Wool is wool, right? Well, sometimes. . . .maybe, sorta. . . .kinda.
When I knit with wool, I am constantly (and pleasantly) surprised at how different wool yarns behave.
Along the way, it has taken me way too long to figure out that, the more I learn about the yarn I'm knitting with, the better my yarn choices and the better my knitting results.
And, as it turns out, the lost step of Wet Finishing, the art of washing and/or wet blocking your swatches and finished projects, can have a truly transformative effect on your knitting.
Myth: All wool felts.
Turns out, that just ain't so.
Yes, most wools will eventually reach what we think of as a "felted" appearance but not all. Part of the secret is that while some wool yarn (mostly very soft ones) will reach this felted state very quickly, other wool yarns will bloom under somewhat harsh treatment long before they start shrinking and reaching a hard, dense, felted appearance. On top of that, when you Wet Finish your knitting properly for the yarn being used, the process can result, not only in a softer yarn, but it will even out irregularities in the knitted swatch.
Our Shetland and Romney yarns are two yarns that benefit hugely from being Wet Finished in the following (vigorous) manner. They won't ever be as soft as Merino, but you'll be pleasantly surprised by the difference between the skein and finished swatch.
- 1. Fill your sink with hot water -- as hot as your hands will handle comfortably.
- 2. Squirt a dollop of Dawn (or other gentle soap or detergent) onto the swatch.
- 3. Start squeezing the swatch (vigorously) under water -- switching from hand to hand -- until the swatch is quite sudsy. No rubbing, but pretend the dog buried the swatch in a hole for a month and you want to get the dirt out. I usually squeeze about 30ish times.
- 4. Repeat steps 1 and 3 with cold water (temperature straight from the tap) until the suds are gone.
- 5. Roll in a towell and squeeze out excess moisture.
- 6. The swatch will be limper than a . . . well, wet noodle. Gently pat and nudge into a shape smaller than you expect the swatch to be and let dry. (Wrinkles, ridges and wiggly bits encouraged.)
- 7. Once the swatch is dry, lay flat and steam with the iron by setting the iron to full steam and holding it over the swatch -- touching lightly over the entire swatch. I touch a bit more firmly at edges to boss the curly bits about and nudge into shape.
- 8. Measure the gauge of the wet finished (blocked) swatch and use that gauge when choosing garment size to knit. Wet Finish your garment in the same manner.