Have you ever accidentally felted or shrunk one of your knits? It is such a terrible feeling. We know that you spend time carefully selecting just the right skein, finding the perfect pattern, and devoting hours to crafting that perfect project. We often get questions on how best to care for your creations in Manos yarns, and we thought we’d take a little time today to share with you our tried and true methods of caring for your knits.
First, let’s talk about what superwash means. Just like human hair, animal fibers (wool) have scales. These scales are what make many fibers sticky and sometimes when heated and agitated, these scales can bind together which results in felting. That’s what happens when you accidentally put that sweater you worked so hard on in the washer and dryer and it comes out smaller and denser.
Superwash wools are chemically treated to either remove or coat these scales so that they cannot bind together. Theoretically, superwash wools can be machine washed and dried without danger of felting or shrinkage. However, any time you add heat (especially with hot water) and agitation, you can change the appearance or performance of your fibers in unintended ways.
To illustrate this, we have knit up a sample in our newest yarn, Serpentina, and then machine washed and dried it. While the before and after photos don’t appear too different to the eye, there are differences in the fabric before and after. In this particular example, the row gauge has become slightly larger which could affect the overall size of a garment after washing. The other thing that you can’t see clearly in the photo is that the yarn is starting to fray and pill a little; this will only increase over the lifetime of the garment.
So how can you keep your projects looking beautiful and fresh over time? We’ve outlined a few steps below that you can apply to all your projects, whether you used superwash or non-superwash Manos del Uruguay yarns.
Step 1: Fill a clean sink (or bucket, or basin) with lukewarm water. We like to add just a smidge of heat to the water to loosen any oils or dirt that might be lurking in a knit, but prefer not to go too much beyond lukewarm.
Step 3: Gently add your project to the water. We like to press the project into the water softly and make sure it is entirely submerged. Don’t add too much agitation, just enough to get your project good and wet. Let your project soak for about 20 minutes in the water/wool wash solution.
Step 4: Check the label of your wool wash. Some suggest a cool water rinse on your project to remove remaining wool wash from the project; others such as Eucalan and Soak don’t require a rinse. No-rinse detergents can not only be time-savers, they also remove an extra opportunity to accidentally felt your project during the rinsing process.
Step 5: Remove your project from the water and squeeze gently to remove excess water. The key here is being gentle; don’t wring or twist your knit. If you have a clean towel nearby, you can roll your project into the towel and squeeze gently again to remove more excess water.
Step 6: Lay your project out to dry. If your project needs to be blocked, you can use blocking wires; if you don’t need a severe blocking you can just lay your project out on a mat and press gently into shape with your hands.
Give your project enough time to dry and then enjoy wearing or using it again!