Interestingly, it is possible that the prevelance of super-wash goes hand-in-hand with the ubiquity of merino yarns. In superwash merino the same yardage would weigh 1.8 pounds. A chlorine solution in water is less toxic to workers, and chlorine in this form can be filtered from wastewater. Once the conversation turns to superwash yarn it never seems to stop. Your beautiful knitwear is now smaller, stiffer, and not so soft. Her go-to method for balancing ease of use with durability is to wash the superwash socks on the gentle cycle with cold water (and normal detergent). (I won’t use it). It's the same light worsted/DK, 100% Superwash Wool yarn with a subtle color changing variation that's sure to please. Plus, my lys was pretty much filled with super wash wool. The most common way to create a superwash yarn is to remove the scales and then coat the yarn to smooth it (more about this process in an upcoming post). If the hand doesn’t feel right, back it goes. Superwash wool (or washable wool) technology first appeared in the early 1970s to produce wool that has been specially treated so it is machine washable and may be tumble-dried. Part of what contributes to the swing and sway is the density of the yarn, or my friend and yours: grist. What a great explanation- especially regarding the grist involved and drapiness of superwash. This doesn’t even include the toxic chemicals that are used in the overall process. A big reason is washability. The polymers used to smooth the fiber are made from different types of plastics. Just at a glance I can see how dissimilar they are. Thank you! A garment made from a superwash wool, on the other hand, can often cope with being thrown in the machine as part of the normal wash. While many yarn companies don’t know the process their suppliers use, some do, and a growing number are making it a priority to be aware and to choose supplies with the environment in mind. The other is to coat the fiber to suppress the scales. You can often find her on the couch, eating snacks and knitting furiously (in both senses of the word). Superwash merino usually has more plies and more ply twist than untreated merino to compensate for the structure lost when the fiber’s scales are removed or suppressed. Different companies use different processes and chemicals, and different countries have different environmental regulations for their wool industry. Both the hand and the grist are different. Superwash 100% Merino Wool Yarns Extra fine (19.5 micron) merino is used for these yarns. I'm the Furious Knitter (FK), and I write KNIT FURIOUSLY to share what I've learned from over 15 years of knitting. Spectacular color on 100% superwash merino milled with 8 plies—making for durability without nylon. When the fabric was wet, it grew A LOT. I am a very tactile person. I knit furiously, meaning that I am a fast and prolific knitter and that I swear loudly every time I drop a stitch. Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. The purpose of this post was the compile the information I’ve learned from various yarn, fiber, and knitting resources over the past few years. They do not remove or reduce scales, but only smooth them down—like using pomade on unruly hair. Does it depend on which process was used? This is true about yarns processed in North America and the rest of the world. FK is a mostly self-taught knitter who has opinions on things. Absolutely not. Polymer mostly just means that the component pieces repeat, but the component pieces don’t have to be plastics. First a couple answers on the why of superwash wool. The other is to coat the fiber to suppress the scales. Organic cotton and linen are MY current favorites. Felting needs moisture, friction, and sometimes a change in temperature. There are many scientists working on developing new ways of shrink-proofing wool. The gorgeous golden yarn is O-Wool Merino Chunky in the shade Mustard Seed. “Superwash wool was the answer to our desire to machine wash and dry our knits. Caring for Superwash Wool Hang on, let me turn on the espresso machine. The two yarns pictured throughout this post are both from O-Wool and both are 100% certified organic merino. Is that true? Is that true. Once again, a fascinating article! A too-tight cast-on makes even the most beautiful pair of socks unwearable if you can't get it... Hello! There are loads of opinions and a lot of questions about how superwash yarns get super-fied. Superwash is a treatment applied to wool fibres which makes more resistant to shrinking. Each individual wool fiber is covered with tiny scales, like a snake’s skin. Streat Instruments Moisture Measurement and Control systems have been applied to Superwash Plants around the world and we were involved with the initial Superwash development at the IWS and then the Woolmark