Day 8: Superwash Wool

As a spinner, it’s important to try new fibers. In the beginning, a lot of us want to “wait until I’m good” before trying exotic (read: expensive) things. We don’t want to ruin our good stuff because our yarn is lumpy or drifts apart or just doesn’t look the way we want it to. There were lots of expensive things I avoided, but other things too – like superwash.

Sarah on merino superwash

Superwash is a treatment that sort of glues down the scales of wool so it won’t shrink. You can put superwash treated wool into the washing machine and dryer and it will look just as good when you pull it out as when you put it in. The fiber tends to be a little flyaway, slicker than untreated wool, and has a hand to it that while you know it’s wool, it feels different. I avoided anything with superwash on the label as a new spinner. I didn’t like how it felt and didn’t like the resulting yarn.

It wasn’t until I started dyeing it for sale that I actually tried it myself. Surprisingly, I like it now. I think the slickness of it put me off in the beginning. I couldn’t control it very well and blamed it on the fiber instead of my inexperienced fingers.

Henriette on merino superwash

And here’s the thing…superwash soaks up dye like nobody’s business. You splash dye on superwash and you can almost hear a slurping sound. When I’m cold-pouring, I try to get the same amount of dye on each bundle of fiber. With untreated wool, you can push the color around a little and have it soak in. With superwash, you better be sure of where you’re putting the color – because it isn’t going to move!

The colors are intense and my superwash fibers usually have bits of white in the top/roving. I used to just keep putting more dye on to get all the white gone, but now I actually like the bits. It’s soothing to see them coming up when I’m at the wheel and they’re a nice contrast to the intensity of the colors.

Superwash is also very kind to beginning dyers. You can cook it a little longer than you should or let it boil in a pot and it’s not going to be a total waste. I try to be very careful when a dyepot is on the stove or my little propane kitchen is working away on the deck. But you know, life sometimes happens – the phone rings or the dog gets sprayed by a skunk and you have to deal with it before you can get back to the pots. Superwash is forgiving and it’s saved me on a couple of occasions.

One last thing, it’s cheap. Seriously, you can get some great colors on fabulous fibers out there and they won’t break the bank.

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