Some people love the feel of a “wooly-wool” and others can despise them (and the way they smell when wet). But, there’s a lot more to consider than just this, so read on to get a lot of info on yarn and its care.
Wool will tend to grab onto itself. This might sound like a negative, but in many cases it’s actually a positive. A few times when a grabby wool can help are when:
- Working colorwork
- Working lace
- Cabling without a cable needle
- Working a stitch that relies on that property
Some care does need to be taken with non-superwash wools. You can’t just toss them in a washing machine. We’ve all heard stories of an adult sweater coming out of the washer small enough for a child.
Instead, you should gingerly (without agitation) wash it by hand and lay it flat to dry. Maybe even push and prod to get it to the right shape. Pinning it to stretch it out and open up areas (think lace here) can be helpful too. This process is called “blocking”.
On the flip side, you can often get several wears in between washes if your item is made of wool. And, you can freshen it up by tossing it in the dryer – NOT WET – and with a dryer sheet and even a couple other dry/lint-free items (they help bat it around a bit).
Regular wools have little barbs on them, and these barbs can grab other pieces of the yarn. This is often a good thing, but not always.
Superwash Wools will have these barbs either removed or glued down. Because of this, a Superwash yarn will often feel smoother.
The lack of barbs can make your item stretch out – especially when wet or after long use. If you’re using a Superwash wool, I suggest you dry it flat because of that, and even to push it together a bit to help combat the stretched-out nature.
Cotton, Linen, Hemp, Bamboo and others fall into the Plant-based yarns category.
While I do tend to advise people to follow the laundering instructions on the ball band, I’ve found that many plant-based yarns tell you to either not use a dryer or to dry clean only, but they do just fine when laundered.
If you want to test this out, make up a big swatch and give it a try. And, if you find that the swatch looks good but it’s a bit smaller, that can be fine as long as you account for that shrinkage when making the item.
I actually *prefer* washing and drying linen-based yarns.
This is a personal preference, but I find that you can gain a lot of softness by washing and drying a linen-based yarn. I love the way my knitting feels after washing it, and it only gets softer as I wash it.
If you like properties from several different fibers, a blend can be a great way to go.
Some common blends will add a manufactured fiber to a natural fiber as a way to make it easier to both wear and launder.
In other cases, they might add a small amount of an expensive fiber (often, cashmere) to others in order to increase its softness.
And blends may give you the good aspects of several fibers. I know of a blend that’s part silk and part alpaca (making it both soft and lighter-weight), and another that’s both cotton and wool (making it better for warmer weather but still breathable).
This can be a touchy topic, and in the end, only you will be able to decide if the recipient will take care of the item.
Make sure that the recipient will take proper care of the item. And be sure to tell them exactly how to care for it, or even include the ball band.
As with most things, I’d say you should check them out to see what you like.
But, if you’re not in a position to do that, I’d say that Superwash can be a good choice for accessories (where they’re less-likely to be impacted by stretching out). On the flip side, I’d suggest going with a non-Superwash yarn for a garment because the stretching-out factor can make a big impact.
Of course, ymmv.