Washing a knit can be downright frightening! Will it felt? Will the ends weave out?? Will it ever stop smelling like a sheep’s favorite spot in the stable?!
The answers are maybe, no and of course! Here are 5 tips that will ease your mind about washing your knits, from LEAST amount of effort to MOST.
1. Don’t wash your knit.
You raise your eyebrows, but truth be told, the best way to have your knits last is to avoid washing them frequently! Think about this when you make something. Maybe choose sweaters with roomier sleeves or lower necklines? Wear undershirts often with your knits – they’re worth protecting. Also, wools are very resistant to stains and odors, so consider using yarn with a lot of animal fiber.
2. Lay your knit out in the snow.
Ok ok, so I live in Bar Harbor, Maine and this is a picture of my deck under 4 feet of snow. I realize not all of you have this option, but a Scandinavian friend of mine gave me this tip, and it works! When you have a nice fresh powdery snowfall, lay your wool/alpaca/mohair knit out on the snow over an entire day, turning it over halfway through. The cold air will draw odors away and the gentle humidity of the snow will absorb into the fiber and allow the yarn to bloom!
If you don’t have snow, a chest freezer might work, just move those hamburgers out of the way first. ;)
3. Pin out and spray with a no-rinse wash.
This is my favorite way to “wash” things like lace shawls that lose all of their shape after an immersive wash. Prepare a spray bottle with the correct ratio of water to no-rinse wash, such as Soak or Eucalan. Pin out your knit just like you would to block it… and spray! The soap in the water will foam as you spray, so remember to take a moment every 20 sprays or so to unscrew the bottle and let out any built up pressure. Because it’s a no-rinse spray, just unpin it once it dries and it’s already beautifully blocked and ready to shine!
4. Soak in a no-rinse or rinse wash as per the instructions.
What’s the difference between a no-rinse or rinse wash? Well, no-rinse washes are designed to re-infuse your knits with lanolins to oil up the yarn and keep it shiny and fresh. This really works best for animal fibers like wool and alpaca. Cottons and silks don’t have lanolins naturally (which are produced in animal skin), so putting them “back” doesn’t make sense. For those fibers, I use good old 1950’s Woolite and channel grandma and her silk stockings! Your knits will come out smelling soapy clean and nana-approved.
5. Dry on a flat sweater dryer.
After I soak wash any knit, I roll it in towels before setting out to dry. Personally, I don’t enjoy re-blocking knits after washing (once is enough!), and no fully made sweater will ever dry well on a solid surface. Especially if it’s humid weather – you could risk a dreaded mildew smell! It’s totally worth buying a flat sweater dryer. I love my stackable OXO ones (pictured above) because they fold flat in half to conveniently store behind or under furniture. As you lay your knit out flat, make sure to position it so that you can stab a few pins along the collar and hems into the netting. This will ensure that you get a perfectly flat sweater, just as if you had blocked it again. Go ahead, fool ‘em all!
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Dayana Knits is a blogger (and scientist!) who loves to make knits fit. Check her out at www.dayanaknits.com. You can also find her tips and “knitspiration” on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.