Gifting a crochet item is like giving a friend or family member a piece of yourself. You’ve put your time and energy into this piece (sometimes literal blood, sweat, and tears. . .those scissors can be pointy), and you want to make sure that the recipient of your masterpiece knows how to wash it.
But first, let’s explore whether or not you need to wash crochet gifts prior to delivering the items.
Do I need to wash the item before I gift it?
The short answer–it depends.
If I’m gifting an item that is wearable, or will touch the skin in any way, I always launder the item prior to gifting it. If it’s something that will be used in the process of washing (a dishcloth), or an item that will be used to display in the home (a coaster, basket, or wall art) I never wash before gifting.
On items like blankets and towels, I always like washing prior to giving away so that I can make sure that the yarn color doesn’t bleed and I can weave in any loose ends that I might not have secured tightly enough. It also helps if you are planning on selling the item and providing a yarn care label to the person purchasing the item.
Tips for Washing Crochet Gifts
Read your yarn labels
Always save the labels that are on the yarn you use to create the project. The yarn label itself will have yarn care instructions that should be followed when washing that particular type of yarn. Because yarn is made from different fibers, and dyed using different methods, yarn care instructions tend to vary. For example, you wouldn’t want to launder wool yarn on high heat or else you are going to end up with a felted gift. Yarn labels will display images showing how the item can be washed. For a list of images and what they mean, please visit this page on the Lion Brand website.
Additionally I recommend that you create a care label for your gift. This will help the recipient know exactly how they should launder it in the future.
Hand washing vs Washing Machine
The method in which you wash your gift will be very important based upon what fiber it’s made from. Acrylic and synthetic yarn can be washed in the regular laundry since it will not shrink. Whereas cotton and linen items can be washed in the laundry on a cold wash setting.
Delicate items such as doilies, or items created with a fiber that didn’t come with washing instructions should be hand-washed in cold water (preferably in the tub or sink) and then dried laying flat.
Use a pillow case, or mesh bag
If you have a smaller item that you need to launder, put it inside a pillow case or a mesh bag to separate it from the rest of the laundry.
Avoid the spin cycle for small or delicate items
If you are washing something delicate in the washing machine, you can always stop it before the spin cycle. If you need to absorb the water out of it to dry, place it between towels and roll the towel up to absorb the excess water instead of sending it through the spin cycle.
Like your regular laundry, you also need to be mindful of the detergent that you wash your crocheted items in. I typically will choose a gentle detergent that is free from dyes or perfumes. I like using the same one that I used when my daughter was a baby (especially on any items that you may be gifting to someone, because you often don’t know how sensitive their skin is).
Block your work
After washing, I always like to block my work so that it looks nice once it is delivered. Blocking is the process in which you pin your items (using rust-proof pins) to a blocking board. This will shape your project correctly and ensure that it looks nice upon delivery. I’ve done two types of blocking with my work–blocking while wet, where you simply pin the piece to the blocking board while it’s wet and allow it to dry before you remove, and starch blocking, where I spray the damp item with starch and then allow to dry. The starch is good for items that you’d like stiffened (such as doilies). I’ve also used one more method to block acrylic yarn–steam. In this method you want to be careful not to touch the iron to the yarn, however the steam shapes the item nicely when it’s pinned to a blocking board. One of these days I’ll write a full post on how to block your crochet work by yarn type. 🙂
Acrylic Yarn + Washing = Softy Goodness
One more thought before I close out this post on acrylic yarn. Acrylic yarn is often one of the most common yarns (and most readily available to some of us who live in more rural areas). It’s an amazing yarn, but can be scratchy at times. I’ve discovered that washing this type of yarn really softens it up.
If you choose to wash it prior to using it, remove the label and stick your hand in the center to loosen it up. Don’t pull it apart, but just make sure it’s nice and loose. Then, throw it in a pillow case (because you don’t want it unraveling all over your washing machine) and wash it with detergent and fabric softener. Then you can go ahead and put it in the dryer (still in the pillow case, yes) and use a dryer sheet.
Once it comes out, feel the softness. (Go hug your yarn, I’ll wait. . .)
Washing acrylic yarn is said to make it softer each time that you do it.
I’ve also read that you can use shampoo and conditioner on items that you hand-wash to soften up acrylic yarn. I have yet to try this method, however if I get the chance to I will come back and update this post with how that went!
If you have any tips on yarn washing, please comment below. I love reading about what works for others and I’m sure that my readers would too!