Thursday, April 10, 2014

Notes on the Nature of Yarn, both Superwash and Non-

As I mentioned the other day, the Moyen Age is all done.  Since that post, I washed the sweater and "blocked" it.  (I say "blocked" because it didn't require any stretching or pinning; I just laid it out and smoothed all the wrinkles and left it to dry.)

This was on Sunday afternoon.  By Tuesday morning, it was clear that the sweater, post-washing, was too big.  I tried it on, and yep.  There went that careful fit.

So what did I do?

I threw it in the dryer.

No, really.

We are all taught that the dryer is death, danger, and disaster for yarn, especially non-superwash yarn.  But the truth is that the dryer itself is not the enemy.  The enemies of untreated yarn are heat and agitation, which cause it to shrink and felt and turn that expensive cashmere sweater into a cat bed.  Judiciously applied, however, heat and agitation can help you achieve your goals.

In this case, I knew that the sweater fit when it was dry, before the stitches had relaxed.  (Silk will do that.)  So what I needed was just a soupçon of felting, essentially; I needed the stitches to shrink up a bit so they would fit properly again.  I removed my dryer balls (eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets!) and in the sweater went.  My dryer doesn't have a specific heat setting, but the last ten minutes are a "cool down" stage, so I set the time for about fifteen minutes so I would have a few minutes of good heat.  Then I let it go for about seven minutes, pulled out the sweater, and voilà!  Perfect fit.  (Apparently I am French today.)

This got me thinking.  I have a cardigan I knit last summer that needed washing (I wore it to bake in, flour EVERYWHERE), and I already had the bowl and everything out.  So I plopped that one in to soak and went back to my busy schedule of haunting the Ravelry forums.  Once it was nice and clean, I dumped it in the washer.

No, really.

See, unlike the Moyen Age, this is worsted-weight 100% wool, which means it soaks up a ton of water.  I could roll it out in a towel, but why bother when the washer is right there?  So I put it in the washer and ran it on the spin cycle for about a minute.  "But wait," you may be saying, "heat and agitation!"  First, no water means no temperature change, and second, the agitation caused by the spin cycle on a washer isn't the kind that will cause felting in the short term (the fibers don't rub back and forth on each other but are pressed together by the motion).  And third, this sweater is superwash, so I have even more confidence that it won't felt.

In fact, after I took it out of the washer, I popped it right into the dryer.  As superwash tends to, this sweater stretches when wet, and I want it as small as I can get it.  So I put it in a lingerie bag to protect the buttons (I'd already turned it inside out before putting it in the washer, too) and threw it in for about an hour.  Then I took it out, laid it out on the table, and let it dry fully overnight.  Easy-peasy.

These solutions won't work for every sweater or knitted item, of course.  But they're worth considering if you need to get the water out of something or shrink it up just that little bit.  Don't fear your tools!

And here, have a picture of the sweater.  (The Irishman is a terrible photographer.  But it's a nice sweater regardless.)

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