I just finished my Fern Lake Baby Blanket, which got me thinking about machine-washing knitted or crochet projects. I am going to put the blanket in the machine but very carefully! Read on...
When knitting or crocheting for new parents or a friend who might not want to hand wash something, most people say, "I need a yarn that can be machine washed and dried." The machine-friendly yarns, many of which might have a bit of acrylic or nylon to help offset the felting or shrinking issues with wool. However, hitting the project with a regular washing machine cycle and hot dryer will not set it up for longevity.
Let's think about it for a minute. You spend hours knitting or crocheting a project for a family member or friend; do you really want it thrown in with a big load of laundry? It will be destroyed within a few washes. I always enclose a little note to highlight a couple of machine-washing tips.
1.) If you have a top-loading machine with an agitator, please hand wash the item. See my blog post on how easy it is to hand wash a small item. Even the sturdiest of yarns will be affected by the movement of an agitator. (There is a reason knitters use these machines for felting.)
2.) Wash the item on the delicate, gentle, or hand wash cycle - Most modern washing machines come with one of these options. These cycles use lower-temperature water with low agitation and spin.
3.) If you can, place the item into a mesh laundering bag - this step lowers the friction on the item even more, see above.
4.) Ensure no zippers, velcro, or hooks are in the same load - Velcro is NOT a friend of your project. Trust me, it will want to snuggle right up to your project, but it will be a toxic relationship.
5.) Use wool wash when possible; if not, use a small amount of a gentle detergent - Think about giving the recipient a bit of wool wash.
7.) Remove the item from the machine as soon as the wash cycle is complete.
8.) If you can, lie the item flat to dry. If it has to be machine-dried, use the lightest setting, check it often, and take it out while still damp. - No matter the content of the yarn, high heat destroys the fibers. High heat is a no-no.
I have included a small instruction sheet you can print out and include with your treasure. Give the recipient the hand wash-only printout if your gift cannot be machine-washed!