Guest Author - Lisa Linnell-Olsen
Whether you knitted an item yourself, or received a loving gift from a hand knitter, being sure to properly launder your knitted item will preserve and continue its beauty. Even if you have heard that washing wool will cause it to shrink or felt, you can rest assured that proper laundering will not damage your knitted piece. Following the right procedure and avoiding a few pitfalls is all you need to do to launder your hand knits.
The first thing to know when cleaning your hand knits is what type of yarn or fiber the item was made from.. Many thoughtful knitters will enclose the ball band from the ayrn they used or a little note with care instructions. Check these tiems to see what clues they give to the fiber type and care.
Wool When caring for wool, you first need to know if it is superwash wool. If it is superwash wool, you can place the item in your washing maching ona cool setting with a gentle, pH balanced detergent and wash it.
If the item is wool that is not superwash, or you are not sure if it is superwash. You are best off to hand wash the item. Simply fill your sink or basin with cool water, and add a small amount of a gentle, pH balanced detergent. Gently agitate, or swish the item around in the water. Do not rub or vigorously wring or pull on the item at any point. When you are satisfied that the item is clean, drain the water and rinse under cool water until that water runs clear. Again, do not pull, ring or rub the tiem during the process.
Some yarns have a little bit of lanolin in them that help the knitted item to retain heat and a natural softness. You can purchase a no-rinse wool detergent called Eucalan to help restore some of the lanolin, while leaving a nice scent.
There are three things you wan to avoid when washing wool. They are heat, alkalinity and rough, vigorous rubbing. These three things are what cause wool to felt and shrink. Soap has an alkaline pH, so it should not be used to wash your handknit woolens..
To avoid rough treatment when getting out excess water to get ready for drying, you can try gently squeezing the item to remove the excess water. Some knitters like to get mesh bags with string closures that they put the wet knits in, and then spin the item around so that the excess water flies out. Your neighbors may find this amusing, but it is fun and does a great job of removing the water. You can also put your wet woolens between towels and roll up the towels, gently pressing them until the excess water is removed. Simply hang up the towels to dry when you lay your knits flat.
After the excess water is removed, follow the drying instructions later in this article.
Cotton Cotton and ramie yarns can be washed in cold water with a mild detergent. You can use the gentle cycle on your machine or wash by hand. Since cotton shrinks with heat, it is best to use cool water for washing. Simply gently wash the item in cool water with a mild detergent and follow by rinsing until the water is clear. Gently squeeze out any excess water. Follow the drying directions below.
Synthetic fibers can handle some rough treatment, and will do fine washed with your regular detergent or laundry soap on a regular setting. If you feel the piece is delicate or feel that regular washing of a synthetic handknit, try gently swishing in cool water, rinse until the water runs clear, and then gently squeeze out the excess water.
Drying In all cases, I find it better to let hand knit items lay flat to dry. Once you are finished washing them and removing excess water, lay the item out and reshape it if necessary. Allow the item to air dry. If it is not dry the next day, flip it over and allow it to dry from the other side. Many knitting supply and laundry supply stores sell drying racks just for air-drying hand knits. If you have many hand knit items, this may be a wise investment to properly launder your hand knits.
Never hang a knitted item to dry. The weight of the piece will pull the stitches out of shape and leave the item totally misshapen. If you happen to have made this mistake, simply re-wet the item, remove excess water, and lay flat to dry.