It’s my favorite time of year.
Well, yes, fall. But more importantly, it’s the start of knitting season. I know you can (and I do) knit year-round, but when there’s a chill in the air, and a nice cup of cocoa or cider on-hand…well, that’s when I really like to curl up on a comfy couch and get to work. I used to knit each of the kids a sweater every fall, and I still have two on the needles now that I need to finish up soon! (and a blanket…and a scarf…and — where are my knitting people? You get me, right? We don’t judge each others’ unfinished knitting projects?)
I used to think I was much too busy to wash these handknits actually by hand…until I realized that it takes me between 1 1/2 to 6 weeks (working at a leisurely pace) to knit up a garment. Even my favorite sinple baby sweater is called “The Five-Hour Baby Sweater,” which means it takes a good chunk of time to make. Surely I have ten minutes to handwash these garments so they last longer and look good?
I’m hoping that after my kids outgrow the sweaters I knit them, we’ll put the clothes up and pass them along to the next generation. And since machine-washing really does stretch out the fibers and cause pilling, I bit the bullet and began handwashing the handknits. I discovered it was really quite simple.
I start by putting filling the sink halfway full of lukewarm water and a few drops of Eucalan Fabric Wash. You can get it on Amazon, but my local yarn store also carries it. Although it costs more than regular detergent, a little goes a long way — you only need a few drops for each round of washing. Some of the reviews even say it made their sweaters and hats less itchy. You don’t have to rinse it out when you’re done, either. Gently swoosh your clothes (agitate? Yes, agitate your clothes…) in the water for a few seconds, let them sit for 10 – 15 minutes, and drain.
Then I roll the clothes gently in a dry towel to get out the excess water. I lay them flat to dry on an old towel, blocking them like I did when I first finished them.
If I’ve knit a baby present for someone, I usually include instructions on both hand-washing and machine-washing (on the gentlest gentle cycle possible) because I figure the last thing a new mom needs is me lecturing her on hand-washing baby clothes. But it is really the best way to care for handknit clothes.
And a few more tips for caring for your sweaters:
- never hang them up! Fold your sweaters and store. At the end of the season, clean them one last time, fold, and store in an airtight plastic bin with a lavender sachet (bugs don’t like lavender).
- if you do get some pilling, try this sweater shaver. I’ve tried everything — sweater combs, sweater stones — nothing works as well as a shaver to get rid of pills and fuzz. I love this thing.
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