With the hectic season of gift knitting/crocheting/crafting upon us, there’s no better time to revisit the convenience of easy care yarns! What, exactly, classifies a yarn as “easy care”? It’s fairly simple: machine washability (two of the most beautiful words in the English language).
Every hand-knit or crocheted project will likely begin with the same step—fiber selection. Beyond the consideration of factors such as color, sheen, and even drape, you’ll want to think about the recipient of your labor of love. The good news? Whether you’re making a tiny hat for a newborn, a gift for someone with a wool sensitivity, or perhaps crafting for a person who is … shall we say … less careful with their accessories, easy care yarn is a great fiber for anyone on your list. Machine-washable yarn brings you peace of mind with any project. Is there anything worse than spending 20+ hours on a custom-fit, hand-knit sweater only to have it shrink in the wash? We think not!
Superwash yarns are animal fibers (most often wool) that have been treated in a way that makes them less likely to felt in the wash. This usually happens in one of two ways – the wool is treated in a bath that removes the scales of each fiber, or the fiber is coated to smooth the scales, which prevents them from clinging together. Superwash yarns, like the Swish yarn family for example, bring all the benefits of wool yarns (warmth, breathability, and durability) with the convenience of being able to machine wash your garment.
That said, there are a few simple precautions you can take to ensure your garment looks good wash after wash. First, you can place your hand-knit or crocheted item in a garment bag. This will help reduce the friction and the general wear and tear of spinning around with your laundry, which will help to reduce pilling. Use the gentle cycle on your washer, or simply make sure that your washer is set to cool water. Some washing machines even have a wool or hand-knit cycle setting, which is another option when caring for superwash wool garments. We always recommend that you lay garments made in any animal fiber flat to air dry rather than putting them in your dryer.
See all Superwash Wool yarns here.
Cottons, like our Dishie yarn line, can generally take a little bit more wear and tear than superwash wool yarns, but it is still good to know certain properties that are unique to cotton when planning out your projects. Cotton, by nature, will not felt like wool fibers and are generally rugged, long-lasting fibers. Perfect for dishcloths, light summer garments, and general home décor projects, cotton has excellent drape and stitch definition, but it can also “grow” or relax over time. When caring for cotton, we recommend putting your project in a garment bag to protect it from unnecessary stretching. Then, simply wash your project on cool or warm settings and tumble dry in your dryer on low. If your project is a fitted/shaped garment, you can also use a steamer to care for it to avoid stretching or distorting the project.
See all easy care Cotton yarns here.
Finally, we have the ultimate in hard wearing and easy care yarns such as Brava, our resilient 100% premium acrylic yarn! This is truly an easy care yarn, letting you fearlessly create large throws and blankets as well as endless amounts of baby hats and sweaters. Not only will you be able to put your finished project though the wash cycle, but you will be able to have it go into the dryer with the rest of your laundry. The only thing you want to avoid is extreme and direct heat, like steam blocking for example. This is sometimes referred to as “killing” your acrylic because it removes all structure from your yarn and finished object.
View all Acrylic yarns here.
Not sure which easy care yarn to use?
When in doubt, MAKE A SWATCH. These mini versions of your pattern hold the key to not only the prospective look of your finished project, but also it’s potential longevity. Simply apply whatever care method you plan to use with your finished hat, sweater, what-have-you, and you’ll see just how your fiber selection holds up to everyday life. Take your plan prep a step further and make notes of your swatch measurements before and after washing/drying so as to get an idea of how your finished gauge will end up. The added bonus of swatching is that if anything unexpected comes up—be it in the washing machine or dryer, you’ll have only sacrificed a swatch instead of your entire project.