Company. Looking at skeins and swatches is one thing, but looking at two strands side by side really shows how the regular merino (gold) is matte and velvety looking, and the superwash merino (purple) is smoother. Now, I’m more aware of the intrinsic qualities of super wash and regular wool thanks in large part to knowledge gained from articles written by experts such as yourself. It’s hard to find merino and superwash merino close to the same gauge from the same company, so it’s a real treat to be able to compare these kissing cousins in detail. The process of making superwash wool prevents the scales from locking together, either by removing them entirely or coating the entire strand in a polymer. I am not a wool or yarn industry professional, not a chemical engineer, so I can’t speak with great authority about the environmental effects of superwash wool. The smoothness of the superwash comes from the trapping and smoothing of the scales in the O-Wash process. Altering the scales eliminates some air (and space) between the fibers and plies of yarn, making the yarn more dense and less elastic. Carding: Rolling with a roller that is covered with teeth to tease apart the staples of wool, laying the fibres nearly parallel to form a soft rope called a sliver. These two yarns are close enough in gauge to be interchangeable in most projects, the Merino Chunky is 15 stitches to four inches, and the O-Wash Chunky is 16 stitches to four inches. Felting can be intentional, for things like hot pads, mittens, and cozy slippers, but this is less desirable for many garments and delicate shawls. This results in a yarn that is generally stretchier than natural wool because the strands slide past, rather than cling to, each other. I hesitate to make a blanket statement about the itchiness of superwash wool because much of the texture is determined by the diameter of the fiber, measured in microns. Another fabulous article by Jillian! Obviously it is a science too; the whole enchilada! This website ( is owned and operated by the Furious Knitter (FK) and is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to The Superwash process is an application that has special requirements to which the control system must conform to ensure the product quality is maintained to the desired level. It washes beautifully, and feels just as smooth and slinky. Wool Yarn and Haberdashery, Knitting, Crochet and Crafting. The removal and coating of the scales also affect how superwash wool takes up dye. I just placed the superwash swatch on top of the regular merino swatch in both photos, and both times the superwash swatch molded itself around the edge of the plain merino swatch like a sleepy kitten. I first heard about superwash wool in the podcast. We do process superwash treated tops into yarns for some of our trade customers. If you’ve ever knit and then felted a bag or slippers on purpose, you know exactly how much the felting experience can change knitting. One environmentally friendly method is used by O-Wool. Newer, more environmentally friendly methods of creating superwash are being developed and used in several different countries. I encourage you to read up about it and make the decision based on your personal preferences. In many cases that’s a partner who accidentally puts things in the dryer. As this elasticity is affected by the superwash process, adding nylon really helps. The perfectly purple yarn is O-Wool O-Wash in the shade Blue Thistle. When these little suckers are agitated, literally, that’s how felting happens. Yarn: 220 Superwash Effect Code: Q202 Description: 220 Superwash Effects is in the same family as our most popular 220 Superwash yarn. Purchasing is, at a very small level, voting with your money. All of this work is industrial and secret. When you're knitting something that needs to stretch, you need the right stretchy cast-on to match. The creation process for superwash wool essentially smoothes out the entire strand of yarn, so at the microscopic level, the strands no longer have their natural stickiness. #1. Each strand of wool is covered in microscopic “scales”. I did realize that superwash processing is not super environmentally friendly, but alternative “wools” made from plastic are not a good alternative. The texture of each yarn is completely different from the other, even though they are made of the same fiber. Your purchases support everything we publish here at MDK. One is to strip or dull the scales of a fiber, then fill the irregularities left behind with a polymer to smooth the fiber. There are two ways most commonly used to make a superwash yarn. Why do people want it? Most superwash yarns are created by eroding the scales with acids and then coating the fibers with a synthetic resin. I was a staunch no chemical person with my wool