Convenience of care: “Superwash” Wool
Gifting is one of the activities I love most about my knitting. I enjoy sharing my love of the craft through the creation of wonderful warm woolies, which are bestowed upon my friends and family. I worry, though, whether my gifted treasures will receive the care needed to live a long and happy life.
Each knitterly item contains hours (even months) of my time. A piece of my heart and soul goes into each set of gloves, each sweater, and every pair of socks. It is important to me that the giftee understands the true value of the gifted item and is able to provide the knitted wonder with the love and care it truly deserves. However, not all recipients of these knitterly wonders are adept to understanding the intricacies involved in caring for their natural fibre creation. Is there a solution?
Yes, there is, and it is known as “superwash” wool.
Natural fibres can be complicated to care for. Too much agitation and heat will shrink a full size sweater to one that only a doll can wear. YIKES!? Crafting the item with “superwash” wool will avoid this unnecessary fate.
“Superwash” is a term generally applied to fibre that has been treated to withstand the twisting, churning, tumbling, and overall violent process of modern day laundering machines, which encourages the scales of the fibre to bind together. Treating the fibres enables resistance to the shrinkage and felting experienced during the laundering process.
There are two processes fibre producers use to make the wool machine washable:
- Wool fibres are coated with a plastic resin so that the scales are “glued” down. This acts like a protective coating that prevents the scales of the fibres from binding together.
- Fibres are given an acid bath that removes its scales altogether, which often diminishes the strength of the yarn, to avoid the fibre from binding together.
As knitters, we are unaware of which process has been used to treat the yarn. Often, the two processes are combined to create a superwash”able” and strong fibre that will stand up to whatever laundering process the recipient of our gifts prefers.
Even though the superwash process creates low and easy care for knitted treasures, a few notes of caution need to be remembered:
- Excessive heat (such as a hot setting on a dryer or in the washing machine) will still encourage felting of the yarns. So, always follow the fibre care instructions on the ball band.
- Not all “washable” yarns are superwash, since the process is patented. Pay careful attention to the yarn you buy and the care instructions before you toss the knitted item into the machine.
- “Superwash” yarns do tend to stretch a bit more than untreated yarns. Since the process eliminates the binding function of the fibre, the yarns cannot grip each other to hold in place. Therefore, it is essential to do a proper gauge swatch to determine the amount of stretch your finished project will experience.
For a worry free and easy care project I do recommend trying a “superwash” wool. The results are as fantastic as those knit from untreated varieties of fibres, but the worry of laundering accidents has been greatly decreased or, in some cases, eliminated altogether.
- What is your favourite knitted item to gift?
- Do you worry about the knitted item’s fate after gifting?
- Do you have a favourite brand of “superwash” wool?