For a few days now we have been approaching Autumn and its chilly weather. And if you are like me, one of the things you prefer is to wrap yourself up in a sweater or a large shawl to keep warm.
We are knitters, aren’t we? And we particularly appreciate yarn, animal and vegetable fibres for what they give us: comfortable in all seasons.
These fibres have the advantage of being durable and resilient.
So how can we give them the longest possible life?
In this article, I’m going to share with you a few little tips I’ve learned along the way to keep my handknits as beautiful as the first day.
1. Freshening your handknits between two uses
Did you know that it is not necessary to regularly wash handknits, especially those made of animal fibres?
This is something I frequently remind my teenagers who, as soon as they wear a garment for a day (or even a few hours), put it in the dirty laundry bin.
Yarn is indeed endowed with many interesting characteristics:
- moisture and spoil repellent
- temperature regulator
- resistant to flame
The characteristics we are interested in here are its bacteriostatic and hydroregulatory capacities.
This means that it is able to breathe, absorb perspiration and moisture while keeping the skin dry and, above all, it does not allow the proliferation of bacteria which gives clothes worn several times that particular smell.
It is therefore not necessary to wash your handknits very regularly, especially if they are made of pure animals fibres. Airing them is usually enough to refresh them.
To air them, I proceed as follows: I hang them inside out on a wooden hanger or I put them on a wooden chair in my room and I don’t wear the same knitwear every day.
From time to time, as soon as the weather permits, I put them outside on a hanger and let them get some fresh air for a few hours.
Another solution is to put a cotton T-shirt underneath your knitwear so you don’t have to wear it next to your skin.
If it turns out that I’m not going to wear them for a few days, I fold them up and put them in my wardrobe and put a tissue with a few drops of fine lavender essential oil on it.
2. Removing stains immediately
To avoid having to wash your handknits every time you make a stain, I advise you to clean it as soon as possible.
Even though wool is soiling resistant, we are not immune to staining our clothes.
If this happens, I proceed as follows:
- If it is liquid, I absorb the remaining moisture with a tissue.
- If it is food, I gently remove as much of the residue as possible.
Then I wet the stain with a soapy water (I use wool detergent without rinsing but organic dishwashing liquid or baby shampoo may be suitable) and gently rub it with a sponge or a brush. Be careful not to rub too much to avoid felting!
3. De-pilling your handknits
If you use animal fibres, you will not be safe from pilling unless the yarn has been treated “anti-pilling”.
Due to yarn structure, small balls of fluff, may develop on the surface of your garments over time. Some more than others without this necessarily being due to the quality of the yarn: cashmere fibre pills faster than long-fibre wool. This is due to the spinning itself and short staple length, the shorter fibres are not trapped in the twist and eventually find their way out from the twist.
You will then see small fluflly balls appear on your knitwear, especially in places of abrasion such as underarms, wrists, chest, …
And this is where shaving becomes necessary….
4. Steam blocking
To avoid wet blocking and therefore soaking your wool in water (or in simple words, washing it), you can freshen up your handknits by blocking them with an iron.
You can find my tips in the YouTube video below (in French):
5. Washing your handknits
At some point you have to come there and you have to wash your handknits.
Personally, as soon as possible, for pullovers and cardigans, I machine wash selecting spin cycle using a high spin speed (around 1200 rpm).
But attention, I know my washing machine, I know that if I choose a cold cycle, the water will be really cold and I don’t rinse my handknits. I remind you that the conditions for felting wool are: soap + rubbing + change of water temperature.
I therefore use a no-rinse wool wash such as Eucalan or Soak.
I will then lay them flat on a towel using blocking combs to give them their shape.
As they have been spun at high speed and I usually choose a day when the sun shows its nose so they are very quickly dry.
As for shawls, hats, mitts…, I proceed as if I were blocking them (I advise you to watch the video above, I explain how I proceed).
6. Folding and storing
Once washed, I fold them properly. Take a look at the document available on the Brooklyn Tweed website.
Then I either put them in my wardrobe if I am going to use them.
Or I place them in a vacuum storage bag.
In either case, I place moth-proof cedar wood to avoid infestations or I will place fine lavender essential oil.
I don’t think this is the miracle solution. The best way to fight against moths is prevention: check your handknits regularly, wash them before storing them for a long period of time, avoid storing them in dark places.
If I really have doubts – because yes, I have already had moth infestations, I either put my handknits into the freezer for a few days or I put them into the oven at 50-75° for an hour or for skeins, I have already stored them for a day in my car in full sun (especially when the weather is very hot).
With these tips, I hope you are ready to maintain and keep your knitwear for many years to come.
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See you soon,