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Tied Up in Knots? Call a Yarn Detangler

A niche group of knitters specializes in wrangling disobedient skeins

Pile of yarn or unknotting opportunity? (2/Asia Images/Ocean/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

A snarled skein of yarn can bring craftiness to a halt, stalling projects and turning a peaceful moment into a tangle of frustration. So what’s a knitter with a big knot to do? Go online, of course: The Wall Street Journal’s Carrie Melago reports on a group of over 2,100 self-designated “detanglers” who will tackle gnarly knots for the sheer love of it.

An online forum originally intended for frustrated knitters inadvertently turned into a gathering place for detangling enthusiasts, writes Melago. She documents the obsessive problem-solving of “Knot a Problem!,” a group of yarn-lovers who volunteer to untangle frustrating messes for the mere cost of shipping.

“Competition for the most maddening messes can be fierce,” she writes. The group gathers on Ravelry, a social network for knitters that estimates its nearly six million users have used over three billion miles worth of yarn in their finished products.

Yarn often behaves in weirdly knotted ways, slipping from skeins and bursting from balls. Knitters have coined the term “yarn barf” to refer to errant tangles that emerge from otherwise neat-looking skeins of yarn, and social media abounds with nightmarish stories of #tangledyarn. The internet has plenty of advice on how to detangle yarn, too, encouraging frustrated knitters to give in to the inner Zen of their knotty conundrum.

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