Personally, I prefer to wash my knitted garments by hand. I got into the habit of doing this because for a long time, we had an ancient communal washing machine in our apartment building in the city, and I didn't trust its temperature settings. We now have a new one, but I still don't use it much for knits. Because merino wool only needs to be washed very rarely - one of the many excellent qualities I love about it.
Washing wool in the machine?
Is it possible to wash wool in the washing machine? The answer is simple: only if it says so on the label. The manufacturer must have applied an anti-felt treatment to the wool. Otherwise it will felt in the machine. Put simply, you can imagine it like this: During felting, many protruding wool fibres form a tightly interlocked bond due to friction. Yarn with an anti-felt finish has a smoother surface, and there are hardly any fibres sticking out that can get caught together when rubbed and spun in the machine.
Our Cheeky Merino Joy, Lovely Merino Treat and Big Merino Hug have been made machine-washable - unlike conventionally produced machine-washable wool (also called "superwash" wool) - using a GOTS-certified process entirely without chlorine. This saves many tons of water and protects the environment.
Our other yarns Manx Merino Fine and Merino d'Arles should not be machine washed as they contain fibres without an antifelt finish.
How often should I wash my knitted pieces?
Merino wool saves you a lot of work and is good for the environment as well. This is because merino wool has a neutralising effect on odours. You can simply let it ventilate in the fresh air from time to time. Unpleasant odours usually disappear all by themselves, without using a lot of water or electricity. Cotton, on the other hand - think of your T-shirts, for example - does not have this wonderful feature, so you have to wash it much more often.
Washing less has another advantage: it protects your favourite pieces and makes them last longer. And when you do need to wash, our colours don't lose their intensity. We have chosen organic chemical dyes with high durability so that you can enjoy your knitted treasures for a long time.
Why should I wash some pieces before wearing them for the first time?
Some plain knitted tops or shawls in lace patterns only reveal their full beauty after so-called "stretching" (or "blocking"). The effect of blocking is a smoother, more even stitch pattern. You can also change the knitted piece’s proportions and size a little or create special contours, such as the jagged edge of a shawl. To do this, wash the knitted piece and, while it is still damp, stretch it onto a flat surface with pins or other blocking aids. For small pieces such as hats or gloves, a scarf knitted in garter stitch or certain patterns such as cable stitch, blocking is unnecessary.
Which detergent is the right one?
Solid, coloured, delicate or better a special detergent? It is important that you use a special wool detergent, preferably in organic quality without artificial additives, and without fabric softener. You can be sure if the packaging says "wool detergent" or at least mentions that it is suitable for wool or knitwear. Otherwise, your beloved knitwear may wear out, become felted or form knots ("pilling").
My step-by-step washing instructions:
This preparation applies to hand and machine washing:
- If possible (for sweaters or hats, for example), turn the inside of the knitted piece out.
- Never wash knits together with heavy, sturdy garments such as jeans or clothes with zips or eyelets that could damage them.
- Use a special wool detergent.
When washing in a machine:
- Check the wool's label to see what temperature and wash cycle the manufacturer advises. For our merino wool, it is 30 °C using the wool wash cycle. This programme has a particularly gentle mechanical treatment.
- Fill the washing drum no more than one-third full.
- Choose the lowest possible spin setting, as heavy spinning will stress the wool and can damage it.
If washing by hand, wash in a bowl or in the sink:
- The water should be at most lukewarm - if in doubt, better too cool than too warm.
- Soak your work carefully. I especially enjoy this step, as the wool feels soft as butter in the water. But be careful, it is most sensitive when wet. You should therefore never knead or rub it hard. I usually just let my knits rest in the water for 1 - 2 hours.
- Then rinse thoroughly. It is most gentle on the fibres if the washing water and the rinsing water have about the same temperature. This is what our dye master explained to me: If you cool down the warm water temperature very quickly, this can also lead to wool felting.
- First, carefully squeeze the wet knitted piece by hand, but never wring it! Wringing can wear out and damage the delicate wool.
- Then lay the knitted piece on a large bath towel and roll it up. Gently press the roll so that the towel can absorb the water. Alternatively, you can fold the towel and press it on the floor.
Avoid these mistakes when drying
You may ask, "How can you make mistakes when drying?" But it has actually occurred that people have caused their beloved garment to meet an abrupt end because it ended up in the dryer. Felting, shrinking, wearing out - tumble dryers and knitwear don't get along at all.
The more common mistake, however, is to hang your beautiful home-knitted cardigan on a hanger to dry. You should only do this if you really want it to grow longer. It might even be much longer because wet wool is heavy and therefore stretches out a lot. Normally you should dry your knits lying flat, for example on a plastic board. It's best to place a towel underneath to absorb the water.
Ironing or steaming - is that a good idea? Ironing is not really necessary with Rosy Green Wool. Too much heat can also damage the fibres, so I avoid it if possible. But sometimes steaming can be helpful, for example, if a button placket or cuff just won't lie flat. Then I place a damp tea towel on the knitted piece and carefully iron over the area (be sure to follow the ironing symbol’s temperature on the label).