Saturday, July 5, 2008

Knittin' Crap: The Great Linen Yarn Pre-Washing Experiment

(Previously posted on the Ravelry forums.)

Louet Euroflax is a beautiful 100% linen yarn that comes in many colors and weights. Unfortunately, it is also stiffer than all get-out when new, which makes it difficult work with. Like all linen, it softens up tremendously as you keep washing it and sticking it in the dryer. So why not start that process before working with it to make it easier?

I just finished my first experiment pre-washing Louet Euroflax and I’m calling it a big success.

I bought six skeins of the Euroflax Worsted Weight, 5 in Purple Mystere and 1 in St Lawrence (both marled) for Doris Chan's Tall Latte pullover. I did some reading and here’s what I ended up doing. I did it with all six skeins at once. Keep in mind that brave, lazy, and stupid are often synonyms.

  1. Tie the skeins in lots of places. I used natural-colored Sugar’n’Cream because I had it handy and it’s cheap. First I put the ties spaced every 3-4” around the looped skein, and then I tied the two halves together at 3 points into one long snake. I knotted the ties tightly but I didn’t wrap them around the skein too tightly.


(Picture is after washing… look how floppy! But at least you can see all the ties.)

  1. Soak in extremely warm water and a little Woolite for about 2 hours.

  2. Rinse well. Watch the purple water swirl down the drain.

  3. Wring the excess water out, but do not untie.

At this point, some people might have gone straight to the dryer step. Well, I find new linen stickier when it’s wet, and I had nightmares about tangling. But mostly I wanted to throw them in the dryer with something else, figuring the banging around would loosen the fibers more. And I didn’t have anything to dry them with because that would have required doing laundry. I live in an apartment building and I’m lazy. So…

  1. Lay out the still-tied skeins on a mesh sweater-drying thingie.

  2. Two days later, or whenever you get around to doing laundry… stick the skeins in a lingerie bag. Throw in the dryer with your wet jeans and at least one dryer sheet.

Yay! Maybe it would have softened more if I had thrown it in the dryer when wet. Maybe not. The lint filter had lots of purple lint, but it didn’t stick to my clothes, even my off-white jeans.

I’ve only balled one skein but had no problems at all doing it. It’s still not as soft as linen that’s been washed lots of times, but it’s as soft as I need it, and you can certainly repeat the above steps as often as you wish.

I haven’t swatched it yet, but I can feel a huge difference. One thing I did notice is that the strands not on the outside of the skein did not get quite as soft, presumably because they weren’t coming into direct contact with the dryer sheet. Not a huge difference, but it could affect gauge in some instances. It probably would have been worse if I had pulled the ties tighter, but I wouldn’t want to loosen them much, either, because you might get more chance of tangling.

I think for additional softness at this point, you’d probably only need to repeat the dryer cycle, and maybe add a lot more dryer sheets. Considering the excess dye I got when I washed it, though, I would definitely do that at least once first.

1 comment:

spajadigit said...

Looks like a sausage.