You naturally want your lovingly made hand knits to last a very long time – and they will if you clean and curate them with equal care. Here are a few ideas on how to keep them looking as fresh and vibrant as they day you created them… It’ll become a matter of routine and take up little extra time – which is well spent in preserving pieces that are special to you.
Knitwear doesn’t have to be washed after every wearing. Wool in particular has a natural resistance to moisture and dirt. You can hang your pieces near an open window or outside to air if necessary – for example, if they have picked up odours from cooking. When you do need to wash them, check the original yarn label for instructions (so remember to keep at least one example of each type of yarn you’ve used). Many manufacturers will recommend hand washing – but most washing machines have such a programme that washes really gently at a very cool temperature. Warm to high temperatures can ruin knitwear by shrinking, coarsening or felting it. Use a detergent specifically for wool and delicate fabrics, and not too much of it.
Spin knitted garments so they emerge from the machine close to being dry, which means they won’t pull out of shape. If you do wash by hand, again always ensure that water is cool, and handle and squeeze out garments very gently – don’t wring! – then spin them in the washing machine. Dry them outdoors whenever possible, on clothes hangers, not pegs.
If you happen to spill food or drink on a knitted item, absorb the moisture with paper towel before it sinks in. Then, if necessary, very lightly sponge the area with dilute wool detergent.
Beating those bobbles
Sometimes ‘pills’ or tiny bobbles of yarn appear on the surface of knitwear. This is caused by broken fibres getting tangled in places where there’s friction, such as under the arms, and they appear more on knitwear because the threads are looser than in woven garments. Gentle washing on a short cycle, and washing clothes inside out can help to prevent this. If pills appear, they can be removed safely without snagging the garment using a special fabric comb.
Store wool mix items with cedar balls, lavender or another moth deterrent. They must be perfectly dry and clean when put away – any moisture can cause mildew and moths are less attracted to clean items.
In a word, treat your sweaters, cardis, hats and scarves as kindly as you would your skin and hair – applying only gentle treatment and substances! – and they will repay you with years of wear.