So many people are courageous enough to knit “off-pattern” but go to pieces at the thought of washing knitting. There really are very few rules to follow to have long lasting clean knitwear. And here they are:
Start thinking about washing knitting at swatching stage
If you think about it, knitting is like designer couture. It is hand-made, individually designed (just remember all those “forgotten” mistakes) and with the cost of yarn, really quite expensive. So treat it accordingly. You wouldn’t put a designer item in the washing machine and just hope for the best! When you choose your yarn, look at the washing instructions on the label and consider whether you can commit to “Gentle Handwash Only”. If not, don’t buy it! And once you have committed, remember to keep the label after you’ve started knitting. In the heat of the moment it’s easy to discard. And finally, your swatch serves a double purpose now – wash it using the instructions on the label and it will show you how your yarn behaves after washing.
Ask yourself whether that knit REALLY needs washing
At home I’m known to shout in frustration at the TV and radio each time a subject comes up that frustrates me. To keep this blog short and topical, I am talking about dirt and germs. I firmly believe that a bit of both is good for us and excessive washing is the opposite of that. Considering that most hand-knits are not worn directly on the skin, it is possible to exercise caution before committing to washing your knitting. There really should be no need to wash frequently at all. Would an afternoon of airing be enough instead?
Choose your detergent carefully
Have you ever hand washed items in washing powder aimed at the machine? Or in washing-up liquid? Chances are you came away with scaly dry hands. Those type of detergents are designed to strip grease off anything they touch. Would you consider washing your hair in that solution? Hopefully not. And that’s the same for woollens. After all wool is the hair of whichever animal gave it to be spun into your yarn. It really is best to invest in a specialist wool wash liquid or old fashioned soap flakes or even a basic shampoo (no fancy stuff which promises squishy hair needed).
Dissolve your choice of detergent in handwarm water. Those of us with Teflon coated hands, I ask one of the boys to literally lend-a-hand. Put your knitting lovingly into the suds and make sure it is submerged. No need to soak – few minutes should do the trick. Swirl the item around gently. Work through all the way. Don’t rub, scrub or take out the day’s frustrations on your wet knit. That’s what pillows are for! You should start to see some sediment building up on the bottom of your bowl. If not, do a little more swishing but don’t worry too much if you can’t see anything. Chances are the dirt is too fine to see, is swirling around in the water with your swishing or your knit was actually clean. When you’re satisfied, usually another few minutes later. Gently squeeze the water out of your item. Now rinse, rinse and rinse again until no more suds left in the water.
Drying is even more important than Washing
I tend to find that more people go wrong with the drying of their knits than with the washing. If you think of your hair again, it should be really easy. Unless you are incredibly fortunate, going to bed with wet hair is not advisable. Hair, like wool, has “memory”. So encourage that memory by shaping your item the way you want it to look when dry. For larger items, after squeezing the excess water out with your hands, roll in a towel, or two to try to get it to towel-dry state. Place it flat on a surface where it can get air circulating around it e.g. on a drier placed flat over the top of the bath. If your bathroom has no windows, it is not a good place to dry woollens. With smaller items, lace or scarves whose edges roll, you will need to block i.e. pin the edges as it is meant to look when dry. And that’s it. Most of the drying process should be done overnight. If not, there is a risk that your lovely knit will start smelling bad. And the only way to fix that – is to wash it. So try to wash thick jumpers in warm weather. Hope this has been helpful!