Monday, October 19, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Don't believe everything you read.

Case in point: The "hand wash" cycle of your washing machine is not the same as washing a garment by hand. I know it sounds like it should be. But it isn't.

I wish it were. I like a shortcut as much as the next person. Life would be so much easier if we really could toss all of our hand knits in the washer and go merrily along. But we can't. Bad things happen. Even to good people. Don't let your heart get broken.

I've heard a couple of gut wrenching stories in the past few months. Just this week we got a phone call about a woman who had put a Helen's Lace shawl in the washer. It came out a shrunken, matted mess. All those hours of work were wasted. I felt just terrible for her.

I am a skeptic by nature. I wouldn't have believed the washer. Even if it said "hand wash" in all capital letters right there on its front. I probably wouldn't have believed it even if it whispered sweet nothings in my ear. But that's just me.

This wasn't an issue a couple of years ago. Washing machines were much less sophisticated. You only had a few choices like Normal, Permanent Press and Gentle. Or Hot, Warm and Cold. My washer lets me pick from 9 temperatures, 9 levels of spin and 14 different cycles. That's 1134 combinations. I'm pretty sure I don't need that many.

I guess it brings up some other questions. Should knitters be busting the washing machine companies' collective chops about calling a cycle hand wash when it clearly isn't? Should yarn companies label their product differently?

I'd like to try and avert another tragedy. Beautiful yarn is a terrible thing to waste.


Alison said...

I've had success washing *some* handknits using the hand wash cycle on the washing machine. But, I test with a swatch first. (An excellent use for those gauge swatches that so many of my knitting students hate to "waste" their precious yarn on.)

JelliDonut said...

I have a front load washer that cost an arm and a leg. It has a "wool" cycle that is supposed to be even more gentle than the "delicate" cycle. I don't have the guts to try it.

Cheryl :) said...

I totally agree, but I'm lazy. I shrunk a pair of socks that were beautiful. I can just barely squeeze my feet into them if I work on it. Makes me so sad :( I'm more careful now. I put small stuff in a garment bag. For sweaters I will just fill the tub and use Soak. Roll them in a towel after 15 minutes or so and spin the water out. Reshape and you're good to go.

Kristine said...

This brings up a great point. I am going to change the wording on my packaging to say handwash by hand, not machine. No matter how silly it sounds, I too have heard these stories.

Maureen said...

I tell handknit gift recipients, "wash as you would your baby: warm water, mild soap, do not wring or twist. Dry flat." I think they get it.

Lea-Ann said...

Same here! I've had more customers recently telling me they were using the handwash cycle on their machine. I even clarify with them when they buy wool that it is not a superwash, that it needs to be soaked only, that they may use the washing machine to soak, but only if it doesn't twist, flop, spit water on, soak means soak, spin out and dry flat. I would like a front loader hand wash cycle to wash my superwash wools because my current washer is a great beat-em-up 1970s deal and is wonderful for felting! Thanks for the Public Service Announcement, I'm going to link to it on our blog. Lea-Ann

Anonymous said...

Dude, I don't even have the nerve to put my superwash things in the washer. Of course, this means I don't have to keep track of what's made from what, which is a bonus.

ames said...

phew! fortunately the hand wash cycle on my machine actually's gentler on my handknits than i am. i've used it for post-project washing bunches of times in the last 5 years with no problems. the problem is of course a particular machine company's definition of "hand wash," but i would definitely test it on a swatch first, never test it out on a shawl...yikes! =[