Episode 47: 100% Non-Feral Sheep
Tuesday, March 27th, 2018
Welcome to Old and New Viewers
Coming to you from Vancouver, BC Canada
Please leave comments and questions in the Ravelry thread.
FOs (Finished Objects)
Kelsey: Wearing - A wool cardigan from Italy that we want to reverse engineer so we can knit a version.
Know Your Wool - Superwash Wool
Superwash wool is wool that has been treated in a way that removes the scales of the fibre, or coats them with a polymer or resin so that they can’t stick to each other. Superwash yarns can be treated by either or both of these processes. This latter treatment uses a form of chemical polymer treatment - kind of like what conditioner does to your hair but more permanent. ‘Superwash’ seems to be a trademark of some kind, as there is a difference between ‘superwash’ wool, and ‘washable’ wool.
Typically, superwash treatments have not been great for the environment - the chemicals used in the process are very harmful, and they can contaminate the wastewater. A lot depends on which chemicals are used, and how that waste water is treated.
There are several newer treatments in the US and Europe which make use of more environmentally friendly chemicals. For example, O-Wool in Philadelphia and Scholler in Germany. Shoeller’s EXP (ex-pollution) method uses a natural salt treatment to remove the scales, and then coats the fibres with a globally-certified organic substance to stop the scales from felting together. This process does not contaminate the wastewater. Swans Island wool has an Ecowash® treatment that uses a natural enzyme to prevent felting - this one is a Washable wool, not a superwash wool.
Regardless of the process, once you remove the scales, you alter the characteristics of the wool. Some of these are positive: superwashed wool will feel softer - especially when coated with a resin of some kind - and it tends to accept dye more readily. On the downside, it can also make the wool very stretchy. When the scales which give wool its stability are removed, you lose some of that bounce and structure. It is not uncommon for a superwash garment to stretch out of shape when it is washed, or with continued wear. Some superwash wools say the way to ‘fix’ this is to put it in the dryer to shrink it back, kind of like you do with cotton. I personally don’t like the idea of putting wool in the dryer - but that’s just me.
Some superwash wools are better than others, of course. I’ve used some which pill like mad before it even comes off the needles, or that look like an old rag after only one wash. I have also used some beautiful hand-dyed superwash yarns, which last really well.
Note that it is also possible to ‘wash off’ the superwash treatments - they are not 100% felt-proof.
Superwash wools are sometimes blended with nylon - as in sock yarn. This can reduce the stretch factor a bit, but it depends on what you make with it. If you use a superwash wool yarn at a loose gauge, for example, it will probably stretch out of shape more than an untreated wool yarn. To combat this, knit the garment at a tight gauge. I don’t love superwash wools for my own garments, but I appreciate that sometimes you need easy care wool. This is why I like to sample the yarn before I bring it in for the shop.
Links for further reading:
WIPS (Works in Progress)
Imogen Tee - by Carrie Bostick Hoge in Holst Garn Samarkand Aubergine aka Eggplant, because I can’t pronounce cool British words! The Samarkand is discontinued but the Tides is a wonderful replacement for this yarn if you want to get a similar look and feel.
Coffee and Craft Podcast with Bernadette
The Make Things Club