Background: In December I ordered a new type of fiber to dye to sell in my Etsy shop. It was described as a 50% superwash merino/50% tencel blend with a bouncy springy merino with more body than the typical superwash merino you see in such blends. It is a very lovely fiber and I dyed a few rovings. I treated them just like I treat my superwash merino and my other superwash merino/tencel blend. I was very surprised, however, to find that they did not act like my other superwashes, while they did not actually felt, they compacted quite a bit which made me really worry about how I would advertise this roving. It is supposed to be superwash, but it is really?
So now I present to you “A Fiber Tale: Superwash or Not Superwash.” You can be the judge.
Exhibit A: The new blend of roving in the Iris colorway. Left is split from main roving but not drafted, right is pre-drafted and ready to spin. Note that on the left side, the fiber is a bit compressed, but it was easy to draft and showed no signs of real felting in the roving.
Exhibit B: Plied Iris on Bobbin. Please note this photo shows no evidence, but I like it anyway.
Exhibit C: Swatch knitted from plied yarn after the twist was set. Swatch measures 5.5 by 3.75 inches.
Exhibit D: Swatch goes in the wash. Regular cycle, cold, with like colors. Please note that I have a front loader which is already gentle on clothes. When I try to felt on purpose, it takes several cycles.
(look mom, no hands!)
Exhibit E: Swatch after wash. The swatch now measures 5.5 x 3.25 inches for a vertical (row) decrease of 13%. Also please note the condition of the ends of yarn at the edges or the roving. The fabric also feels much denser.
Conclusion: I do not find sufficient evidence at this time to be able to label this fiber/yarn as superwash. I think that 13% is a significant amount of shrinkage especially in a fiber that is only 50% wool (as an aside to my non-knitters, tencel is not an animal fiber and does not felt).
I do, however, think that this is a lovely non-superwash fiber. It is very soft and easy to spin. Because the merino does have more crimp and springiness, it makes a yarn a little more elastic and a fabric with some drape but more body than the regular superwash merino/tencel blend.
In case you are wondering, I have e-mailed the vendor of this fiber for more information on the merino in this blend but I have not heard back yet.
So what do you think? What do you look for in a superwash fiber/yarn? Have you ever bought something that you thought was superwash and it turned out not to be? Is there such a thing as a semi-superwash fiber/yarn? Do you handwash your superwash garments anyway, just to safe?