Scared of Non-Superwash? (Part 1)

I often hear knitters and crocheters say that they only want to use superwash yarn for a certain type of project, whether that's sweaters, blankets, socks, or items for kids. And I used to say this too! But natural, less-processed yarns are undoubtedly better for the environment, and usually a better choice for the project (more on that in a future post). And yet so many yarn crafters are reluctant to use it.
Most often these concerns seem to come from a lack of information about proper yarn and garment care, and/or lack of exposure to high quality natural wool. And while the internet is undoubtedly full of information about both topics, a lot of it can be confusing, contradictory, or take a more pro/con approach without offering further context (I'll get into a bit of that in a later post, but there's definitely room for all fibers). So here's the first post in a series designed to cover as many aspects of yarn and garment care, and yarn usage and selection, as I can. If you have any tips or questions, drop them in the comments and I can (with permission) include them in a future post! Now, on with it...
The concern I hear most often usually comes down to washing - isn't non-superwash yarn difficult to care for? And can't I just throw my superwash items in the washer and dryer and be done with it?
Well...not really. If you read the care instructions for most superwash wools, they will still recommend hand washing and drying flat - and that's for good reason. The friction of machine washing and drying won't shrink superwash wool, it's true. But all that friction is terrible for the integrity of the yarn and its fibers. It causes pilling immediately, and over a few washes that will already begin to weaken the fibers. Superwash yarns also have a harder time recovering their original shape after use and washing. They can be dried flat (and usually should be), but sometimes the only way for the item to return to it's original size is to machine dry - causing more friction and damage to the fibers.
And hand washing doesn't need to be scary. Wool (especially natural wool) doesn't need to be washed nearly as often as plant or synthetic fibers, as it resists absorbing smells, stains, and dirt. When it does need a wash, the process is simple: fill a sink or tub with cool water and a bit of soap (I like plain old unscented dye-free dish detergent) and hold your item under water for 20-30 seconds to help it begin to absorb the water. Let it soak until it is fully wetted throughout, give it a gentle swish, and spot clean any areas that need extra attention. Gently squeeze out the soapy water (without wringing) and repeat in plain water to rinse out soap. Lay flat on a towel to dry. Altogether it takes no more than 5 minutes for the actual washing and rinsing, and your items will look beautiful for years and years with proper care.
Next week I'll cover tips and tricks to make washing quicker and easier - if you have any tricks you like or problems that frustrate you, leave a comment below!

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