SPORT AND GANSEY WEIGHT; FRONT END WASHERS

More questions from the inbox.

Sport weight = 5 ply gansey weight?

Not really.  As the "5 ply" weight designator implies, Gansey/Guernsey is in between sport weight (6 ply)  and fingering (4 ply).  There are yarns labeled as sport that are on the thin side that work up nicely at the 6.5 spi Gansey target as well as yarns labeled fingering that are thick and also cover that gauge. But not every sport or fingering can be used as a sub for it.  Plus Gansey weight usually imples a classic smooth finish, dense yarn that supports superior stitch definition.  Wendy/Peter Pan still makes traditional Guernsey 5-Ply, now a superwash.  It is labeled at 7spi, but is denser than fingering/sock yarn at that gauge. 

Washing yarn in a front loader washing machine with a wool cycle?

Front loaders are known for gentle action compared to aggressive water-hogging top loaders, so I suspect that you’ll be able to wash the spinning oil from loosely wound hanks using one.  I know people who complain about the flip side of this problem, that it’s impossible to get their front loader to full yarn for felted projects.  BUT there are caveats.  The machine has to have settings that control water temperature in both the wash and rinse cycles, so that you can set the same temperature for both.  It has to have the ability to retain water for soaking (some use very little water and getting a a pool for the yarn to sit in may be problematic). 

One other challenge:  it also has to have controls that let you either eliminate agitation, or that let you advance the cycle past the agitation stage of the wash to plain old drain then spin.  If the machine relies on side-mounted flanges on the inside of the drum to churn the contents as the drum spins, it will be impossible to eliminate agitation-like movement of the stuff being washed.  I don’t have a front loader, so I can’t speak to whether or not the agitation inherent in that type of action would allow washing yarn with no risk of fulling.

As for pre-programmed wool cycles on all machines,  I’m very skeptical about them.  My own top-loader has an alleged wool cycle that’s pretty much useless.  All it does is put the wash through a shorter (though not less vicious) agitation cycle.  It does nothing to govern water temperature, and the rough treatment although shorter is still enough to induce fulling.  I wouldn’t risk using my machine’s wool cycle for finished items, and especially not for more vulnerable un-knit hanked yarn.   I know some of the more expensive European washers handle wool extremely well.  Experimentation here is warranted.  Since seeking reliability of results in knitting always leads to a pile of swatches somewhere, here’s a chance to put them to constructive use.  If you want to determine the usefulness of your washer’s wool cycle, gather up a bunch of swatches then put them through a cycle and observe the result.

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