When washing your project you probably should follow the washing instructions on your ball band. Don't get me in trouble for saying this, but sometimes you can do your own thing. Now, don't go and knit an adult men's sweater and throw it in the washer just to "see what happens"... make a swatch!! This is a good use for those gauge swatches I know you're not making.
***Disclaimer*** This is just what I do, there are a billion ways and opinions on this.... I could write a book with everything I've read/heard...
Here is what I do when I wash by hand:
- Make sure my sink is clean
- Put the stopper on the sink and put a dose of SOAK on top of it (the stopper, that is)
- Fill the sink with water the same temperature as the air (lukewarm)
- Submerge the project, squeezing lightly to get all the bubbles out
- Gather up the project away from the stopper and drain the sink
- Squeeze or don't squeeze depending on your project
- Deposit onto a towel and proceed with blocking procedure
I recently finished a shawl in Malabrigo Silky Merino and this was my sink:(I can't get this to upload without rotating, grrr!)
If you get a sink full of dye, as you might from malabrigo, don't be scared! This is EXTRA dye, it's not actually coming out of your yarn - you won't have a faded color. Sometimes it takes a LOT of rinsing to get all the dye out and the companies don't realize they've stopped too soon. I don't care much about this - no big deal to me. Doesn't get your fingers red or anything.
So what is this blocking thing everyone is talking about? Everyone is doing it, you should do it too! Really, it's a good thing. After it's gone through the wash you might be able to shape your project as you see fit. This is amazing for shawls:
It transforms a lump of holey fabric into something flowy and pointy:
You can see I've pinned out the points of the shawl. Once it dries this way it should stay pointy.
Is this good for projects other than lace? YES! Blocking can straighten out individual crooked stitches, giving your project a more finished look. If you're making a sweater you can block the pieces to the correct size. Sometimes if you've come up short and don't want to remake something it can be reshaped in blocking (only a little bit, not a few inches). I block pieces of sweaters so that the edges lay more flat while I'm seaming them together.
Blocking doesn't work as well with acrylics and nylons, though you get absolutely beautiful results with naturals (wool, cotton, bamboo, silk, etc.) and some man-processed naturals (viscose, soy, corn, etc.). I put things down onto a towel and pin them to the rug - some people use their mattress - but use your brain on this, don't ruin something nice with the moisture.
What did we learn today kiddies? Sinks are for washing more than just hands! Swatches actually have another good use! Finishing doesn't end with the last stitch knit/crocheted!
It's up to you whether you spend this time with each and every project. I can tell you that after you've done it once or twice the benefits greatly outweigh the fact that you spent an extra bit of time doing it.
Have fun with the string,