Acrylic Killer! (a quick photo tutorial)

Whew, it’s been a crazy weekend here. A surgery, a wedding, a child’s birthday party… I’m in total recovery mode today. But I wanted to take a few minutes here to share with you one of the little tricks I picked up several years ago and used just this past week – “killing” acrylic yarn!

Roadkill rabbit

This is not what I’m referring to – but check out Cult of Crochet if it’s what you’re looking for!

Now, a lot of people will tell you acrylic yarn can’t be blocked – not true! What is true is that acrylic can’t be blocked in the same way as wool. For wool, you just get it wet and then shape it, and however it dries is how it will stay (at least until you wash it again). Try this method with acrylic yarn and you’ll be disappointed.

But! Try using steam, and it’s a different story. There are some excellent tutorials out there, but what it comes down to is that you block or pin the item the way you want it to be, and then steam it slowly and gently, being sure to NEVER touch the yarn with the hot iron or steamer – otherwise you’ve got a melted mess and a ruined iron. The hot steam will melt the plastic just a little bit, causing it to lay in the shape you’ve created without crushing and flattening your stitches. Check out the tutorials at Bead Knitter Gallery and Never Too Hot to Stitch for pictures and more detailed instructions.

Killing acrylic is taking blocking to the extreme and fatal end. It’s something I’d never ever do to a sweater or shawl or slippers or anything I wanted to have stretch. But for a select few items, killing them is exactly what I mean to do!

As a party favor for my youngest’s birthday party yesterday, I made superhero masks using the Masquerade Mask pattern I linked to a couple weeks ago. I changed a couple things on the pattern, skipping round 3 and adding the straps on the opposite ends one at a time. They worked up super fast using Vanna’s Choice yarn (I got 6 out of one skein, with several yards left over), but when done, they looked like this:

Superhero Mask - How to Kill Acrylichuh

Not exactly what I had in mind. Time to break out the iron! Killing the acrylic was the answer, and to do so without ruining my iron, I used the wet washcloth method.

  1. Lay a dry washcloth or towel on your ironing board.
  2. Lay the item to be ironed out on the washcloth and carefully shape it – this is permanent, so make so you get it just right!

    Superhero Mask - How to Kill Acrylic Tutorial

    A little rough and ruffly, but all where it needs to be.

  3. Cover the item with a wet washcloth (or a part of it, if your project is a big one). This washcloth should be really wet, though not dripping. Smooth it all out, making sure your project is still in position and the desired shape.

    Superhero Mask - How to Kill Acrylic Tutorial

    Hey look kids - it's a wet washcloth photo!

  4. With a hot iron (doesn’t have to be the hottest setting, but it should be medium hot at least), carefully press down on the top of the wet washcloth, being careful not to move the iron around. Hold the iron down for about 5 seconds, and then move to the next bit to be ironed. The wet washcloth should steam like crazy.

    Superhero Mask - How to Kill Acrylic Tutorial

    Photographing steam is harder than you'd think.

  5. Take a peek at your project. If it’s shiny and flat, it’s done! If you feel like it could use more ironing, go for it. Just make sure to keep a WET section of washcloth between the iron and the acrylic.

    Superhero Mask - How to Kill Acrylic Tutorial

    Tada!

This was a late night project, so the pictures aren’t the best, but I think you can see what happened here. The crazy crinkly stiff mask is now shiny, smooth, and look at that drape!

Superhero Mask - How to Kill Acrylic Tutorial

Thin and drapey!

The acrylic fibers have melted together – there’s no possibility of frogging here. They have created a unified but thin fabric that is silky and solid – no more holes.

Superhero Mask - How to Kill Acrylic Tutorial

Solid fabric now.

I didn’t kill the straps – I wanted those to remain springy and stretchy for tying the masks on – but the front masks themselves turned out just right. The kids (and a few adults) seemed quite pleased, and I was too. Have you ever intentionally killed an acrylic project? What projects do you think could be improved with this technique?

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Comments

  1. 6

    sannajane says

    I’ve learned so much from you! I’m pretty much self taught – and your hints & tutorials have really given me a lot of great info & ideas. Thank you so much!

    • 7

      Tamara Kelly says

      Thank you so much sannajane! I’m self taught too and it’s a joy to be able to share it all!

  2. 8

    Vicki says

    I tried this on a scarf made from Lion Hometown and it came out amazing! Much more drapier and not quite as bulky looking. Thanks for the great tip!

  3. 10

    says

    Would you suggest doing this on an acrylic baby blanket? Will it make it scratchy? Because it’s so thick, it’s holding it’s shape really well, but it’s kind of stiff. Wondering if this method will make a little more blankety.

    • 11

      Tamara Kelly says

      I wouldn’t suggest doing this to a blanket, I think it would make it too thin and not warm. In this case I’d recommend either fabric softener or vinegar in a wash.

  4. 12

    says

    Hello! I’m new to crocheting (only a few months) and I’ve learned a lot from you , so thank you! I just finished making a baby pinafore with acrylic yarn, would you suggest this technique for that? The pattern has a lot of shells in it, so its a lot of open work and I don’t know if it makes sense to even try this? Thanks!

    • 13

      Tamara Kelly says

      Hi Shannon! Thank you! For wearables where you want some stretch, I would not kill the fabric. A light steaming or wet blocking would serve you better I think!

  5. 14

    AJ says

    Hello and thanks for the tutorial!
    I just have a quick question. I want to kill an acrylic blanket square that I made to give it more drape as it turned out a bit stiff It has colorwork on it, though, and I’m not sure if the killing process will melt the colors together and ruin the picture or if its safe to do this to it.
    Thanks so much!

  6. 15

    AJ says

    Just noticed the comment above relating to blankets- I am not worried about my blanket being too thin as it is currently very thick. I am also probably going to attach some sort of fleecy backing to it due to the ugliness of the wrong side of the fabric created by the color changes. I am more concerned about it not being too stiff.
    Thanks!

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