Once you start working with Malabrigo, you'll soon realize that every skein is different. Sometimes it isn't noticeable but it is best to play it safe and alternate skeins every other row or every two rows. Also keep in mind that each bag of 10 skeins is a dyelot so try to plan ahead and get enough skeins at the start of your project. If you purchase all of your skeins at once, they will be more likely to be similar. Some of the more variegated colorways are hand selected and matched from several dye batches to help keep the skeins in a bag as consistent as possible.
At first you may notice that some of the skeins have a vinegar smell. This is a result of the dye processes. The smell will dissipate as you wear and wash your garment over time. Don't worry, it is all just part of the Malabrigo experience!
Malabrigo does tend to pill with wear, especially the single ply yarns (Merino Worsted, Silky Merino, and Lace). It is just one of the downsides of super soft yarn. To combat pilling, try using a sweater stone, which is a simple and natural way to keep your knits looking nice. Use short gentle strokes to detach any pills, then remove them using a lint roller. Usually after a few de-pilling sessions, the yarn will begin to pill less.
Two of the Malabrigo yarns we carry, Rios and Sock, are superwash, meaning that they can be machine washed and dried without felting. All of the other yarns require you to gently hand wash them. I usually finish my knits by filling a bowl full of lukewarm water, adding a dash of wool wash, then letting them soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Gently squeeze the garment under the water, making sure not to agitate it too much. As you lift your item out of the bath, make sure to support all of it to ensure that it does not get stretched out. Press on it lightly (do not wring!) to get some of the excess water out. Then lay it on a clean towel and either roll it up or fold it over and press to get as much extra moisture out as possible. Place on a new clean towel, point a fan at it, and let dry out of direct sunlight, flipping after a day or so.
After washing your garment, sometimes you will notice excess dye in the bath. This is nothing to worry about, and I've never seen the color of the garment fade after washing.
To block a finished garment, I just lay the item out flat, shaped in the proper dimensions without the aid of pinning. However, in the case of lace shawls, pins are usually required to get a crisp look. To block shawls I prefer to use blocking wires and pin them out over foam floor mats covered in a sheet or towel.
If you have a felting project in mind, Malabrigo Merino Worsted is a great yarn choice. This yarn felts beautifully and creates a nice even fabric. I felt most of my items in a top loading washing machine. I will only felt items by hand if they're really small. Keep in mind that you will not be able to felt garments knit from Rios or Sock, as these are superwash wools.
Before you begin the felting process, make sure you place your item in a zipper pillow case. This protects your washing machine from any fibers that may come free of your knit. I have also noticed that the pillow case protects your item from stretching and becoming misshapen in the wash.
The supplies you should bring with you to your washer are your knit item in a zippered pillow case, a bath towel, an old pair of jeans or bed sheet (helps with the agitation), and your regular liquid laundry detergent. Place your knit item and jeans or sheet into your washer and set it to the smallest load size, hot water, and longest agitation cycle. Add a small amount of the laundry detergent, no more than a teaspoon or so is usually required. I have used Tide and All brands, and both worked fine.
I let it agitate 10 minutes before checking on the item, and then every 5 minutes after that. Each time you check on it take it out of the bag, and squeeze the water out of it to see how the felting is going. When you take your item out of the pillow case make sure you support the whole item, instead of just lifting it by a section of it. This can stretch portions of it out and make it hard to felt evenly. Usually it doesn't look like it is doing anything at the start, but felting can happen really quickly once it gets going. When it is getting close to the size you want, check it more often to make sure you don't let it go too long. Sometimes items will look like they are less felted when wet, so be sure to squeeze the water out and check it before throwing it back in.
Be patient. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes and other times it takes close to an hour. If it isn't felted after the first agitation cycle is up, just restart the agitation cycle again. You can tell when to take it out by checking its size and also by looking at the stitch definition. I usually aim for little or no stitch definition, but for some projects it is nice to still be able to see the stitches. It really just depends on the project and your taste! Also it isn't a problem if your item gets a little smaller than you'd like because you can stretch it into the shape and size you want while it is drying.
Don't let your item go through the spin cycle. I have heard that this can cause permanent creases in your finished item. When it is finished take it out of the wash and rinse it in the sink in cool or warm water to get out the soap, then roll it in the towel to get as much of the water out that you can. You can shape the item while it is drying in lots of different ways. I have stuffed things with towels, clean laundry, plastic bags, or fiber fill (only for stuffed animals, then you have to re-stuff them once they're dry). You can also stretch your felted knits over household items like boxes or bowls. Don't be afraid to really stretch your item into the shape and size you want. Leave your item to dry on a towel out of direct sunlight.
Felting can very much be a trial and error process. You will become more confident the more you try it out. Everyone can felt and it is a lot of fun!