So you've spent hours picking the yarn, weeks knitting or crocheting the project, and finally you're DONE with your handmade beauty. The next important step can make or break all your hard work!
What's the best way to wash and care for your woolly items? and What the heck is blocking?!
We're diving deep into these questions so you can have nice clean, cozy items that will last you a long time.
Before your first wash... it's time for BLOCKING!
The first touch your yarn will usually have with water is during Blocking.
Not all garments have to be blocked! Most commonly blocked items are lace patterns or colorwork designs, but you can block all projects if you prefer. Blocking straightens stitches and makes a piece look "finished"
If you've decided to block your piece, here's the general process.
1) Create a space for your item to dry. It's best if this is a flat surface like a counter, or foam blocking boards. A towel on the floor will work as well, but it may take longer to dry!
2) Get your item DAMP. It doesn't need to be dripping wet, you just want the fiber to be a little flexible. You can dunk your item in your sink for a few seconds, or use a spray bottle to moisten the piece. The water should room temp or colder, NO hot water.
3) Squeeze out any extra water. Do this gently, you don't want too much rubbing or squishing of the wool.
4) Lay the item out to dry. This is where you will pin any lace sections open, straighten any uneven stitches, adjust the shape, or do any fiddling to your piece. Once it dries in the position you leave it in, it should hold it's new shape!
5) Voilà! A nice, finished, neat piece :)
Washing your items after normal wear
The main thing you want to avoid when washing is your yarn FELTING.
Wool can FELT when it's exposed to heat and friction. Felting is the process of the yarn grabbing onto itself, thus creating a solid piece off wool felt instead of a piece where you can see the stitches. Some patterns are meant to be felted, but generally your washing wants to AVOID felting.
Here you can see a before and after of Drops Nepal, on the left is pretty stitches, on the right, a fully felted piece.
To avoid felting, follow the correct washing instructions. Felting will shrink your item quite a bit, and you want your pieces to fit, so it's important to care for your hard work correctly.
Sometimes you want an item to felt, but that's a lesson for a different day.
The following tips will help prevent felting in your yarns when you wash.
General Yarn Care Tips
- Wash garments using plenty of water, and if possible, separately. Never let the garment soak in water for an extended period of time!
- Wash dark colors separately. Dark colors often contain an excess of dye, so it's important to make sure the garment is rinsed until the water is clear, to avoid the excess dye affecting other colors in the garment.
- Only use detergents that are made specifically for washing wool and other fine fibers, or a PH-neutral, dye free detergent. Sometimes its best to spot test your soap on a hidden area to make sure it won't affect the colors.
- Always shape the garment to dry, and lay it flat to dry. Never dry the garment in direct sunlight, never hang a garment to dry, it will stretch.
- Never put heavy dripping wet clothes to dry, squeeze or press out any extra water.
- Avoid drying garments on a surface that absorbs moisture, such as terry towels. Counter tops or foam mats are the best drying surfaces.
Alpaca, mohair, silk and untreated wool:
- Hand wash in 30ºC (cold water).
- Move garment gently, don’t rub, squeeze to much, or wring!
- Lay flat to dry
- In general, unless a yarn is Superwash treated, we discourage the use of washing machine, since even the wool program can make garments lose their shape and in the worst cases lead to felting. Qualities that include silk could also lose color.
- Roll them into a towel and press out the moisture before laying out to dry.
- Never use a dryer for wool, the garment will shrink!
- Unevenness in the garment can be fixed with blocking.
Cotton, linen and mixed qualities:
- Always machine wash at 40ºC or 60ºC depending on the instructions on the label. If washed at a wrong/lower temperature, colors may run. If this happens, wash again at the right temperature, i.e. according to the label. It is very important to adhere to the right temperature..
- If you want to hand wash cotton, do NOT let it soak or stand in water, just rinse.
- Use washing programs with plenty of rinsing time.
- Cotton has the tendency to shrink in the wash, so make sure you measure the garment before washing, in order to shape it correctly after the wash.
- Since cotton is a heavier fiber, it will usually grow or stretch with wear, you may need to plan your size accordingly when knitting or crocheting, or utilize blocking to reshape the garment.
- Don’t tumble dry. Lay flat and shape the garment in the way you want it to dry.
Merino and other Superwash treated wool:
- Superwash treated wool should be washed in machine, using the wool / gentle cycle program.
- Don’t use fabric softener!
- For longest lasting pieces, lay flat to dry.
Always keep the yarn labels – they are your warranty -- and they have the most accurate washing information!
Decoding Label Washing Instructions:
The BEST place to look for info about washing your yarn is right on the label. Save your labels until completing a garment to ensure you can know the color and dyelot (in case you need more!) AND so you know how to care for the yarn.
Most labels have washing symbols instead of written instructions, which can be confusing! What does that square with a dot mean?
Use this handy chart to decode the symbols:
Your regular laundry detergent will usually work for your delicate items, just be sure they are gentle.
Our favorite product for washing our woollies is SOAK WASH!
It's a no rinse soap, which means you don't need to spend time or water rinsing all the soap out. It will dry clean, smelling great, with no residue. You can use it for hand or machine wash! Available in yummy scents or in a sensitive scentless version.
Plus soak is environmentally friendly and biodegradable, so you can feel good using it.
Happy Crafting and Happy Washing :)