Thursday, February 16, 2012

Superwash (or Not)

At many yarn shops it's becoming increasingly difficult to find wool that hasn't been treated as "superwash". Yarn shop owners tell me that superwash is what their customers want. Unfortunately, it's not what I want. I've had some bad experiences with superwash yarns over the years. Apart from the fact that superwash is difficult to mould into shape, it lacks all the qualities that you really want from wool, including heat retention and elasticity. Usually, after you wash superwash treated wool, the garment grows, sometimes to elephantine proportions. Most manufacturers tell you to throw the garment into the clothes dryer for 15 minutes and then lay it out flat to complete the drying process. My experience has been that although the garment shrinks back considerably, the finished size is somewhat unpredictable. It's also difficult to get nice sharp corners or points. And, every superwash product I've made loses body and feels limp. Keep in mind, too, that especially if you have an old-fashioned top-loading washer, you can soak and spin dry non-treated wool with ease.
There's some good news, though. Apparently there are other knitter/designers out there who feel the same way I do and who've made a deliberate decision not to treat their wool products. Here's a short list:
1. Jared Flood (aka Brooklyn Tweed) has put out two newish yarns, "Shelter" and "Loft". I have some of each in my stash and they're absolutely gorgeous to work with.
2. Veronik Avery's St. Denis line of yarns comes in a ton of beautiful colours. You can double-strand the Nordique to create heavier garments.
3. My recent discovery in this area is Quince & Co. I think I'm in love with the colours, the beautiful photography, and the wide range of yarn weights.