Superwash and Non Superwash Yarns

First of all, we feel it’s very important to discuss and find out the process of all the products that we create and sell at LITLG from our labels, our packaging, and the paper our Magazine is printed on which are all recycled, down to how we treat our employees, the environment we have built for them to work in and the pace and quality we work by. 

We love both superwash and non-superwash yarns and find they each have their place in a knitters world.  Superwash yarns elongate the length of life of the garment, and for people who do not have the time to hand wash or who want practical garments for children and babies, this is important so they can still choose to use wool. It’s an incredibly privileged position to be negative about a fiber that is already in the top percentage of sustainability when a very high percentage of the world will be wearing clothes that are hugely damaging to the environment.

The simple act of choosing to knit your wardrobe with wool balances out fast fashion and over-industrialized garment production.    And as always in life we can take everything one step further so we have put a lot of research into who we buy our yarn from and the process in making it.  If we can improve as time moves on we will endeavour to do so.  

We have recently heard some claims about Superwash Wool which really surprised us: it isn’t as warm,  it will stretch and lose shape, it is not as water-resistant.  We have knitted many garments with both superwash and non-superwash yarns and the differences are negligible not something we have ever noticed.  Designers who design with superwash yarns generally make the drape a feature and keep in mind needle size and measurements so the garment goes back into shape after a wash, I’ve never noticed any superwash yarn to be not warm, you can feel this on your lap as you knit the wonderful glow of warmth that all wool emits.  And though wool has some water repellent qualities it is not a waterproof fabric!  

Please read below our research and work towards bringing the best product possible to our studio.  

Our Superwash Yarns and Sustainability

The mill that processes our merino superwash yarns is accredited with the EU Flower and OEKO-TEX 100 and runs a state-of-the-art effluent treatment plant.  This means that the water is recycled and when it is discharged it is better than the drinking water you get from the tap.  We can only speak for our own fibers, this does not mean that other superwash treatments follow these procedures.  We are very particular about where our wool is superwash treated.

Biodegradability studies of our Superwash Yarns

Again please note this is only relevant for our yarns, it may not be applicable to other superwash fibers. 

Firstly the wool is treated in Chlorine but not as a gas and it doesn’t strip away the scales, it dulls the tips, and removes the lipid layer which makes it more manageable to dye, unlike non-superwash yarn which is much harder to dye.  

This process reduces the ability of the scales to stick to each other and therefore reduces felting.

Next, a resin is applied and creates a microscopic web-like structure permanently bonded to the wool, this smooths the scales, improving the handle, and also prevents felting whilst maintaining the dyeability.

Recent studies have shown that the type of superwash wool we use, biodegrades very quickly in composting and marine environments, the good thing about the resin used on our wools is that it is a fairly weak structure, (unlike other resins which are applied to other types of shrink resistant treatments and may resist breaking down) it is a great option because it has shown in studies to break down very quickly leaving no residues. 

Resins and plastics have different structures, the resin structure of Superwash is water-soluble.  Biodegradability studies have shown that the water absorbability of the resin allowed the wool to break down quickly because it allowed microbial action to take place at a greater rate. The polyamide samples that were compared in the study showed little or no degradation in the same environment which is what you would expect from a synthetic fiber.   Basically, the resin breaks down and does not cause microplastic pollution, it’s a really weak structure compared to plastic.

Non Superwash Yarns

For the past 3 years we have been dyeing and developing our non superwash Hinterland fingering base and seeing how best it works with different projects.  I would not recommend it for socks for instance but for cardigans and shawls it is great.  It is a rustic yarn but not too dry it is soft and not scratchy,  and it has a sheen from the Gotland wool which is blended with the BFL.  We have created a special palette for this base so that we can dye it to  bring out it’s character – you can find it here.  

Currently in production we are sampling other non-superwash bases so we can bring you a DK and a Fingering weight to enjoy.  We will have a section soon on the website which will cater to ordering these yarns in the color palettes that will work best to keep the yarn as unfelted as possible with lots of natural options.  Watch this space:) 

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