for years but finally realized many items I didn’t wear as often due to needing another garment under them so they sat ina drawer more than being worn. Finally, because the scales can’t lock together, superwash wool tends to be less effective at trapping warm air. Don’t they all break down eventually and end up in the environment as pollution? If you’ve ever removed an impossibly tiny, shrunken sweater from the washing machine, you know that most wool does not fare well in the laundry. Superwash treatment can affect the weight of  a knitting project. Don’t get me started on mohair and angora! If the scales can’t lock together, then the knitted item can be tossed into the washing machine with reckless abandon (sort of). These two methods are often combined. Lots of folks also say that superwash yarns are softer; they are certainly smoother. Agitation makes the fibers scootch closer together so that the scales hang on to each other. #1. The first is to use a chlorinated acid bath that removes the 'scales' from the fiber. (Ashley from the Woolful podcast wrote a post summarizing her research on superwash, including finding the patent for Hercosett 126, which dates from the 1950s.). It feels soft and gentle against the skin but is also strong and durable for good wearing properties. I thought all polymers were plastics. It just reminds me of how much I DON’T know about yarn! 'Superwash wool' is a wool that has been treated or processed in a way that allows it to be machine washed. It’s a polymer that keeps paper from reverting to pulp when it gets wet. Considering these two yarns in strands, I know I would choose my yarn based on the texture I wanted in my knitting: smooth or velveteen fuzzy. With new technology in yarn, this all changed, and now we have superwash wool, which is a natural fiber that has been treated so that it can be washed in the machine. The only problems I've ever had with blocking superwash wool came about when I was working with KnitPicks Swish (the worsted version). Thus, there is a trade-off: to retain the drape and texture of a hand-knit garment, you usually must wash the item by hand. Thank u so much for this as I have been in a dilemma over superwash. I find superwash grows a lot. However, it doesn’t quite address what I find so very frustrating about super wash wool. Thank you for another very informative article. great article. This is a lot to digest, but so very helpful. While some brands say that they are fine for the washer and dryer, I have found that even superwash yarns tend to felt a bit in the dryer. This wool is produced using an acid bath that removes the "scales" from the fiber, or by coating the fiber with a polymer that prevents the scales from attaching to each other and causing shrinkage. A compromise for the sake of convenience.”. The price is high but the quality is worth the price ? Today, the overwhelming majority of machine-washable wool is produced using the Hercosett treatment because it's fast, cheap, and effective. Details. Any of the processes used to make a yarn superwash will restrict the fiber scales, smoothing them to keep the fibers sliding by each other no matter what. Wool relaxes in water, even more if it’s warm or hot: the scales open like the hatch on the back of a car. Give me old fashioned wool every single time! Is Superwash Yarn Environmentally Sustainable? Then the modified fibers are smoothed with a coat of a polymer. Wool for military wear is praised for its durability, its suitability in a variety of climates, and its fire resistance. For approximately 1 200 t/a of “Superwash” quality wool produced per year, this process consumes the following quantities of environmentally hazardous substances: In my efforts to become more “fiber-conscious” I began purging my stash of superwash wool and encouraged other’s to take a closer look at the fibers they were using and find healthier and more sustainable alternatives. That’s one of the many reasons I try to stay away from it for anything but shawls ir socks. Alternatives to Superwash. I cannot reshape it, even to proper measurements, and instead of blocking a shape, I end up throwing the garment in the dryer, only to have it come out exactly as it came off the needles — good or bad. It will be dry cleaned, and sitting around not being worn as often as my daughter envisioned. Superwash … Growing up, I could never wear wool because it would make me have a rash and sometimes welts. On the other hand, I don’t think that it is necessary to feel ashamed by your knitting purchases either. Also it seems using non-superwash or only organic superwash might be much better for the environment. A problem with the ‘superwash’ process is that the elasticity of the wool fibre can be affected. This post provides an overview of superwash wool and how to treat it, as well as a few things to consider before purchasing it. Even tho I habdwash all my knit stuff regardless. Very informative. Thank you. The yarn is then coated with a synthetic coating (Hercosett is the industry standard) which smooths the exterior of the yarn. That being said, you can’t just toss a pair of superwash wool socks into a very hot, super-aggressive load of laundry and expect things to turn out just fine. Superwash wool also resists felting in items that are exposed to a fair amount of moisture and movement, like socks. Superwash wool is machine washable. