I love starting a new knitting project.
I love that “Aha!” moment when you start to see a pattern emerge on a blanket or a scarf. I love that same moment when a sweater starts to take shape. I love when I try a new stitch or embellishment, and after several tries and some muttered words that are not in keeping with anyone’s stereotype of knitters, I finally get it right.
You know what I don’t love? Finishing stuff.
I don’t want to bother with the boring blanket borders, or having to sew seams, or place buttons. I just want my piece to be done by then. I bet someone could make a good living just offering to finish up other people’s knitting works in progress. If you turn this into a successful venture, don’t forget it was my idea and send me a Starbucks card or something 😉
But once I have finished a project…I want to make sure it’s well taken care of. I used to think I was much too busy to wash things 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, and even longer sometimes for a blanket (anyone else have knitting ADD and work on five projects at once??)
Even my favorite simple 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 wash these handknits carefully so they last longer and look good?
I’m hoping that after my kids outgrow the sweaters and blankets I lovingly 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 filling my 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 handknits 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.
Need a new knitting project to start? Try one of these!