Yesterday I made it most of the way through seaming the second graft back together on Squiggles. And I made a bunch of swatches for a secret project and tossed them in the washing machine and dryer. It’s for a baby project, so I wanted to make sure that the yarn I chose would hold up to the abuse a mom (even a knitting mom) might give it.

The results were fascinating.

The candidate yarns: Mission Falls 1824 Wool (100% Merino Superwash), Cascade 220 Superwash (100% wool), and Lion Brand Wool-Ease (80% acrylic, 20% wool).

Each yarn was knitted into 6 inch squares on size 8 needles. Interestingly enough, I had identical gauge on each.

The abuse: Machine wash warm (All Free & Clear detergent); tumble dry medium heat (no fabric softener); mixed in with a bunch of socks and undies.

The performance:
None of the swatches shrank noticably. All of them came out very staticky as could be expected without softener. But the rest of performance varied.

Mission Falls: the swatch became decidedly fuzzy. So much so, that I took it out of the running immediately. To be fair, the label says “cool to lukewarm water” and “tumble dry low”. I guess they really mean it.

Cascade: This swatch got a tiny bit fuzzier, but it also became incredibly soft (I brought this swatch and the Lion Brand to work today, and all my co-workers immediately said it was super soft). And where my knitting was a tad irregular before washing, it looks flawless now.

Lion Brand: This swatch also got a tiny bit fuzzy, perhaps less so than the Cascade. However, where my knitting looked nicee and regular before tossing it in the washer, the fabric looks jaggedy and crisp now. I think the acrylic is showing itself. To be fair, it looks just fine, but it is a striking difference when compared to the Cascade.

Clearly, the Lion Brand was more forgiving when I knit it (so I’ll use it for my Master’s swatches), but it didn’t hold up as well to the abuse.

In the end, I think I’m going with the Cascade. While I will recommend to the mother that she take care in washing it, it’s good to know that if she forgets, it’s not the end of the world.