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Who says knitting is just an art? We talked about the drape of superwash in the last post. With a big family and friends to knit for, I want them to enjoy wearing the knits and not worry about care of them. Traceability. I talked about how superwash yarns behave in my first superwash post, but here, with a regular and a shrink-proofed merino side by side, you get a visual to help connect all the words. Pure Wool Superwash DK. How about you? The articles made from super wash won’t block. That gives me hives! All about Knitting Needle Sizes (Hooray!). Maybe you’ve heard that superwash wool is toxic and should be avoided at all costs. Some people love the feel of a “wooly-wool” and others can despise them (and the way they smell when wet). They’re cruelty-free, … The type most commonly used is also used in paper processing. Looking at the swatches stacked both in stockinette and garter stitch, we see that the superwash swatch wants to drape. They use a natural (and proprietary) polymer to coat the fiber to keep scales from interlocking. The military uses a lot of wool and helps keep wool farming viable in the United States. She wears it in cooler months and now to find a place to dry a long cardigan?? Where is the scratch and sniff app when you need it!!! The superwash process is actually a series of processes wool goes to chemically remove the scales on each individual wool fiber (the ones that cause felting when warm water and agitation are involved) and then coat these fibers in a petroleum-based polymer. Adding Nylon. So why is the combination of merino wool and cotton so washable and delightful to work with…i.e. She then removes them from the load, reshapes them gently, and lets them air-dry. / Superwash Yarn. the diameter of the fiber, measured in microns. A word on the superwash process. I’m so happy to have superwash in my life and I am glad they’re making waves in discovering new ways to make it more friendly to the planet! Superwash wool can be made using an acid bath that removes the "scales" from the fiber, or it can be made by coating the fiber with a polymer that keeps the scales from being able to … ), link to How to Knit an Actually Stretchy Cast-on, “Electron micrograph of a clean merino wool fibre”, terms are not necessarily interchangeable, a post summarizing her research on superwash. The process, which uses large amounts of water as well as dangerous substances, leads to significant pollution of wastewater with organic halogen compounds (AOX). I have to admit that now, as an adult … I LOVE superwash! But, there’s a lot more to consider than just this, so read on to get a lot of info on yarn and its care. Scouring: The fleece is washed with water or solvents to remove dirt, debris and wool grease. Many articles I read (this, this, and this, for example) mention the pollution of wastewater in the superwash treatment process, so that is certainly something to be aware of. Ever popular, this 100% wool yarn is durable, yet soft to the touch, making it ideal for family and homeware projects of all types. Superwash wool is made by exposing the fiber to a chlorine gas that erodes the scales and then it is coated in a plastic called Hercosett 125. Disturbing no? Superwash is a process that makes wool less susceptible to felting when it is washed and dried by machine. I’ve done my time with wool and felting … now when I knit with superwash, I don’t care that my 5yo kid tosses their jumper into the washing machine as it never shrinks! It’s not the first time I wish I could hand you yarn to touch through the screen, or just invite you all over to my house to touch all of the yarns. Experienced knitters know that using the right needle size can mean the difference between a well-fitting and overly large sweater. The two yarns are constructed differently. And you should generally not put superwash wool in the dryer. I went to a talk last week when the chemist speaking referred to proteins as polymers … I was just as surprised as you! That thing where it stands away from my skin just a little and gives me breathing space? Do I lie in bed at night feeling guilty about this? Toxins end up in waste water . There’s