Taking Care Of Your Knitwear - Washing Your Winter Woolies
March 16, 2018

Taking Care Of Your Knitwear - Washing Your Winter Woolies

With the change of season now upon us, I thought it would be a great time to write a series of blog posts focusing on how to take care of your knitwear.  In this series, we will be looking at all aspects of caring for your knits.  Proper care of knitwear ensures that they will look fantastic and last a lifetime.  This week, we are focusing on hand washing knitted garments.  I wrote this a few years ago, but for the purpose of this series I thought it was well worth posting again.

To be honest, I don't wash my woolen garments often: maybe once or twice during winter, and then a final wash before storing them away over the summer months.  That's the beauty of wool; it doesn't need regular washing.  But woolen garments do stretch with regular wear and, every so often, need a restorative bath to shrink back the fibres and a nice block to get them back in shape.  Woolen garments also need a bath before being stored away, otherwise they will attract creepy crawlies - I can feel you all shudder!  In my house, hand-knit socks get thrown in the regular wash, but garments and shawls are given a little more attention and are hand washed.



I find that regular detergents are too harsh for washing woolen items; they often leave the fibre dry and scratchy.  Wool wash is great, but I prefer using shampoo.  Since fibre is very similar to human hair, shampoo works really well as it not only removes oils and dirt from the fibre, but conditions it as well.  Whether you use wool wash or shampoo, make sure you only use a small amount.  I like to fill a basin with enough warm water to cover the garment, and to that I add a teaspoon of shampoo before popping in the garment. Then I gently squeeze the solution through the garment, letting it soak for a few minutes.



Once the garment has finished soaking, I tip out the water and replace with clean, warm water, to which I add about a teaspoon of hair conditioner.  This acts like a fabric softener and will make your garment really shiny and soft! 



Now, to my favourite part.  As well as adding conditioner to the rinse water, I also like to add a few drops of essential oil.  Not only will it give your garment an amazing fresh smell, but it will also deter those horrible creepy crawlies!  This step is particularly important when washing your winter woolies prior to storing them over summer.  Eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, mint and lemon essential oils work best in deterring moths, silverfish and other wee beasites.  I like to use eucalyptus oil, which is my favourite.  Pop your garment in and gently squeeze the rinse water solution through.



When you're done, remove the garment and squeeze out the water and place it on towel.



Roll the garment up in the towel, squeezing out the excess water.  This is a great method for gently removing water from your garment.  You can also use the gentle spin cycle on your machine washer, although I don't recommend spin drying as this may cause your garment to shrink.



Finally lay your garment out just like you would if blocking it, and let it dry naturally.  In winter I like to dry my knitted items in full sun.  However, in summer I prefer to dry my knitwear in the shade which prevents the sun from fading the colour.  Laying knitwear flat to dry keeps them in perfect shape: if you were to hang them up, or even drape them over a chair to dry, you will find that the fibres will stretch and pull the garment out of shape. 

Do you have any tips or tricks for washing hand-knits?  I would love to read them.