One of the things about my knitting that is unique is my rule about superwash yarn – I choose not to use it when I can. Let me preface this by saying I do have a proficient understanding of chemistry – I was a biochem major in college, so the use of the word “chemicals” is probably not going to appear without a qualifier. I’m definitely not an expert on the subject of superwash wool, though. Ashley at Woolful has a wonderful blog post that goes much more into depth than I am going to here.
To sum it up, superwash wool is when wool is descaled and coated in a type of plastic so that the fibers don’t felt and shrink when agitated a lot, as in the washing machine and dryer. In general, when I’m concerned about the toxicity or processing of a product, I am not concerned about the end product being a dangerous substance. This used to be my main concern when being more careful about unnatural chemicals in my home, products and environment. Generally, the most damaging part of using man-made chemicals to create or adulterate an item is in the manufacturing process. And mostly I’m concerned about the environment – plastic taking the Earth’s lifetime to degrade, degrading plastics leeching substances into the soil, the chemicals being released into the environment polluting the soil and water harming flora and fauna from the microscopic level up to big-ass birds and trees, and the carbon emissions of powering the manufacturing. This probably isn’t an exhaustive list.
Anywho, what I’m trying to say is that when I can, I choose wool that has not had the mainstream superwash treatment. I don’t mind hand washing my hand-knits. It makes me nervous to even put superwash items in the washing machine. I do make some concessions so I don’t go crazy, though (like letting myself buy whatever sock yarn I want because FUN and using superwash for non-knitter gifts). There are definitely plenty of companies that offer yarn that is the least amount processed as possible, so I don’t struggle with locating yarn to knit with. That being said, there are tons of indie dyers who have amazingly beautiful handpainted yarn, which is hard to resist.
Although it’s a small part at the moment, I hope to affect the environment positively an eensy bit with my knitting!