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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?

7 Responses to “A Fiber Tale: Superwash or Not Superwash”
  1. Wow….someone was busy today!

    I think you spent too much time in the same room as me when I was going to law school. The method you used is reminiscent of the IRAC legal analysis writing technique.


  2. I wash all my handknits in machine, using gentle wool cycle (30 Celsius degrees). So far, I haven’t felted anything.

    I have tried putting superwash socks to 40 degrees, which they are supposed to bear, but they don’t take that well. So I guess gentle wool wash is a way to go, no matter if the yarn is superwash or not.

  3. Huh, looks like a neat project. And while I’m not sure what I look for in a superwash yarn, I do know that I love the color! :)

  4. That looks like a really FUN experiment! :)

    I haven’t had any shrinkage problems with superwash and front loader cycles. I did however have a mishap with one sock in the dryer recently. Not shrinkage but a wee hole when it got caught on something. :(

  5. Mildly Yet Happily Confused says:

    I think the colors of your yarn are beautiful. Now, I must confess that being a VERY amature knitter there are times that a posting just leaves me thinking, “what??”. This was one of those times. ;)

    Still I know I learn something every time I read posts like these. This time I really see the need to make a swatch with your yarn BEFORE you start a project. I had been skipping that step. I know, I can hear the collective gasp now… ;) ;) :)

  6. Interesting – I wonder how much shrinkage you experienced in the dyeing – perhaps it was really more than a 13% loss! Hmmmmmm – yummy colors

  7. Hmmm….that is a good question. I usually “trust” the label when it says superwash…and I wash it. Some of them I have found are actually superwash (like the Marks and Katten Clown Sock yarn). I guess I just throw them in the wash and hope for the best. I too have a front load washer and trust its gentle cycle. Lots of trust going on. Hahah.

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