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What Exactly Is a Yarn Blank?

What Exactly Is a Yarn Blank?

When I first inquired about Zen Yarn Garden's Serenity Silk +, I was thrown off when they replied with this question, "Well, are you interested in cakes or blanks?" Huh?! I wondered, "What's a 'blank'?" That's when I learned that hand-dyers, like Zen, often dye blanks, which is yarn that is knit prior to dying, so they can achieve multiple, subtle color transitions. These blanks are then, most often, wound by the dyer into the cakes with which I was much more familiar!

In order to share with you more about this super interesting process, and how you can knit straight from the blank without winding it into a cake, I asked Zen if I could share their blog post on the subject.

What are Blanks?

Blanks are made from fingering weight yarns which have been knit up into fabric prior to dyeing. They kind of resemble short scarves! This creates a canvas on which we paint our own artistic colourways onto the fabric, and since each blank is individually hand-dyed, no two are exactly alike. Projects made from a sock blanks knit and crochet up in truly unique ways!

How do I Use a Blank?

Our blanks are single-stranded, meaning only one strand of yarn is knit into the fabric. If you are making two somethings (i.e. socks or sleeves), they may not be identical when working from the blank. Instead, they will coordinate because they are the same colours, but they will look more like fraternal twins in terms of colour placement.

Each Lux Blanx features Zen's luxurious Serenity Silk + which is a blend of 75% superfine, superwash merino with 15% cashmere and 10% nylon. Each blank boasts 750 yards/686 meters, which is plenty for most shawls and smaller garments.

There are three main ways you can choose to work with your blank. Each is detailed below.

Option #1: Straight from the Blank

If you want no muss, no fuss crafting, you can knit or crochet directly from the blank. First, you need to find the appropriate end of the blank to start. As with knitting, if you find the correct end of the blank, you can pull lightly and the stitches will easily unravel, much as if you are ripping back your knitting. If you start at an end and it doesn’t seem to pull apart easily, you are probably using the wrong end and should flip the blank 180 degrees to start at the other side.

Knitting straight from a yarn blank

Once you have found your end, remove the thread that is securing the stitches, unravel a row or two of the blank, and then just cast on and begin knitting or crocheting! If you choose to work directly off the blank, your yarn will be a bit twisted and ruffled and it will have the appearance of ramen noodles. Although this may make your project look a little funky as your knit, all the lumps and bumps will block out as soon as you wash and block your new project.

Option #2: Working from a Ball

If Option 1 doesn’t feel right to you, you can always wind your blank into a ball and work from there. You can either do this by hand, or attach one end to your ball winder and crank away. Just follow the instructions above for finding the correct end and let ’er rip! If you choose this method, your yarn will still be a bit ruffly and kinked and your stitches may still look a little distorted. However a good blocking will take care of that!

Winding a ball from a yarn blank with a ball winder

Option #3: Reskeining and Washing

This one takes a bit more effort, but if you just don’t want to knit with yarn that’s ruffly and kinked, then this may be the method for you. After winding your blank into a ball, skein it up so that you can wash your yarn to smooth out all of the lumps and bumps.

One way to do this is to use a spinner’s tool called a niddy noddy to wind your yarn back into a skein and then tie it off before washing. We recommend adding 4 ties spaced evenly around the skein (before you take it off the niddy noddy) to keep things from getting tangled. If you want to see how to wind yarn on a niddy noddy we like this excellent video tutorial from The Woolery.

Reskeining yarn from a yarn blank after washing and drying it.

Once you have finished skeining your yarn, you can soak it in tepid water with a mild soap, much as you would when washing and blocking your finished project. When your yarn is done soaking, remove it from the sink and squeeze gently to release excess water. Using a clean, dry towel, roll the yarn gently in the towel and squeeze to release additional water. Never wring or stretch your skein. Finally, hang your skein to dry overnight (we like to use a plastic hanger or drying rack in the shower). The next day your skein should be looking fresh and smooth and ready for you to start your project!

Projects for Blanks

Super Breezy knit top designed by Suzanne Nielsen with a single Lux Blanx

Our friend Suzanne Nielsen has designed two wonderful pieces, each of which requires a single Lux Blanx (or you can purchase the blank as a pre-wound cake too). Check out her patterns on Ravelry:

Onward Shawl designed by Suzanne Nielsen, knit with a single Lux Blanx

We hope this post has helped you learn a little more about blanks and we can’t wait to see what you create! Share your projects on Instagram with Izzy Knits using the hashtag #izzyknitslys and with Zen using the hashtag #zenyarngarden.

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The above was reposted with Zen Yarn Garden's permission. It's been adapted to reflect the Zen blanks (Lux Blanx) carried by Izzy Knits. It was originally published about sock blanks in August 2018.

Susan Watkins

Susan Watkins

Prior to launching Izzy Knits in 2018, Susan worked professionally as a freelance marketing consultant, specializing in branding, graphic design, and copywriting. Today, she puts these same skills to good use at Izzy Knits, where she gets to delight daily in the fiber arts, satisfying her passion for color and texture. Outside of work, Susan loves to spend time with her family, including her parents, husband, and two children. She enjoys photography and travel, knitting to unwind, and serving the global Church in southern Haiti.