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Caring for your handknits

Posted by Allison Barnes on
Caring for your handknits

You’ve poured hours into lovingly creating your project, patiently going stitch by stitch. Now that it’s finally time to wash it, it’s important to do so properly so your handiwork will stay beautiful for years to come.

Here are my favourite yarn care tips and tricks!

Use your swatch!

While you’re swatching and testing your gauge, you should also wash your swatch in the way that you plan to launder the finished project. This will ensure that your swatch accounts for any size changes that occur from blocking and gives you an opportunity to test how the yarn you are using will react with your laundering method. Better to find out that soap doesn’t play well with the yarn you’ve picked on a small swatch than on a finished project!

Use a wool wash.

Dedicated wool washes–such as my favourite, Eucalan–are a smart choice because they’re more gentle and don’t require rinsing. This means you won’t have to worry about getting all of the soap out and, as a bonus, they actually act like a conditioner. Wool washes clean and protect your knitted garments so you can be sure that they won’t felt, shrink or look tired.

If you need wool wash, I sell bottles of Eucalan Wrapture, a lanolin enriched concentrate with jasmine oil, in the shop and I include samples with orders of three or more skeins.

Always air-dry!

Even when I’ve used yarns that say they’re safe for the dryer, I always err on the safe side and air-dry handknitted items. Air-drying guarantees you won’t have any sad surprises when the dryer bell rings, plus it’s also more energy efficient and extends the life of your items. Simply wrap your knit in towels and press as much of the excess water out before gently shaping it on a rack or screen.

Fold or lie flat to store.

Over time, hanging knits will lead them to stretching out and losing shape and putting too much strain on some of the stitches. Fold them and store in shelves or drawers; you may want to consider tucking cedar or lavender in with them - it’s a lovely way to deter moths without that yucky mothball scent.

While storing them in sealed plastic bins for long-term storage works, it’s best to ensure they still get air circulation. Never store them in clingy drycleaners’ bags and if you’re keeping them in bins, periodically take them out to air and check for any damage before refolding on different lines.

Keep an extra stash.

If you have a little bit of yarn leftover from making your project, it doesn’t hurt to stash it along with your extra buttons and notions. If you ever have a snag to repair, you’ll always have it. If you knit regularly, you may want to create a knitter’s notebook of some sort and use it to keep your notes about the project (any pattern changes, your needle size, etc), your swatch, the pattern, and a photo of the finished item. You’ll always know where the info is!

Give care instructions.

If your project is intended as a gift, you should give the recipient some care instructions. Many craft and yarn stores have tags you can sew into your garment with care guides or you can just create a little care pack with spare yarn and any matching notions you used and a nice tag or index card with the fibre content and care instructions.

Handwashing 101

  1. Fill a big bowl, basin, or a very clean sink with warm water.
  2. Add your wool wash.
  3. Put your garment in, gently pushing it down into the water. Swish it around gently and then leave it to soak for about 15 minutes.
  4. Gently swish it around again and then pull it out.
  5. Wrap the garment in a towel and press the water out. Never wring, twist or rub!
  6. Lay flat to dry!

With proper care, your handmade items can have long lives. Be gentle, use proper techniques, and opt for a wool wash!

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