Superwash yarns seem to be everywhere these days. A perennial favorite of hand-dyers for the ability to capture color, and an easy-care regimen means that many of our knitters and crocheters prefer to work with superwash fibers over non-treated ones. We feature superwash yarns in many shipments at Knitcrate, but you may have noticed that some of our past crates and some of the pop-up shop yarns are non-superwash.
We embrace any opportunity we have to work with non-superwashed wools. Even the most environmentally friendly method for superwashing is an added step in the yarn’s processing chain, and adds water waste and cleanup to the mix that isn’t there otherwise.
Most importantly, though, we feel that these natural fibers have a little more character, since they aren’t coated with a polymer to keep them from felting. That said, they require a little extra care during the washing, blocking, and wearing process–care that we feel is well worth the result of a beautiful accessory or garment in the end.
Reserve your work with natural yarns for air-conditioned spaces on hot days to prevent hand felting any of the fibers. More delicate natural yarns, especially single-spun yarns, might felt slightly if your hands overheat or add some moisture to the process. Therefore, if you’re a fan-and-open-windows devotee, reserve this precious fiber for the cooler months. When you do pull out your treasured skeins and wind them up, you’ll be ready to enjoy them fully. Begin by making a swatch–for all yarns, not just natural ones–and then wash & block the swatch as you would the finished garment.
With superwash wools, we recommend sending your swatch through a washing cycle and tumble drying on low, especially if you intend to gift the finished piece. With natural yarns, this is a recipe for making a felted coaster! Wash and block natural projects using one of two methods: steaming, or soaking.
To steam your swatches, you’ll want a hand-held steamer or iron with a good steam setting. Set the iron to ‘wool’ and then add plenty of water for thick steam. You can lay a tea towel over your swatch and iron directly onto the tea towel, or hover the iron over the bare swatch and puff the steam into the fabric. You may want to adjust and pin out your swatch as you go to reach your desired measurements. Remember: a reliable 4 x 4” (10 cm) measurement requires at least a 6 x 6” (15.25 cm) swatch. Don’t be lazy–get to know your yarn! When you’ve blocked out the piece, allow it to cool and then unpin to get your measurements. Depending on the fiber, you may have a small amount of bounce-back once the fabric is dry.
To use the soaking method, prepare a warm bath in your sink or a bowl using lukewarm or hot water. Add a few drops of your favorite wool-wash or even a bit of gentle dishwashing liquid to the bath after you’ve filled it, and swish the water around to mix it in. Drop your swatch in and allow the water to fully saturate it– leave the swatches for 30 minutes to an hour. Come back when the water is cool, drain the bath and squish the water out of your swatch. Then, pin it out on your blocking mat, board, or towel and leave it to dry. When it’s dry, you can measure your gauge.
Both of these methods are perfect for finishing your accessories and garments, and a good soak is often the remedy for stains on a beloved item. Just remember: friction and wool are not friends, and scrubbing or rubbing your item could result in the fibers binding together. This is good information to pass along if you’re choosing to gift the finished item, as well. Include a notecard with the project and care instructions to any intended recipient. Even better, take the time to show them yourself if you can: teaching someone to love wool as much as you do is never wasted time.
This article was originally published in our October 2018 INSPIRATIONS booklet–and great content like this is included in every KnitCrate shipment’s booklet! Join Knitcrate Membership ($24.99/mo) or Sock Membership ($19.99/mo) to get these booklets in your mailbox each month, along with great yarn and patterns.