Perhaps you’re thinking of buying a lovely wee Rainbow Knit? Maybe you’re a little nervous about looking after it? Well, even though I buy the best* wool I can find to hand-knit my baby knits from, I thought I’d write about the best way to look after all your knitwear to make it look better for longer, last you decades and give you best value for money.
* ‘best’ to me is wool that is ideally merino because of its fantastic breathability in summer and warmth in winter; as soft as possible so it can be next to babies’ sensitive skin; robust enough to cope with machine-washing and toddlers on ‘excite’ setting; and comes in vibrant colours. Of course!
[box type=”info”] Jay’s Top Tip: I think the key is to treat your woollens the same way that you would your own children: use lukewarm water to wash them in, use a gentle soap, don’t wring or twist them, gently support them when they’re wet, and lay them down flat out of the sun to dry. And accept that you’ll need to wash them regularly… [/box]
In more detail, then:
Either wash in your machine’s wool cycle if the care label says you can, or handwash, using a detergent specifically for wool (eg Woolite, soap flakes). The easiest way to handwash is to choose a sink or bath, depending on the amount of knitting you have to wash. A bath is good for a blanket or more than 4 or so little knits. Fill your (clean) sink or bath with lukewarm water, measure out and dissolve your detergent completely, then gently immerse your garment(s). Squeeze gently, letting the suds penetrate every fibre. Don’t rub or wring. Then gently lift it out of the water, carefully squeezing most of the excess water out. Don’t let the weight of the knitwear pull or stretch it: hold it in both hands. Empty and refill the sink or bath with lukewarm water and gently swirl the knitwear in to rinse. Repeat the rinsing with clean water until there are no traces of detergent: maybe 3 rinses in all. To get rid of the excess water gently, lay a big bath towel on the (clean) floor. Lay your precious knitted garment(s) gently on it. Put another clean towel on top. Then starting at one end, roll the towels & clothing up like a big Swiss Roll.
When you’re done, it’ll probably look something like this —–>
but damper. Your knitting curling up a bit after washing is completely normal. It looks exactly like this when it’s been freshly hand-knit, in fact.
Please don’t peg your garment out on your washing line – it might be ok, but it’s more likely to stretch out of shape, permanently. Please don’t tumble-dry or it will shrink. Don’t worry if your precious heirloom blanket curls at the edge or looks a bit crinkly and misshapen – this is completely normal with woollen goods! If you’ve just washed something small like a hat or pair of booties, then all you need to do is reshape them gently by hand and leave them somewhere flat to dry overnight, perhaps on a clean towel. If you’ve washed something large or flat like a blanket, you’ll probably need to block it to help the wool use its ‘memory’ and retain the shape you want, to make it look pristine.
See my next blog post on Blocking for how to do that!