As our shareholders know, the share yarn is delightfully “farmy” when it first arrives. Although the wool has been scoured and washed at the mill prior to spinning, there is still lanolin that remains, which can make the wool feel sticky when knitting. We recommend that you give your yarn a bath before knitting with it. This will fluff up your yarn (which can considerably alter gauge) as well as soften it up. It’s very easy, but in case you’re feeling a little nervous, here’s a pictorial for you to follow:
All four yarns from 2013: Cormo DK weight, Cormo Worsted weight, Colored Flock, The Shepherd & The Shearer (Ignore the purple yarn. It was to help me keep track of which yarn was which.)
Remove your tags and untwist your hanks. This allows the water to fully saturate all parts of the yarn. Your hanks are already tied off in a couple places. So long as you’re gentle with the yarn, this should be fine. If you’ve removed the ties, you’ll want to replace them, though, to decrease the risk of tangling.
Fill your sink or a large bowl with lukewarm water about 3/4 of the way – you don’t want to get the water too hot as it increases the risk of felting the yarn, but the warmth helps the lanolin melt away. Add some wool wash like Eucalan or Soak, following the directions on the bottle. (Or just pour a good glug in there.) DO NOT USE WOOLITE. It actually is not gentle on the wool and can break it down. If you don’t have Eucalan or Soak or your yarn feels particularly greasy, you can use Dawn dish soap. It’s what they use on animals when they’re in oil spills, so it will degrease your wool. Swish the cleanser around to make sure it’s mixed in the water.
Gently place the loops of yarn into your cleaning vessel. It will not sink into the water immediately. That’s okay, just place them all on top of the water. Once you’ve set them, try not to move them to prevent tangling, so do try to cover as much surface area as possible.
Now, gently squish the yarn into the water. No need to act like a plunger, a gentle downward motion will do the trick beautifully.
Make sure all the wool is covered with water.
Wait about a half hour to make sure that it’s fully saturated. You can wait longer if you’d like – do this just before bed and leave it overnight if you’d prefer.
Carefully find a top of a loop and remove the hank. It’s best to pick up one hank in a bundle, which helps support the weight of the wool, as wool absorbs a tremendous amount of water. Squeeze, but do not wring, the water out. Set aside in another bowl while you work, or transfer to a colander in the sink if convenient. (I like to repeat the process with water and a couple glugs of vinegar. The vinegar helps close the scales again and makes the yarn smoother. If you use Dawn, I highly recommend it, as you should rinse the dawn out of your yarn, anyway.)
Once all your yarn is removed from the water, you’ll notice that the water is a bit cloudy – like watered down skim milk. That’s the lanolin and probably some dirt.
If you’re really lucky, you’ll have a “The Laundry Alternative,” which is like a tiny washing machine spin cycle only. I was able to dump my yarn in there, and spin out all the excess water.
Otherwise, you could spin it out in your washing machine using the spin cycle. Be careful to balance the load and ONLY select the spin cycle. You might want to wait with your washing machine to make sure you don’t actually wash it. Or you could use a salad spinner and spin out a hank or two at a time. Perhaps outdoors. Maybe that’s a good project for your kids. Or you can squeeze the water out of the yarn while it’s in a colander .
If there is still a significant amount of water in the yarn, spread a towel out on the floor and place your open hank on it.
Fold/roll the yarn up until it’s a long tube.
Then walk on the towel, which will squeeze the water out of the yarn and into the towel. Rotate the towel a quarter turn and repeat. Do this until you’ve walked on each side.
Put your hands inside the loop and briskly pull your hands apart to align the fibers back into a loop. Repeat a couple of times until it looks nice.
Lay the yarn out to dry.
Voila! You have gorgeous fluffy yarn. Washed yarn on the left, unwashed yarn on the right. You can see how it’s fluffed up.
You might find some vegetable matter (VM) aka hay in your yarn. Pick it out as you knit, as it’s more difficult to remove from a finished item. Much of it will fall out as you wind the yarn and handle it in general. I think it adds to the farm-fresh feeling.