A lot of people will tell you that hand knits should never, ever go near your washing machine and tell you horror stories if stretched or felted garments, but as with many things when it comes to modern yarns (and modern machines) there is more to your washing options.
There are reasons why you might not want to machine wash every knit you have. For example, putting your cashmere or mohair sweater in a hot wash with a pile of towels is never going to be a good approach – wet heat and vigourous rubbing (thanks to the towels) is how you make felt after all.
However, many yarns are washing machine friendly and there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you get the best outcome for machine washable knits.
Read the label
Before you do anything, read the yarn label or look the yarn up online to find any washing instructions. Just as with clothes, yarns come with washing instructions, generally on the ball band. These will tell you if the yarn can be machine washed and what temperature to set your machine at.
If the label says yarn is suitable for machine washing, do follow the rest of the washing instructions exactly.
Remember the tension square you made for the sweater you are planning to wash?
Pop that in the washing machine at the recommended settings and see how it goes. This is a great way to assuage any worries about how the yarn will behave in your machine. You can also test stain removers on your swatch.
Treat your knits kindly
Pop the garment in a pillow case and tie the top, or in a muslin laundry bag, before it goes in the machine. This stops you knitted items twisting and rubbing during the wash which reduces the risk of pilling or felting. Also avoid washing them with items that might rub like towels or jeans.
Choose a gentle detergent or a specialist wool wash – always make sure your wool wash is suitable for use in a washing machine.
Choose a gentle, delicate or specialist wool setting on your machine – modern machines have lots of options for temperature and how fast the drum turns which can treat your washing more gently.
To spin or not to spin
This is another area where you might want to use your swatch to test if your knit can be spun. If you decide a machine spin is ok, make sure they are still securely fixed inside the pillow case or laundry bag before the spin starts.
If you don’t want to use the spin cycle, roll your knit in a towel and gentle squeeze the water out. Never wring your knits.