Superwash and Natural Fibers 

I’ve been listening to the Woolful podcast recently, and I’m learning so much about fiber and yarn. I highly recommend it! Among other things, it has made me think a lot more about where my yarn comes from. I’ve always had interest in sourcing food and clothing from local and sustainable sources, but I hadn’t put much emphasis on those elements in regard to the yarn that I was buying; I was in for quantity and not quality in the earlier years of my knitting. More recently, I’ve decided that I’m worth the extra money that can be spent on more quality yarn. But, I am noticing that even within the available fibers at local yarn shops, there’s a lot to think of in terms of the processing and sourcing of the different yarns. 

I’ve found myself really enjoying knitting with fibers that make me feel connected with the animal they came from lately. I’ve also become more interested in the sheep breeds and wool. In particular, I’ve been enjoying Lopi and the Imperial Yarn (Columbia specifically), which I’ve used in my most recent projects. I’ve also recently purchased some of the Snoqualmie Valley yarn and Peace Fleece as well. I’m excited to try them! 

I just started a shawl from Madelinetosh DK. Although it is lovely, it feels entirely different from the yarns that I had been working with in some of my more recent projects. It made me wonder how it is that wools could have such different textures. Through the Woolful podcast and blog and some other reading, I’ve come to learn that superwash yarns involve some heavy duty processing and chemicals. The process allows for machine washing, which is a major plus, but it seemingly takes away a lot of the natural texture of the yarn. Given the overall change in the texture of the wool, it makes for feeling less connected to the animal/wool for me. Now that I’ve become more aware (and I’m continuing to become more aware), I think I’m more atunned to the huge contrast between superwash and other fibers, and despite the lovely colors to be found, I’m just not loving how they feel as I knit as much (despite the relative softness). It’s amazing how knowledge can change perception in some ways – I’m not sure I would’ve thought about it otherwise. 

I’m trying my best to knit down my stash (including some of the acrylic and superwash I have accumulated – I donate hats to Knots of Love when I get extra time). As I refresh in the future, my plan is to try to buy yarns that are at least semi-local and not put through a lot of processing. 

I’m curious how others feel about knowing where their yarn comes from and how it is dyed and processed. Is it something that you consider when purchasing yarn? What are your favorite yarns to work with? 

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