a lot to think about! Anyway – this description will help me predict what the different yarns will do so thank you! Do you use or shun superwash wool? Wow, interesting article. Commercial textile and knitting firms in the US buy U.S. top and wool because they can buy domestic wool and have the entire process done in America. What makes superwash yarns both super and washable is the removal and/or suppression of the tiny scales that cover each individual fiber. The factories that process Superwash wool are located in areas that produce a lot of wool, such as South Africa 6, and also in Germany 7; the latter is worth noting because of the strict environmental protection rules in Germany. Wow! I do appreciate your addressing the environmental concerns. As with most environmental things, it comes down to personal preference. There are very strict rules on processing the fibres and the treatment is a resin rather than a plastic which bonds permanently with the wool fibre and biodegrades along with the wool. Thank you! To further reduce the “stickiness” of the fiber, the strands are sealed with a polymer or resin called Hercosett 125. A few weeks back I wrote a post about the processing of superwash wool, it’s use of chlorine gas and plastic. Keep up with her exploits at One of the pleasures of knitting with wool is its ability to stretch and then recover to its original shape. It's also more ready to take up the dye, so it's easier to get brighter, more saturated colors with superwash yarn. Whereas regular wool will shrink in the wash (and may also felt), superwash wool will come out of the machine pretty much as it was when you put it in. link to All about Knitting Needle Sizes (Hooray! One of the most used methods to make a fiber superwash is to remove or reduce the scales on the fiber with chlorine, either as a gas or as a solution. In the 80's superwash treatment got a bad rap because in some countries the effluent was not recycled. If you take fine wool, like merino, and superwash it, the resulting yarn will be pretty soft. Enter superwash wool, sometimes called “washable wool”, those these terms are not necessarily interchangeable. The main reason why superwash yarns are environmental harmful is the treatment method itself: the chlorine-Hercosett process (read last week’s blog post for specifics). Hand-painted while braided which can give a tie-dye effect where the dye cant reach the white wool Dyed with acid dyes and Share on Social. 100g / 3.5oz 23 micron Superwash Merino wool Colourway: Apple blossom Colours: pink, green, cream, peach Not suitable for felting crafts as this is a superwash treated fibre. Read More. I am so seduced by the superwash colors but then end up frustrated when it doesn’t have the bounce and body of non-superwash wool. Cliff Cox is the Plant Manager at Chargeurs, a multi-national company with a plant in South Carolina that produces superwash and non-superwash wool sliver (combed and carded top). The coating smooths and softens the fibers, preventing felting during the washing process. Knitters should be made aware of this if it is. I’m such a nerd that I love these articles. There are two ways most commonly used to make a superwash yarn. In this two-part series we will use the conversation with Cliff to dive into the deep mysteries of Superwash Wool and the ways it … I simply and wholeheartedly appreciate your posts. Harmful chemicals are used in the process . There are environmental issues with many superwash processes, but not all superwash or anti-felting processes are the same. After growing up with sheep and shearing sheep, washing fleece, spinning wool and knitting handspun …. It seems to be a hot-button issue in the knitting and crafting industry, with many strong opinions about avoiding anything plastic. If you peruse the sock yarn section of your local yarn store (LYS), you find an array of brilliant, deeply saturated colors. Sign up for our weekly newsletter full of MDK fun, and you'll save 10% on your next order. How I love the tweaking that is possible with wet wool, or steam, and the ability to shape (either stretching or pinching) the individual areas of a sweater or dress or skirt. One is to strip or dull the scales of a fiber, then fill the irregularities left behind with a polymer to smooth the fiber. Upon browsing through the Ravelry comments for the yarn, I discovered that this is a common issue with that particular yarn. Depending on your personal tolerance for plastic, you may decide that superwash wool is not something that you are interested in buying. China, perhaps surprisingly, is the world's second-largest producer of wool. Untreated merino yarn has structure with fewer plies and less twist. I love that about wool. Their O-Wash superwash yarn acts just like any other superwash I’ve used.