Dos And Don’ts

Sometimes it is really hard to decide what to do and what to don’t – but hey, maybe I can help you to figure it out when it comes to your knitted/woolly things!

Soon will come the time to put away your warm, wintery knits (yes, soon!) and as with everything else it is better to put them away clean. Winter coats get cleaned or washed before stashing them away, and so should your scarves and hats and whatnots.

After working for almost five years – yes, it has been that long! – at Espace Tricot I have added to my knowledge of how to wash knitted items, which I have been trained to do by my Mom since I was a kid.

All I can say is: You are so lucky! Nowadays hand washing is so much easier! Growing up with hand washing sweaters and things I never had an issue with yarn that is ‘not washable’ (meaning machine washable), on the contrary, mostly I prefer how those yarns feel and I am ready to do the extra work. Hey, wait a  minute. What extra work?

Let’s compare the praised machine washing with the hand washing:

  • place your laundry in the washer
  • put the detergent in the washer
  • start washer
  • when done, place laundry in the dryer, or if necessary, on drying rack/clothes line

What do you think how long it takes to do that? From beginning to end (not included the work the washer does), maybe 5-10 minutes, right?

Ok, now to the hand washing:

  • fill sink (or plastic tub, bucket etc.) with tepid water
  • add no rinse soap like Soak or Eucalan
  • place knitted item in water, squeeze out air
  • let soak for 10 minutes
  • empty sink and squeeze out water as much as possible (without twisting the knit), you might have to use and old towel to squeeze out more
  • lay flat to dry

How long do you think that takes? I’d say the longest part is waiting until the sink is full and then empty again, everything in between, maybe 5 minutes, maximum 10, waiting for the item to soak does not count.

What we have established now is that hand washing is really not that labour intensive. There is only one reason for that: no rinse soap!

When I started to wash sweaters, it was a labour of love. Same as now I’d fill the sink, add detergent (organic liquid soap, usually), wash my sweater, and then rinse. And rinse again. Sometimes up to four, five times. With cold or maybe tepid water. No fun. But my knitted sweaters lasted for a long time, because I took good care of them.

As you can see, the not so secret ingredient is the no rinse soap. I learned about Eucalan about 10 years ago, and happily added Soak later on. We have both at the store, and if you haven’t tried either, I do think you will want to!

Let’s talk about the dos and don’ts now:

Do

  • use tepid water for wool, warm/hot water makes wool felt
  • be gentle, squeeze the knit to get the air and then dirt out, too much movement will felt/full the wool
  • use the spin cycle on your washer to get the water out of more than one sweater or blankets ect. (the spin cycle does not hurt the wool, but it gets a lot of extra water out!)

Don’t

  • twist, wring the knit to get water out
  • rub the knit to get dirt out
  • use conditioner; yes, you could start a debate on that one, and, wool is nothing but spun hair, yet all conditioner does is add a layer of stuff onto your knits, just as it does to your hair
  • use Woolite; after a few experiences at the store with running colors even on machine dyed yarn, I ask you to avoid it for hand washing, it just seems too aggressive — and you’ll have to rinse
  • let the wet sweaters sit in the sink without water, the dye might just run a bit more (ask me how I know!), put them out to dry right away; this is especially important for hand dyed yarns

All of these recommendations for hand washing are based on my experience. You are perfectly welcome to do it differently if you prefer. Also, if you have any tips to add, leave a comment!

For superwash items I like to use the hand wash cycle in spite of being able to use the gentle cycle, and I use cold water. I also use my regular detergent, which has been fine so far. After all, in the machine the items get rinsed. I don’t have to add much here, except for ‘lay flat to dry’, of course! Oh, and maybe: don’t let them sit in the machine too long, when wet some dye might still leak – again, especially with hand dyed superwash yarns.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

5 thoughts on “Dos And Don’ts

  1. posette says:

    Thank you so much Mona! This is a subject I’m most interested in. Currently knitting a scarf with 85% polworth wool, 15% silk. What method would you use? One said one should block to the most delicate fiber and recommended spray blocking for alpaca, angora, cashmere, superwash merino, mohair and SILK.

    This will be the 3rd item I’ve made from Yarn Hollow Tango (85/15). The first scarf, I wet-blocked. It had a three-dimensional pattern and turned out beautifully. Second, same pattern, different color (red). Wet blocked and the pattern flattened out and didn’t look nearly as nice.
    I’ve been soaking for 15 minutes, not 10. Do you think that’s the problem? Or maybe I smoothed with my hands too much before it dried……..

    Now, working with same yarn and a very detailed cable pattern that has taken me forever. Really concerned about how to block it. Bought wires to make sure the edges are straight and am concerned about inserting them into wettish yarn.

    Would you recommend spray blocking, steam or wet? Thank you!

    Linda

  2. Mona says:

    Hi Linda,

    Soaking for 15 minutes instead of 10 really does not make a difference. Not to worry about that. When wet blocking with pins or wires you usually stretch the fabric and it will flatten out. Sometimes this is wanted, sometimes it takes away from a pattern if it flattens it out, as you say.

    Thing is, at some point you are going to wash the scarf/knitted item because it needs to be washed and then it will definitely react the way it is prone to – stretch, flatten out, relax, lengthen. If you want to know in advance how washing/blocking is going to affect your knitting, my tip is to knit a swatch and wash/block it. This way there will be no big surprises.

    From what you write you are doing everything right, and even for me there is no knowing how it will turn out – until you do it.

    For your ongoing project with the cables I suggest wet blocking with the wires to get even edges, as you say. Make sure there are only small gaps when inserting the wires. The cables might flatten a bit, but as I said, that would happen anyway when washing your item.

    I hope that helps!

    Best,
    Mona

  3. miss agnes says:

    I like to use a salad spinner to spin my knits before leaving them to dry. I’m too scared to put them in the washing machine for spinning, and it takes a lot of water out in two minutes. Then roll in a towel, press gently but firmly, et voilà! The knit then dries much quicker.

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