There was a time when I did laundry and the most sorting I would do for my loads would be to separate the whites and colors. I washed everything in hot water, and threw them all into a hot dryer to dry. Needless to say, my cashmere sweater was no longer a recognizable garment. It shrunk incredibly and had multiple holes in it; that sweater was dead. Thankfully it wasn't a hand-made item, but it still hurt to lose it - so today, I'll share some tips on how to properly wash those yarn-crafted goods that you spent your precious time and energy on.
- Check Your Label: The ball band will indicate with symbols, and in text how to wash and dry the yarn. There will also be a symbol indicating whether or not you may iron the fabric. (When gift giving, it's best to give the care label with some scraps of the yarn attached to the intended recipient).
- Test Your Gauge Swatches: Another reason to gauge swatch! Not only do you want to make sure your gauge is correct, but you want to see how the fabric reacts when it's washed. Note your initial swatch measurements, then take note of any size, color or textural changes after washing it (if applicable).
- Hand or Machine Wash?If the label says hand wash, hand wash the fabric! If you throw it in the washing machine, you might damage your final piece. If it's machine washable, keep it on a low, gentle setting (also to ensure your weaved ends stay in place).
- Choose the Right Detergent: You want to use a gentle detergent with your hand-knits, and use it sparingly. This is especially important when it comes to washing wool; you can find special detergents such as Soak or Eucalan, which are both eco-friendly, gentle detergents that don't need rinsing.
- Water Temperature: Your knitwear should be washed in cool to lukewarm water as to avoid felting or pilling. Don't wash your wool in hot water! It will shrink and felt, becoming a completely different item. Extreme cold or hot temperatures could negatively affect the fibers.
- Wet Fabric Support: Fibers behave a lot differently when wet so make sure you don't rub or squeeze your fabric. If you need to get a stain out, blot the wet area, but don't rub the pieces of fabric together to get it out.
- Color Care: It's normal for some yarns to bleed a bit, especially if they're hand-dyed. Again, look for any special care instructions indicated on your yarn label, especially if a skein seems to be a highly saturated color. Wash your fabric in cool water and swish it around in the sudsy water; stay away from hot/warm temperatures, and wash like colors together. Rinse in cool water.
- Blocking: If this is your first item, you can combine your blocking/washing session together. If you've blocked the garment before, it doesn't hurt to re-block after washing, ensuring that your project keeps it's shape longer. Most people block by pinning their items on to blocking boards in the desired finished shape.
- To Spin or Not to Spin: Some yarncrafters spin their items in a washing machine after the rinse cycle on a low setting; this is fine, but never wring your items, especially if they're soaking wet. Another option is to place your item in between two towels, roll up the towels and press gently, so that the towel absorbs most of the water.
- Drying Process: You'll find a lot of labels indicate to "lay flat to dry", especially when it comes to all natural fibers. Don't hang the item because they will stretch, and if on a hanger, they'll take on the hanger form. Reshape your garment during drying intervals, and avoid leaving the piece in direct sunlight so that it doesn't fade the color. Be sure to change your towels while drying! You don't want your piece sitting on the same wet towel for hours.
Do you have any other yarn care tips worth mentioning? Share your insights in the comments.
- How to Read a Yarn Label
- Help Your Gift Recipients Care for Handmade Presents
- Blocking: Before & After