Washing and caring for your knitwear
As the sun is getting increasingly warmer and the days longer, it’s so nice to be able to dry washing outside again. Nothing beats the smell of naturally dried laundry!
Although if I’m honest I don’t love housework, I do really enjoy doing the washing, especially hanging it out as this gives me a moment of peace and reflection in the fresh air; a break in a busy day.
Washing knitwear can be confusing and off putting as some garments might have “machine washable” labels; this is because some specially treated or synthetic yarns might not shrink or become misshapen in the washing machine. I would honestly say though – after many years of experience and quite a few mishaps, that it is far safer to wash by hand as you can see if the wool is beginning to felt and you can quickly change the temperature of the water or dilute the soap accordingly.
This doesn’t mean hours of washing and drying by hand, and it can also be a pleasurable experience, thanks to artisan cleaning brands like Norfolk Natural Living https://www.norfolknaturalliving.com/ who make their beautifully perfumed wool and silk wash, fabric softener, hand creams and perfumes locally from 100% natural ingredients! My favourites are their Norfolk Lavender Wool and Silk Wash, their Costal Walks Fabric Conditioner and their Wild Fig Hand Cream (to nourish your hands after the washing!)
If you have time, you could also make your own wool wash and fabric softeners by following the 100% natural recipes in Jen Chillingsworth’s book “Clean Green” which puts to excellent use the gorgeous herbs and flowers that you might be growing from seed this year. (If you’re anything like me you’ll be having a go!)
Clean Green by Jan Chillingsworth
So, I would suggest giving your woollen hats, scarves or jumpers a freshen up this weekend so that you can either put them away to store or keep fresh for al fresco socializing over the coming weeks after all: “Cast not a clout until May is Out;” an old English saying that my mother and grandmother used to swear by reminding you to keep your warm clothes handy until the end of May!
It’s also worth remembering that you don’t have to wash the WHOLE garment, you could spot wash certain areas like the neck if it has make-up marks on it, or the cuffs if they’re beginning to look grubby. Natural fibres like wool, cashmere and alpaca have natural anti-bacterial and odour absorbing qualities which mean that they don’t need to be washed as frequently as cotton or synthetic fibres. This is also great for the environment as it will reduce your water consumption. I would advise hanging your knitwear on a hanger to air after wearing and spot wash where necessary, then wash the whole garment when it’s warm enough outside to let it drip dry (laid flat on a clothes airer for heavier items to avoid misshaping) before you put them away for the summer.
So, to wash, run a sink of luke (hand) warm water and pour in a little wool wash, swirl the water to dilute the soap then add your woollens, or dip in the area that you want to clean. Leave to soak for 5 minutes (time for a cup of tea!) then gently rub the areas that are dirty. If you have a particularly stubborn stain you could squeeze a small amount of wool and silk wash onto the area, add water and rub a little more, then squeeze out loosely and change the water to clean water, swill the knits around and drain squeezing gently again to avoid misshaping or twisting the seams. You could rinse again using fabric softener if you’d like to soften your knits, I would do this by adding some of the softener to the sink of luke war water again and soaking the knits for another 5 minutes before rinsing in clean water and hanging out to drip dry on a clothes airer.( I tend to move the position of the knit once it is drying to avoid getting any lines on it from where it has been hanging over a rail.)
Once the garment is dry or almost dry you can turn it inside out and steam iron on a medium heat ensuring that you have positioned the garment so that the side seams are lying flat, then you can gently ease it back into shape.
Store all knitwear folded so that it doesn’t stretch on the hanger and if you are putting it away for the season, store in an airtight bag with some anti moth sachets – I particularly like a brand called “Colibri” which uses natural aromas to deter moths and they smell beautiful.
If you have any particular questions, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to help!