Caring for your Wools
Lets get to the bottom of the top three questions for caring for your wools:
- Are they machine washable?
- Will they pill?
- How do I look after my hand knit?
1. Are they Machine Washable?
The quick answer is “no” but lets explore what that means…. here at the Woven Co we make natural yarns, and what that means is that they haven’t been chemically treated to make them “machine washable”. Superwash yarns and machine washable yarns have been very popular in North America, as they offer the owner of knitting a easy option to wash their hand knits. I’ve opted to keep mine natural. The reality is, wool knits don’t need that much washing – wool is naturally stain resistant, odour resistant and also crease resistant. So washing your knits might not be needed at all, or perhaps a little spot cleaning will fix up a spill or mark?
So what is the issue with machine washing? Well wool has microscopic scales on the surface of each fibre and when the fibres are subjected to a mixture of moisture, heat, and agitation, the scales can lock together – it is known as felting. In a washing machine, the water (and it’s temperature) and agitation of movement can work those scales lock together and the piece can felt and shrink. Some washing machines I expect can be trusted with very low agitation and cool temp water, but to be on the safe side, I say “no” to machine washing.
2. Will they Pill?
The quick answer to this one is “yes” but again lets explore the topic… firstly let me say that pilling (bobbing, balling) is a complex issue. All natural wools will have some level of pilling, and some more than others. In the production of this yarn I do my bit to reduce this noise, I work with longer staple fibres (yes the expensive ones) and mill with high twist count to help lock in the fibres. That said, how the w00ls are knit and how the hand knits are used will impact on pilling. I’ve found our yarns to be pleasingly low on the pilling front – but everyone will have a different experience based on all the contributing factors. The last thing to know is that at the Woven Co, our wools are dyed BEFORE spinning. So what that means is that once the wools are spun, they do not have a wash until you wash them. That is why I recommend post knit, you give your new piece a little bath to settle the fibres (and wash away any manufacturing dust left on the yarn).
Soft pilling I believe, is part of the romance of wool, and is easy cared for – see below.
3. How do I look after my Hand Knit?
Here are my top tips for care:
- Post knit bath; It is important to know that wool doesn’t like big temperature changes. So I think it is best to wash in lukewarm water and then rinse out in cooler water. Mostly I do this in my handbasin. Fill with lukewarm water and use a mild detergent or gentle wool wash. Allow to soak for a period of 10 minutes before rinsing thoroughly firstly in lukewarm water, then finally in cool water. Remember not to rub or agitate. This wash is to settle the fibres and wash away any manufacturing dust.
Lay your piece flat in the shade to dry. If you are keen to block or shape your knitted piece, now is your chance. When drying, avoid direct sunlight, magnified sunlight (close to an outside window) or direct heat.
- Wash only as needed; as mentioned above, wool requires little washing and perhaps blotting / spot cleaning is all that needs to soak up a spill or remove a mark. If you’d like to wash your piece (hey accidents happen!) rinse off any spill then follow the same process as the post knit bath.
- Fold, rather than hang; this will help garments retain their shape while in storage. Use airtight seasonal storage options and if you are worried about moths and silverfish, I’d recommend cedar blocks (they smell nicer than the old school moth balls).
- De-pill with a Sweater Stone; it looks like a piece of black stone (in fact, most are made of natural pumice) and as you gently brush it along the surface of the fabric, it picks up pills and collects fuzz. Might feel a little weird at the start, but then the magic happens! It’s a wonderful way to refresh your piece.