Fibre Talk: Getting it wet and going at it hard

Written on January 1, 2010 at 1:17 pm
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100% alpaca yarn, like the yarn shown above, has washing instructions on the yarn label. For this yarn, it is handwashing only in cold water. Gentle handwashing versus the washing machine can mean the difference between a sweater that fits and one that is suddenly several sizes too small.

What happens when you toss a knitted or crocheted item into the washing machine?

It can be fulled (not felted) or it doesn’t – what makes this difference? The type of fibre makes a huge difference in what happens to the final product.

What is fulling?
If you take animal fibres (i.e. wool, which comes from sheep) and make it up into a fabric (i.e. crochet, knit or weave with it) and subject it to water, agitation and (sometimes) heat, you get a dense fabric.

For example, say you knit a pair of mittens for someone out of wool and then they toss those mittens into the washing machine. And then they come out roughly the size of an infant’s finger. The mittens will have shrank, the stitches are no longer visible and the fabric is dense.

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