarf and pin it so that the edges are straight. You can do this in sections if your surface isn't long enough to lay out the whole scarf. Don't hesitate to pull it both horizontally and vertically to get the desired shape. Apply the steam (I used a wool setting on my iron) but DO NOT let the iron touch your knitting. Ironing directly on the scarf will result in either a very flat piece that has lost all stitch definition, or a melted mess - neither is very desirable. Apply steam until the knitting relaxes and maintains the desired shape. You will see the difference. Let the piece cool before handling and the scarf will be permanently set.